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Health and Safety Myths Busted

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
5th December 2016
round conference table in close-up with microphones

Health and Safety’ is often incorrectly used as a convenient excuse to stop what are essentially sensible activities going ahead. The Health and Safety Executive has set up an independent panel – the Myth Busters Challenge Panel - to scrutinize such decisions.

The Panel is chaired by the HSE Chair, supported by a pool of independent members who represent a wide range of interests. This includes small businesses, public safety, Trade Unions, the insurance industry and others.

This Panel will look into enquiries regarding the advice given by non-regulators such as insurance companies, health and safety consultants and employers and, quickly assess if a sensible and proportionate decision has been made. We want to make clear that "health and safety" is about managing real risks properly, not being risk averse and stopping people getting on with their lives.

Spit the dummy out

A mum had to leave a café as the manager banned the use of dummies for young children and babies for health and safety reasons.

HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel

Health and safety at work legislation does not stop babies using dummies in cafes. This appears to be the café’s company policy which according to the press article they relate to strict food hygiene guidelines. The cafe should clearly explain the reason behind their policy rather than dumbing down the issue and blaming health and safety.

Council bans Refuse collection workers from wearing Christmas hats

Refuse collection workers in Colchester have been banned from wearing Christmas hats or anything Christmassy on the grounds of health and safety. The council have stated drivers and other road users could be distracted.

HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel

There is no health and safety legislation that prevents refuse collectors wearing Santa hats or entering the festive spirit with other modest decorations. Excessive displays which might impede the driver's vision or cause a distraction are another matter, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Being sensible about health and safety can still allow everyone to have some fun too.

Husband not allowed to stand up

During his wife’s pregnancy scan, for health and safety reasons a husband has been told to take a seat.


During his wife's pregnancy scan at hospital a husband stood to pick up his 20 month old son who was misbehaving. Upon standing he was told that due to health and safety he was not allowed to stand up during the examination.

HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel

Pregnancy scans need to be conducted carefully to check on the development of the foetus. Partners moving around during the scan may be distracting to the sonographer and small children could injure themselves or others if they are roaming free with medical equipment all around them. However, it is misleading to suggest that partners can't stand up or siblings need to be controlled under health and safety legislation. Asking partners to remain seated when appropriate or controlling young children when necessary in these circumstances is generally a matter of common sense. A simple briefing before the procedure would explain this and help to avoid any misunderstanding.

Phoenix comments:

“These cases are alarming examples of people using health and safety as an excuse, creating unpopular decisions to completely nonsensical interpretations of what the law requires. Ultimately the over-zealous application of health and safety trivialises the real work of preventing death, serious injury and ill health caused by work, which make a real contribution to the way we care for people in our society. It is important to expose these cases to enable us to engage in real dialogue around sensible risk management”.