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20 October 2014 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

No Reflection on your Disability

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

Health &  Safety Myth Busting

The Government’s myth busters challenge panel has recently considered its 300th case. Unbelievably when a customer using the disabled toilet at a country pub enquired as to why there was no mirror she was advised by the overzealous landlady that there was no mirror “for health and safety reasons”.

The panel determined that the truth of the matter was that there was no mirror because the contractor who had recently refurbished the toilets had simply cut costs.  He had supplied the landlady with this as an excuse and the landlady was more than happy to simply adopt the nonsensical explanation.

The panel is a mechanism to challenge incorrect or over the top decisions or advice given by non-regulators, such as insurance companies, health and safety consultants and employers taken in the name of health and safety.

The work of the panel is highlighted in the Health and Safety Executive’s latest publication; a document which explains the main features of the regulatory approach taken by the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities to improve standards in health and safety performance.

The document deals with the basis upon which the Executive and local authorities, in enforcing their responsibilities, will regulate the diverse range of work activities in workplaces for which they have health and safety responsibility.  The document makes the point that primary responsibility for managing risks in the workplace lies with the business or in some incidences the person that created the risk.  The HSE as a regulator must determine whether businesses are effectively and proportionately managing the health and safety risks to workers and others.  All too often the stage at which the regulator intervenes is after accidents have occurred.

Such accidents are often tragic and catastrophic for those injured.  Equally the adverse publicity and reputational damage which a business might suffer, when added to the potential for hefty fines and award of costs, can be extremely harmful to a business.

Some  examples in the hospitality sector include cases involving severe burns or other significant injuries suffered by workers in kitchens.  The HSE website names and shames employers who allow unsafe working practices to develop and fail to eliminate the risk of injury. Headlines such as “worker suffered fractured skull slipping in kitchen” or “worker fried her arm in 360° of boiling fat” can be found quite easily on the site.

In the first case a fine of £15,000 was imposed and in the latter a fine of £36,000. In both incidents cited, each employer was ordered to pay substantial costs.

These cases illustrate the extremely risky path that employers may follow in their failure or refusal to adopt safe working practices.

Our full Health and Safety Advisory service can provide advice on all aspects of health and safety law.  The aim being to avoid the possibility of action being taken for breaches of health and safety responsibilities and to safeguard the interests and reputation of our clients. For more information please contact Kevin James in the Employment Department

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