Myth-busting or diversion? HSE looking in all the wrong places
There is a new report out on health and safety myths. It is a review of all the cases that have been referred to the Mythbusters Panel which the HSE set up a few years ago to challenge health and safety myths.
Now I have no problem with myth-busting. The TUC did a report on this eight years ago and the main conclusion was that the myths are mainly just that, myths, usually a result of press distortion and very rarely anything to do with workplace health and safety.
The report, by Exeter university on the cases considered by the panel, shows a number of things. Firstly that a lot of them are about fear or legal action, deficiencies in training and the avoidance of costs. Secondly that most of the cases that the HSE panel looks at are nothing to do with occupational health and safety.
In fact the researchers suggest that only 15% of cases are to do with that. And that is part of the problem. The work of the HSE on mythbusting does not seem to differentiate between workplace health and safety stories and all the rest, despite the fact that it is the regulator for occupational health and safety, not hanging baskets, putting up bunting and school uniform policies (all of which were looked at by the panel). So does the work of the mythbusting panel actually do anything to reinforce the importance of correct workplace health and safety policies? Well, if you look at the media coverage of cases the top four were about conkers, golf buggies, blu tack in schools and postal deliveries.
Even the HSE press release on the report does nothing to highlight the workplace. It says:
“Imagine bagging a bargain in the sales only to be forced to pay a £30 delivery charge, wanting to up your fitness in the pool but are refused the use of floats or goggles, or being told you can’t return an unwanted Christmas present because you unwrapped it to take a look!”
Yes all very silly, but are these really issues for the HSE to be investigating?
Where the HSE has often been really good is in rebuttals of some of the stupid press stories about “health and safety gone mad”, but for some reason the press seem to be reluctant to report on their own mistakes.
For me it all comes down to priorities. Myth-busting is useful, because misinterpretation can be confusing and unhelpful but, as far as I know, no-one ever got killed by an overly-zealous employer. I think we can all agree that it is those employers who are not even complying with their minimum legal requirements that are the problem, such as the half of employers who have not even done a basic risk assessment.
Given that over 2 million people are suffering from a condition caused by, or made worse by, their work, that really has to be the priority.