Just how dangerous is a conker?
Hardly a day goes by without health and safety regulations being blamed by someone for not allowing them to do something. But is it true? Or is health and safety just the fall guy to enable companies and councils to get out of doing what they don't want to do?
Malehealth asked Richard Jones of the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety to separate fact from fiction.
Is it true that sack races are now banned because of health and safety worries?
No. A sack race was 'banned' from a fun day in Hartlepool. 'Health and safety' has also been used to ban children from playing games like tag or football in the playground. It's a case of health and safety being the excuse. In the case of tag and the sack race, the underlying reason is fear of litigation. In the case of football, it was the previous poor behaviour of a few pupils.
Health and safety was even accused of causing the cancellation of the Horwich Remembrance Day parade. The real reason was spiralling costs, from insurance and policing.
I heard flower baskets had been banned.
Several local councils have removed hanging baskets for health and safety reasons. In almost every instance, the real reasons are a combination of concerns over impeding the highway or entrances or exits or fear of litigation.
Are washing-up liquid bubbles a safety hazard?
A Sheffield-based clown, Barney Baloney, was prevented from using a bubble machine in his act because it was "a safety hazard". The real reason for the ban was because insurers refused to insure Barney's act in case someone slipped on bubble residue.
So what about conkers? The game's a death trap isn't it?
Children at a school in Cumbria were banned from playing a game of conkers without wearing safety goggles for 'health and safety reasons'.
But again the real reason was fear of litigation because the headteacher was worried about a child being hit in the eye by a piece of conker.
It's the same with the pupil who was eating an apple in the wrong place and was given detention for 'health and safety reasons' — the real reason is that the school was concerned about littering
What about health and safety at work. Is it true that nobody should lift more than 25 kg in the workplace.
The regulations do not set limits. However it is important to assess the risks and avoid manual handling wherever possible. The aim is to reduce the large number of lifting injuries which are very costly to employers and society.
Have the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) banned step-ladders?
No. In many cases stepladders will be the appropriate tool for the job. It depends on the type of ladder and the way they are being used . Inappropriate use of ladders as work platforms is a major cause of serious injury and employers must think about when they should be used and when something else is needed.
What about the HSE asking musicians to play more quietly?
The HSE are working with the Musicians Union, Theatre and Production Associations and others to help them produce practical advice based on their own knowledge and expertise of what can be done to reduce the risk of musicians suffering hearing damage.
Should all office equipment be tested every year by an electrician?
No. Visual checks for obvious signs of damage and perhaps simple tests by a competent member of staff are quite sufficient for most office electrical equipment.
Being more serious, how do we assess how safe an activity is?
Ask yourself five questions:
- Is there anything in the activity that could cause harm?
- Who could be harmed and how?
- How bad would the harm be?
- How likely is this to happen anyway?
- What do I need to do to prevent it happening?
We know that accidents kill about 6,500 men a year — that's 18 preventable male deaths every day. What are your top five health and safety tips for men?
- Keep workplaces tidy to help avoid slips and trips
- Plan your car journeys to avoid having to rush and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
- Maintain a good posture during all work activities but especially when using your computer. This will help you avoid musculoskeletal disorders. (OK, it's not a killer but it is very painful and the most-commonly reported workplace injury.)
- If you work outside wear some skin protection to help avoid skin cancer
- Have the courage to report health and safety concerns to your employer — you may prevent an accident.
Page created on October 31st, 2007
Page updated on December 1st, 2009