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Written by
on 11 September 2017


Every year kids are sent home for wearing the wrong uniform – but it’s not usually a health and safety issue.

Every year, at the beginning of September, hundreds (thousands?) of students are sent straight home for failing to wear the correct uniform, having a prohibited haircut or wearing too much makeup. Almost without fail these breaches of protocol are completely avoidable – because the student involved has deliberately flouted school rules.

And every year, the newspapers are on hand to take photos of angry parents and sheepish children, regardless of the fact that most have brought the trouble on themselves:

The wrong shoes

This year there has been one slightly more unusual tale emerge. A young man’s first day at the Wade Deacon High School in Widnes was cut short when he was sent home for wearing the wrong shoes.

Normally, the cause of the problem is obvious – the boy involved is almost invariably wearing trainers. But in this case the student had a smart pair of polished, black leather boots.

After several conversations between parent and school, the young man was given the most unlikely reason for his ban – his boots breach health and safety standards.

A miscommunication

The school later retracted that particular claim, blaming a “miscommunication”. They went on to explain that the boots do not conform to school uniform rules.

Although the school changed their reasoning, it would seem that some organisations are still using “health and safety” as an excuse to skirt uncomfortable decisions and discussions. The issue of the incorrect boots could have been resolved much more quickly (and kept out of the papers) by simply explaining why these particular boots were unsuitable.

Fortunately for the student involved, an agreement has been reached, allowing him to wear his boots until a new pair of shoes can be purchased.

Lessons for construction

The issue of uniform is not dissimilar to PPE on construction sites. Site operators need to be extra vigilant to ensure that employees have the correct protective equipment at all times.

And just like schools, managers need to bar access to any worker who does not have the correct hat/boots/clothing when coming on site. This may lead to a heated discussion with the employee – but it could also save their life.

Unlike at the Wade Deacon High School, incorrect clothing onsite is a health and safety issue. You are perfectly justified in denying access to an improperly dressed worker. Indeed, you must send them home unless you have spare gear available.

The good news is that national newspapers are unlikely to generate any negative coverage about your business if an adult worker does not follow the rules designed to protect them at work.

To learn more about personal protective equipment, appropriate clothing on construction sites, or how to set up a work clothes policy, please get in touch.

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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