Christmas is a special time of year. Even so, it doesn’t stop health and safety being (wrongly) cited as a reason for preventing pretty harmless activities from going ahead. Not only does this needlessly ruin the festive spirit but it also trivialises the true purpose of health and safety: protecting people from real risks at, or connected with, work.

In the run up to Christmas the HSE has decided to publish the top 12 festive myths that it has received from media reports and correspondence. These include banning staff from putting up Christmas decorations at work, disallowing second hand toys from being collected for donations due to health and safety reasons, and requiring facilities managers to PAT test Christmas lights every year.

Although jovial in tone, the HSE’s Myth Buster’s Challenge panel is an entity established to look at cases such as these, and give advice to companies and individuals who are being prevented from certain activities under the banner of health and safety.

If they believe the decision to be disproportionate or inaccurate, the Panel provides a mechanism to challenge that advice and will consider cases where advice is given by non-regulators (e.g. insurance companies, health and safety consultants, suppliers, contractors and employers) who quote health and safety as the reason to do or not do something.

The panel will offer its opinion on whether the advice was correct and proportionate in terms of its interpretation of the requirements of health and safety legislation but will not offer an opinion on the role of other regulators or consider challenges about issues that relate solely to another regulator.

The Challenge Panel Chair is Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE, and HSE Board member, Robin Dahlberg, is Vice-Chair. They are supported by a pool of independent panel members who have a wide range of experience and backgrounds in managing risk on a day-to-day basis.