Health and Safety Executive calls on firms to get serious over safety at work

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has called on companies to “get a life” and concentrate on serious safety risks at work rather than sensationalising trivial concerns.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the HSE, said he was sick and tired of hearing that health and safety was stopping people doing worthwhile and enjoyable things when at the same time others were suffering real harm and even death as a result of mismanagement at work.

“Some of the health and safety stories are just myths. There are also some instances where health and safety is used as an excuse to justify unpopular decisions, such as closing facilities,” he said. “But behind many of the stories, there is at least a grain of truth – someone really has made a stupid decision.”

“If you’re using health and safety to stop everyday activities – get a life and let others get on with theirs,” Callaghan said.

Louise Ward, health and safety adviser at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said risk management was an essential part of successful health and safety practice, which enables activities to be undertaken in an acceptably safe manner. 

“This does not mean that hazards will be eliminated but that effective and balanced control measures are in place, which should reduce the risk of harm to an acceptable level,” she said.

The HSE today launched a set of key principles detailing what sensible risk management should be about.

The key messages of the campaign are:

1. Sensible risk management is about:

  • ensuring that workers and the public are properly protected
  • providing overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on reducing real risks – both those which arise more often and those with serious consequences
  • enabling innovation and learning not stifling them
  • ensuring that those who create risks manage them responsibly and understand that failure to manage real risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action
  • enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility.

2. Sensible risk management is not about:

  • creating a totally risk-free society
  • generating useless paperwork mountains
  • scaring people by exaggerating or publicising trivial risks
  • stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals where the risks are managed
  • reducing protection of people from risks that cause real harm and suffering.

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