While most health and safety procedures and policies are basic common sense, sometimes workplace safety can actually be a bit contentious. Every year we seem to hear about “workplace safety gone mad,” with otherwise respected media outlets publishing what are essentially tall tales about innocuous activities that have been banned under the guise of “health and safety.”
While these articles can, at times, raise perfectly valid and important points, they often rely on recycled old tropes that aim to inflame public opinion without taking a moment to question their validity. Inspired by a recent Health and Safety Executive post, here are our top five absurd – and giggle inducing – health and safety myths completely busted and exposed for the falsities that they are.
Health and Safety Myths
- Trapeze artists required to start wearing hard hats! Can you imagine heading to a circus or carnival to watch the acrobats flying through the air with the greatest of ease, only to see their lithe bodies topped with a hard hat? This is a commonly recycled myth that surfaces every few years, yet there has never been any workplace legislation remotely concerned about enforcing this absurd policy.
- Graduates not permitted to throw their mortar boards into the air – One of the most beloved graduation traditions amongst those receiving their Bachelor’s Degrees is the act of throwing one’s mortar board hat into the air with glee. In recent years this practice has been banned at many universities, and it often gets blamed on health and safety policy gone mad. This is not the case – the injuries that could be caused by an errant cardboard hat are minimal. The real reason? Most schools do not want to cause any damage to these hats, which they reuse.
- Pin the tail on the donkey banned! Has a beloved children’s party game fallen prey to ‘health and safety’ gone mad? Some newspaper articles would have you believe this bizarre myth (and certainly, some helicopter parents out there would agree), but the reality is less sensationalistic. While individual parents might choose to kibosh this game for their littlest ones, there is no official policy on this fun game.
- Hanging baskets of flowers banned due to risk of head bumps – When a small town in the UK removed their hanging baskets in 2004 due to fears the ageing lampposts would collapse, the media went mad, claiming that this measure was taken to prevent head injuries. This was a lot of indignation over nothing – the baskets were replaced the following year, and there is no official policy against flower boxes or baskets.
- Most slips and trips are no big deal – This is a slightly more serious topic, but many people still believe that minor slips and trips in the workplace are ‘no big deal.’ This could not be further from the truth – a seemingly small hazard can actually be devastating or even fatal. Ensure you clean up spills and remove all trip hazards.