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Health and Safety Outrage Strikes Again
Posted by David Cant on September 12, 2014

Health and Safety media driven news

Two ‘Elf n Safety’ issues have hit the headlines again this week, sparking public outrage. Both stories have implications and lessons for other businesses however.

West Midlands Policing Woes

Health and Safety BookDespite being recognised as a risky job, police officers have the same right to protection on the job as any other UK employee. Under the same rules, officers can expect compensation should their employer fail to adequately protect them on the job.

The payouts themselves are not the greatest source of concern however. Although £328,100 was paid out to officers injured in the line of duty, a further £260,900 was paid to solicitors and lawyers to cover legal fees. And obviously all of this cash is drawn from the public purse.

Regardless of the perceived severity of the injuries, West Midlands Police admitted culpability in each case, indicating that there were indeed health and safety failings in each case. For other businesses, there are two lessons to take away from the Police’s experience:

  1. Regardless of severity of injury, health and safety failings on the part of the employer entitle employees to make compensation claims.
  2. The cost of the award to the injured employee is often less than the legal fees incurred during the claims process.

Clearly health and safety needs to be consistently applied at every level of an organisation to keep employees safe and legal costs down.

Parents banned from playground on first day of school

The second incident of the week revolves around the Forrester Park School in South London which took the unusual step of banning parents from the playground on the first day of school. A letter sent out to parents by the headteacher said,

From tomorrow morning we are asking for parents not to enter the playground and to say goodbye to their children at the school gate. This is for health and safety reasons.”

The story gained further attention after claims that children as young as four were being dragged away from their parents by staff at the school gate.

According to the headteacher, too many people were entering the playground in the mornings and that pupils, teachers and parents were at danger from “extensive building works” taking place at the front of the school. In order to minimise the risk of injury, he then took the decision to ban parents from entering the school property in the mornings.

Although this sounds harsh and fair, the school has come under fire for hypocrisy because parents are allowed to enter the playground at the end of school to collect their children.

So what does this mean for businesses? Ultimately health and safety rules needs to be applied consistently at all times. If the school property is dangerous in the morning, then it is equally risky in the afternoon and any ban on entry needs to be applied at both times. If the site is not dangerous and the rule has been implemented for some other reason, be honest and declare it; justifying unpopular decisions using ‘elf n safety’ as an excuse could lead to people ignoring other legitimate safeguards put in place to protect them.

So what about your business – how could these situations apply to you?


Director at Veritas Consulting. 20+ years as a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner with a brain you can pick. A trusted, risk savvy portfolio professional who is fluent in practical advice and an effective workplace solutionist.

You can find him on - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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