Don't Let Workplace Health and Safety Run Your Life, HSE Says

Aug. 22, 2006
Although all employees should focus on staying safe in the workplace, it is important to focus on risks that cause potential harm and not on trivial and petty ones, according to Bill Callaghan, Chair of the United Kingdom's Health and Safety Commission (HSC).

"I'm sick and tired of hearing that 'health and safety' is stopping people doing worthwhile and enjoyable things when at the same time others are suffering real harm and even death as a result of mismanagement at work," Callaghan said.

As a result, the U.K. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a set of key principles that detail what the organization believes sensible risk management should, and should not, be about.

The HSE says sensible risk management should be about:

  • Ensuring that workers and the public are properly protected.
  • Providing overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on reducing real risks both those that arise more often and those with serious consequences.
  • Enabling innovation and learning, not stifling them.
  • Ensuring that those who create risks manage them responsibly and understand that failure to manage real risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action.
  • Enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility.

HSE also makes it clear what it believes sensible risk management should not be about:

  • Creating a totally risk free society.
  • Generating useless mountains of paperwork.
  • Scaring people by exaggerating or publicizing trivial risks.
  • Stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals where the risks are managed.
  • Reducing protection of people from risks that cause real harm and suffering.

HSE Deputy Chief Executive Jonathan Rees said it's important to cut the red tape and take action to put the principles into practice.

"These principles build on all of this and will hopefully drum home the message that health and safety is not about long forms, back-covering or stifling initiative," he said. " It's about recognizing real risks, tackling them in a balanced way and watching out for each other. It's about keeping people safe not stopping."

The principles can be found on the "Risks" page on the HSE at Web site.

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