Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning has written to schools and local authorities in England urging a more common sense approach to health and safety regulations.
Describing those who misuse the legislation or use it as an excuse not to do things as “jobsworths”, Mr Penning has accused them of wanting to fob people off with an easy excuse.
In fact, almost 300 people have contacted the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) “Myth Busters” Challenge Panel in the past two years to challenge frankly silly decisions, such as a sports day being cancelled because there was dew on the grass.
As an example, the Myth Busters Panel has received news of a junior school that banned pupils from bringing in snacks of fruit or rice cakes on the grounds that they could be a risk to children with food allergies.
The Panel found that, while schools need to have procedures in place for managing pupils with food allergies, they should not misquote ‘health and safety’ as a reason for justifying a disproportionate ban on all snacks.
As the Panel points out, it is clear that schools need to have a policy and an action plan in place to manage the risk of allergic reactions but a complete banning of all snacks seems a disproportionate response, particularly since food allergic pupils should learn to take responsibility for their own allergy.
Chair of the HSE, Judith Hackitt, has endorsed Mr Penning’s letter, saying that she would urge all decision-makers to ask themselves whether a decision made in the name of health and safety is actually just an excuse for something else.
As she pointed out, real health and safety is about protecting people in the workplace from real threats to life and health, not about stopping a child taking a piece of fruit into school.
For more information about your responsibilities as an employer, towards your employees health and safety within the workplace, speak to the employment solicitors at Mackrell Turner Garrett
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