With Christmas in the past and new year resolutions in the future, some people have a “New year, new start” attitude. A good new start for me is to try and dispel a common misconception. The misconception being;
“You can’t do that because health and safety says so”
I have heard this phrase many times during professional and personal experiences and find it a misinformed statement. Statements such as this have painted health and safety as an overzealous activity-spoiling entity and this simply is not true.
There is health and safety legislation that states you cannot do certain things such as charging staff for personal protective equipment or expecting them to provide it themselves, there is nothing to say you cannot undertake an activity that said personal protective equipment is needed for.
“You can’t lift a heavy box because you may hurt yourself” restricts the whole activity whereas
“You should not lift that heavy box without help or you may hurt yourself” restricts the likelihood of injury without stopping the activity.
They both have limiting factors but different results.
When risk assessing an activity, the first question is “does this activity need to take place?”. If it does, the next question is “how can we reduce the risk?” The process continues until all risk is reduced to a reasonably foreseeable level. The system is in place to allow activities to continue safely, not to stop all activities with risk from taking place. In truth, there is little in the world that is risk free and if the misinterpreted health and safety legislation is applied as it sometimes is, then nothing would ever get done.
Health and safety legislation exists to ensure that jobs that have to be done are done safely not stopped completely. One company might be fined or punished because they are not lifting boxes properly, but box lifting everywhere else does not stop because of this.
As you go about the start of your new year and daily lives remember;
“You can do that because health and safety says you can….safely.”
Simon Hutchinson has 21 years of experience in the retail sector. The last 15 years were spent in a health and safety role for a well-known international toy retailer based in central London.
He has recently relocated to Newton Aycliffe and has started a health and safety consultancy called Hutchinson Safety Services. He can be contacted at www.hutchinsonsafetyservices.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter