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Written by
on 24 June 2013


man grimacingIt can be inordinately frustrating when seemingly innocuous and harmless activities or objects are declared banned under health and safety rules. Such as putting a doormat outside your flat door, or a flowerpot by the front garden.

Yet it can also be frustrating for those involved with the HSE, and people such as ourselves who strive hard to implement health and safety advice in a positive, constructive way. Why? Because in most cases it’s utter baloney.

Just recently I was reading about the case of a back street in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, a previously rundown, dismal, grey and decidedly bleak spot where local ‘yoofs’ would gather to try out their spray can skills and other odious anti-social pastimes.

Community Spirit Fights Back

However, due to the fantastic community spirit of 24 homes the back alley has been transformed into what has been called locally a Secret Garden. Every resident has invested time and money in creating a beautiful parade of plants and flowers, mostly in pots, creating an enchanting, attractive and inviting little spot.

People have been coming from all over the area to see it, and the local council even awarded the neighbourhood for their community spirit and commitment to creating a positive neighbourhoods.

That is, until that same council suddenly decided that having plant pots in front of the small gardens was against health and safety legislation, and demanded their removal.

Of course, local residents, and even some not so local residents, have been up in arms about it, declaring it ‘health and safety gone mad’.

Oh how that phrase rankles, given that health and safety has not gone mad, it’s very sane thank you very much. What is mad is the way in which people, usually authorities and businesses, hide behind the excuse of health and safety, rather than being honest. Health and safety invariably has nothing whatever to do with it.

Wiping Their Feet On Health And Safety Rules

There was another recent case you may recall where residents at a block of flats were told to remove doormats which had been placed outside their front doors because it was a health and safety issue.

Again, we had the ‘health and safety gone mad’ brigade crying for the abolition of all such legislation, until the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stepped in and pointed out in a fairly public way that the matter was not actually anything to do with health and safety, and that such regulations and legislation at no point ever mentioned the placing of doormats outside doors.

The truth it seemed was simply that the council deemed the placing of doormats a potential hazard in terms of keeping fire routes clear and avoiding trip hazards. This is fine, if there is a genuine reason for removing such mats, but to claim that health and safety rules don’t permit them is ludicrous, and gives health and safety a bad name.

Hiding Behind Health And Safety

The same is true, I suspect, with regard to the Whitley Bay alley, a location not far from a garden which was made over by the TV show Ground Force a few years ago.

I doubt very much whether health and safety has anything to do with it, especially as the council have responded to the public criticism by suggesting that residents have been using ‘the wrong sort’ of plant pots. I suspect that they are concerned about potential injuries caused by kicked or knocked pots which then shatter, or perhaps represent trip hazards.

If only authorities and businesses were honest about the reasons why they deem certain activities or items unsafe or inappropriate people might very well look upon health and safety rather more favourably than they do at present.

If you would like expert advice on whether practices should be recommended, banned or modified through the implementation of equipment or procedures call one of our health and safety consultants on 0800 1488 677 today.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

One Comment
  • Health And Safety Has Not Gone Mad, It's Just M... says:

    […] Health and Safety has not gone mad its just Mis-understood explains Veritas Consulting Health and Safety Consultants  […]