A new survey has revealed the lengths some small firms mistakenly go to trying to comply with health and safety. One insisted on completing a risk assessment for using a tape measure and another introduced written guidelines for walking up stairs.
These bizarre and unnecessary policies were uncovered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is encouraging small and medium sized employers to use H&S ABC, its free online toolkit, to help get their risk management right.
The toolkit will help firms save time, effort and money by focusing on the simple ‘do’s and don’ts’. HSE’s survey shows how myths about health and safety could cause unnecessary confusion and flagged some of the most absurd things employers had been advised to do.
One in five people (22 per cent) surveyed believed they weren't capable of managing health and safety themselves and needed to hire a specialist consultant. Eleven percent believed that a qualified electrician must test electrical appliances, such as kettles and toasters, every year – another persistent myth.
Nearly a third of small businesses surveyed classed themselves as ‘hopeful-have-a-go’s’ when it came to health and safety - aware they have to take some action but unsure where to start or if what they are doing is correct. HSE’s small business lead Kate Haire said: “Health and safety is all about taking reasonable steps to manage serious risks of ill-health and injury in the workplace. If something sounds completely unreasonable, more often than not it will be totally unnecessary too.
“What’s great about H&S ABC is that it contains all the information smaller businesses need to know to manage health and safety sensibly and comply with the law. It highlights the real risks in a workplace and how to put reasonable precautions in place. “We have worked with some key industry partners who have regular contact with SMEs to make them aware of the benefits of using the free online tools and guidance HSE has to offer. We hope employers will realise health and safety does not have to be complicated or cost lots of money.”
Samuel Lewis from the Chamber's policy team commented "Health and safety legislation is in many respects an essential safety net protecting both employers and employees from risk at work. However, it is in the framing and enforcement of these regulations that the burden of excessive rules on businesses can become too great.
There is a sense that, rather than protecting businesses, all too often Health and Safety regulations can stifle innovation and growth and can lead to a culture of compensation which leads businesses to operate under fear of being sued. It is self evident that businesses should want to protect their employees and in almost all cases employers are responsible and diligent over risk at work. Overly complex regulatory structures and over zealous scrutiny arrangements tend to punish these responsible businesses, while doing little to protect those working in genuinely dangerous environments.
The Government has been working to simplify regulatory burdens across a wide range of areas under the “one in, two out” system. Now they are making a number of changes to Health and Safety law and guidance in order to ease the burden on business. Removing 20 unnecessary or redundant regulations, simplifying reporting requirements and reducing the number of health and safety checks carried out in Britain will all make this area of compliance less onerous for employers.
We welcome these changes, which we believe will contribute to a more business friendly environment. It is important that momentum is not lost in the Government’s campaign to cut red tape, and we would encourage the Coalition to maintain a focus on reducing superfluous rules, and simplifying essential regulation."
Neil Hodgson from the Chamber's recommended supplier of Health and Safety training, Oval Risk Services also commented “It’s great to see that the HSE are trying to support SMEs with simple guidance and instruction, something we at Oval having been striving to deliver in our training for many years now. The toolkit will make compliance with the complex realm of H&S much more achievable for those SMEs in low risk activities.”
Whether a business employs one or two people, or is expanding to multiple locations, the free guidance will help even complete beginners get health and safety right. Visit www.hse.gov.uk/abc to get started with sensible health and safety.