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HSE response to Times Educational Supplement article on compensation claim

'The issue - Health and safety' - Times Educational Supplement, 9 September 2011
Response date:
14 September 2011

Your article, though welcome in encouraging people to think carefully about their health and safety responsibilities, blurs the distinction between health and safety law, which concerns itself with criminal failings, and claims for compensation under civil law. As we know from experience, this can lead to confusion and perpetuate the spread of health and safety myths - when what is actually needed is a common-sense approach.

In schools a common-sense approach to health and safety is about striking the right balance. This means that schools and staff focus on and manage the real risks - it does not mean that mistakes and accidents will not happen or that all risks have to be eliminated.

The case of the lady falling off the toilet was a claim for compensation - HSE did not investigate and no case was brought under health and safety law. Of course assessment of real risks is important - but I was interested to note that the article made no mention of the important role the workforce can play. They are often the best people to understand the risks in their workplace. We know that when the management team and workforce talk, listen and co-operate they can identify joint solutions to problems like these that should not rely on hindsight to resolve.

David Bryant,
Public Services Sector,
Health and Safety Executive

Updated 2012-01-13