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Time to Stop the Blame Game

09 January 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

The HSE has urged businesses that provide customer service to turn over a new leaf and stop blaming health and safety for ‘poor or over-the-top decisions’


The Health & Safety Executive has launched its fortieth anniversary year with a demand by businesses to stop the behaviour of ‘blaming anything and everything on non-existent health and safety rules’.

Retail and leisure businesses have featured prominently in new research by the University of Exeter, which reveals 50% of all cases put to HSE’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel came from shops, cafes and leisure centres.

Traditionally January is a time when people want to get fitter, healthier, or take advantage of the sales. However, customers are being left increasingly frustrated by that the HSE believes are ‘ridiculous decisions made in the name of health and safety, more often than not to cover up what is simply poor customer service’.

One example given was of a poster at a public swimming pool that stated: ‘Due to health and safety regulations, we are unable to lend floats, goggles or woggles.’ The Myth Busters Challenge Panel stated that ‘there is no health and safety regulation which prevents the loan of goggles and flotation devices at public swimming pools. Many swimming pools continue to provide these aids to swimmers without problem. The notice itself is confusing in that it is unclear whether their use is banned or if it’s ok to use them if customers provide their own.’


Health and safety myth

The research by Exeter University which also looks at perceptions and understanding of health and safety regulation in society, found the fear of being sued, cost avoidance and lack of training were other key reasons behind the use of the health and safety myth.

“No employer or worker should hide behind the health and safety excuses, if they act in a sensible way,” said Mark Harper, Minister, Department for Work and Pensions. He urged that any similar examples should be reported to the panel.

Commenting on behalf of the HSE, Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE and the Myth Busters Challenge Panel, stated: “Customers are at the heart any business. Getting rid of over-the-top decisions blamed on health and safety will improve the service customers receive and enable the business to prosper.”


For further information on the University of Exeter report, visit the website:


Picture: The HSE believes many complaints by businesses and operators on ‘health and safety’ restrictions are, in reality, excuses for their own service levels.

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 09 January 2015


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