HSE launches health and safety Myth Busters panel

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has set up an independent panel – the Myth Busters Challenge Panel – to scrutinise decisions where health and safety has been used as a convenient excuse to stop essentially sensible activities going ahead.

Health and safety and particularly the so-called ‘elf n safety’ culture have come under close scrutiny by the current Government, which has led to the publication of two reports, ‘Common Sense, Common Safety by Lord Young and, more recentl,y Professor Ragnar Lofstedt’s report.

The new panel is chaired by the HSE Chair Judith Hackitt, with HSE board member Robin Dahlberg as the Vice-Chair. They are supported by a pool of independent members who represent a wide range of interests including small businesses, public safety, trade union, the insurance industry and many outside interests where day-to-day common sense decisions on risk management are made.

The panel will look into complaints 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.

The HSE said:

“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.”

If you think a decision or advice that you have been given in the name of health and safety is wrong, or disproportionate to what you are doing, you can complain to the panel. It will investigate and publish its findings on the HSE website

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  1. The introduction of the HSE ‘mythbusters challenge’ panel to provide quick advice to people subjected to disproportionate health and safety decisions is a welcome initiative that can only improve the perception of and response to such crucial legislation.

    The misplaced negative perception of health and safety legislation predominantly arises from a misrepresentation of current legislation which often leads to a disproportionate level of cost, time and effort when attempting to meet compliance, as highlighted by the examples of extreme and often ridiculous health and safety measures as published by the HSE.

    Any employer is legally required to appoint a competent person(s) to assist in meeting their health and safety duties… This requires a particular set of skills and knowledge to interpret the Health and Safety legislation that is relevant to the individual organisation and its industry. Given the complexity of the legislative requirements, it is little surprise that many organisations struggle with the clarity of purpose with predominantly non-specialist or unqualified in-house staff only.

    Indeed, the new HSE initiative supports the work of many existing health and safety consultants who advocate an appropriate, practical and legally compliant approach to health and safety in the workplace.

    In taking a pro-active, practical approach to health and safety legislation, either internally by appointing a competent staff member or by employing an external health and safety consultant, companies will be able to develop a relevant health and safety management system that is legally compliant and will help drive a range of wider benefits including a reduced number of accidents in the workplace, a reduction in enforcement notices and / or prosecutions, a reduction in insurance premiums due to fewer claims, as well as better staff retention, increased quality and output, and a positive reputation.

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