Health and Safety Policy Blunder Busting

Bus driver orders everyone off after someone spills their coffee – Health and Safety madness – The Sun, Mar. Olympics sandcastle demolished over health and safety fears – The Guardian, Apr. Flower Potty:Church officials ban plants from graveyards over health and safety fears – The Mirror, Sept. Airline cabin crew told cold passenger they could not give her a blanket because of health and safety reasons… but they would sell her one for £5 – The Mail, Aug. Christmas lights out for the first time in 20 years over health and safety fears – Daily Telegraph, Nov.

As can be seen from the news it is very easy to let health and safety policy go a bit overboard. This factsheet can hopefully help you to avoid some of the more common health and safety myths and blunders that have been propagated through business, so that you only implement health and safety policies necessary for saving people’s lives and quality of life instead of causing annoyance and frustration.

Common Health and Safety Myths Busted by HSE

HSE has been working to remove some of the health and safety myths propagating through the workplace. Below are some of the false myths found for around the office, construction working and cafes/restaurants and the facts related to them. You may find some more surprising than others!

False Myth

Related Facts

Around the Office

Summer footwear in the office should have an enclosed toe and supported heel |link|

As about 30% of workplace accidents are from slips trips and falls, if the floors cannot be kept clean or dry well fitting shoes with good grip may be appropriate. However, no health and safety regulations enforce these rules in offices (or other low risk environments). These policies would be more appropriately labelled as part of a dress code to present a particular professional employee image.

Sunglasses cannot be worn in a bright office even if a doctor’s note is produced |link|

Bunting cannot be hung from light fittings for celebrations |link|

It could be a health and safety issue having employees standing on chairs to put up bunting. However, with a little bit of sensibly applied common sense and provision of a step ladder there is no health and safety reason to not erect bunting.

Workers cannot put up Christmas decorations  or a qualified person would be needed to put up decorations for celebrations |link|

All electrical office equipment must be tested by a trained electrician every year |link, link2|

The law requires employers to assess risks and take appropriate action to maintain electrical equipment if it can cause danger. Some equipment only requires formal testing every 1-5years while some equipment requires no formal testing. Read more about portable appliance testing here.

Construction Working

Step ladders must be footed by someone when at work on them |link|

Although working at height does require health and safety policy to reduce the risk of falling, footing of a ladder is a last resort and should only be used if other reasonable measures cannot be taken.

You cannot wear shorts on a building site |link|

Some situations such as working with cement would require PPE including plastic trousers to avoid serious skin hazards but not all construction sites will require the need of such measures.

It’s ok to have a general handy man work on a gas appliance |link|

As incorrect gas appliances can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks, fires and explosions it is important that anyone working on gas appliances is Gas Safe registered.


Baby food brought in by a customer cannot be heated up and a customer cannot be given hot water to warm the food up themselves in case they burn themselves or their baby |link|

No health and safety regulations enforce this. If this customer service is provided is merely a matter of company policy.

Pets (ie. dogs) are not allowed to be in cafes and restaurants |link|

Although there may be worries about hygiene and/or misbehaving pets there are no health and safety regulations against pets entering cafes or restaurants which are usually also disregarded in the case of dogs for the blind.

If you are interested in more examples of health and safety false myths uncovered by HSE during the myth busters check out their myth busters and myth of the month series.

Avoiding general health and safety policy blunders

While creating or amending health and safety policy:

  • Always consider if there is a simpler or less restricting way to alleviate the risk and or consequence before writing a policy to avoid the blunder of restricting people unnecessarily.
  • If the risk and consequence is serious make the health and safety policy clear and understandable with solid reasoning and make sure it is followed to avoid the blunder of people ignoring it.
  • If the risk and consequence seems trivial and doesn’t seem to match the action required to avoid it, check the laws and legislation or get a second opinion to ensure you aren’t just copying someone else’s blunder.
  • Don’t consider using health and safety as a cover-up reason for a policy – it will get noticed, and not only will this blunder cause a loss of respect for the enforcer it will also reduce the chances of people taking the real health and safety rules seriously

Factsheet: Health and Safety Policy Blunder Busting
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.