Health and safety myths uncovered

Bosses across the country are unintentionally flouting basic laws designed to keep employees safe and well at work, due to commonly held misconceptions about their safety responsibilities.

According to Croner, a leading health and safety advisor, employers keep repeating common safety slip-ups.

Failure to manage stress, cutting corners to save money on safety, and not reporting accidents are just a few of the most common errors.

Trevor Davies, health and safety expert at Croner says: “We come across the same slip-ups time and time again. Employers are failing to comply with the law due to what are essentially mythical beliefs about their responsibilities.”

But Davies says there is no room for complacency when it comes to safety and has separated fact from fiction in a few of the most common health and safety myths:

Fiction: health & safety is just common sense

Fact: common sense is usually enough to keep us relatively safe in our day-to-day lives, but the hazards we face at work can be far trickier and the consequences more severe. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to undertake ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessments of the risks to the health and safety of employees at work. A recent prosecution under these regulations occurred to a Coventry-based car parts manufacturer. An employee was crushed to death by steel containers because the company did not carry out sufficient risk assessments, resulting in a total fine of £142,000.

Fiction: complying with health & safety law costs employers money

Fact: there is a strong argument that investing in health and safety will actually save money in the long run. There are around 200 work-related deaths, over 150,000 workers injured and 2.3 million cases of work-related ill health resulting in 40 million working days lost each year on average in the UK.1

Fiction: employers cannot be prosecuted for work-related stress

Fact: failure to manage stress appropriately is a breach of the employer’s responsibility under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, to reasonably ensure the mental and physical health and safety of employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities.

Fiction: health & safety law prohibits people working alone

Fact: working alone is acceptable as long as special arrangements have been made for safety in relation to the types of hazard involved. This may include emergency first aid arrangements, panic buttons or two-way radios.

Fiction: health & safety compliance is solely the employer’s responsibility

Fact: Employers have a duty of care to all employees to take reasonable action to keep them safe, well and comfortable. Employees also have a duty to work safely and co-operate with health and safety procedures. Employers must ensure employees are clearly informed of these responsibilities.

Fiction: it is easier for employers not to report accidents

Fact: under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995, employers have a legal duty to report certain accidents. This includes all major injuries or any other injury which leads to an incapacity to work for more than three days. Failure to do so is a criminal offence for which employers could be fined up to £20,000.

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