6 Health & Safety Myths (Our Favourites)

1. Banning employees from putting up Christmas decorations

You may have seen this ban enforced over the festive period.
The HSE was asked whether that employees are banned from putting up decorations. They denied the claims that this was true. They went on to say that Christmas decorations are perfectly fine, however the manner in which they are put up could be an issue. Employees would need to conform to safety standards such as using ladders when appropriate. For example, in an office environment, employees must not use their office chair to hang decorations as this could pose a risk to health and safety.

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2. Banning flip flops in the workplace

This claim is part correct under current UK HSE law. The law states that appropriate footwear must be worn at all times where there is a risk present. This refers to potentially dangerous environments such as building sites or kitchens. This would mean flip flops could be worn in office environments however many choose not to for hygiene purposes and lack of professionalism.

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3. Employers being held accountable for employee’s actions outside the workplace

Employer stopped proving funds for alcoholic drinks at Christmas night out (offsite), citing health and safety.
While the employer may have a proper concern to discourage staff from overdoing it where it is funding a night out, claiming health and safety legislation as the reason for its refusal to fund Christmas party drinks on a staff night out is incorrect.

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4. Antibacterial wipes leading to ‘superbug’

An employee was advised that using antibacterial wipes to clean inside vehicles could lead to the development of a ‘superbug’.
Superbugs are a real cause for concern for everyone, but the use of chemical disinfectants in antibacterial wipes is not going to make the situation worse when used correctly. The advice on the use of antibacterial wipes is to use one wipe per surface and then discard to avoid potentially spreading any bacteria to other surfaces. They are effective for the purpose being proposed, and seem like a sensible choice.

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5. Building site employees cannot wear shorts to work

Unless your employees are required to wear specific personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of their role or contractual employment arrangements, in some circumstances (such as working with wet cement) there is no legal health and safety obligation that can be acted upon. Alcumus does however advise employers to encourage all workers to take a sensible pragmatic approach to ensure appropriate clothing is worn in line with corporate dress code and is suitable for the job in hand. The risk assessment will decide the appropriate clothing to be worn. Employers will have to take account of the weather, in hot weather skin should be covered to avoid sun damage. On extremely cold days skin should be covered. A cold environment challenges the worker in three ways: by air temperature, air movement (wind speed), and humidity (wetness). In order to work safely, these challenges have to be counterbalanced by proper insulation (layered protective clothing).

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6. People don’t have to take any responsibility for their own health and safety

In this day and age it is widely recognised that employers have a duty to protect workers and the public from dangers caused by workplace activity. At Alcumus we strongly believe that health and safety isn’t entirely the responsibility of the employer. Alcumus encourages employers to empower their staff to take a personal responsibility for keeping themselves safe, by co-operating with safety measures and not putting themselves or others in danger.

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