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Promoting sensible decisions

The Myth Busters Challenge Panel allows individuals or organisations to challenge decisions made in the name of health and safety that they believe are disproportionate or inaccurate. HSE analysed the first 100 cases dealt with by the panel. This resulted in four straightforward tips aimed at helping local authorities promote sensible decisions on health and safety.

1. Find out if it really is a health and safety concern

Often questionable decisions are not about health and safety at work.

Example: A local authority banned school staff from taking their partners and children on school trips - incorrectly quoting health and safety law as the reason for their decision.

2.Look for health and safety solutions that help you deliver your services – not for health and safety obstacles to stop them

Benefits can be lost because of overly-cautious bans.

Example: Volunteers were prohibited from pruning overgrown vegetation on a public footpath on health and safety grounds - when with a few sensible precautions the council could have benefited from this public-spirited volunteering.

3. Ensure that all your health and safety precautions pass the test of being sensible and proportionate

Control measures may be beyond those needed for the level of risk.

Example: A council required an engineer to check whether lamp posts could support hanging baskets - but all that was really needed was a simple visual check.

4. Communicate all your risk management decisions clearly and honestly

A straightforward explanation is the best approach.

Example: A council failed to convey the real reason for its decision not to allow a resident to use traffic cones to reserve a street parking space - instead taking the convenient option of laying the blame on 'health and safety'.

Your role in challenging myths and misunderstandings

Senior managers and councillors are urged to take a strong lead in promoting a culture of sensible and proportionate health and safety decision-making across local authorities.

Updated: 2020-07-31