Health and Safety has evolved and developed over the years, with the aim being to keep people safe. That covers employees and the employer, as well as any visitors or customers that spend time in the business. While some rules are supported and backed up by legislation, others are put in place by the business itself, and this has given rise to potential health and safety violations that almost defy belief.
While risk assessments have become a normal part of any company’s Health and Safety strategy, some people believe the rules imposed as a result have gone too far. There is a logic behind them, but there is a divide between what employees see as normal and a business’s view.
You might be wondering why the number of Health and Safety policies, processes, documents and rules has grown so much, but it is a reflection of our society and the responsibilities both employers and employees have.
Accidents at work require thorough investigations to determine what happened, and this is then used to prevent the issue from occuring again. With a focus on providing a safe environment, and ensuring no one person – or entity – can be held responsible is a way to reduce the financial obligation that might come from such an outcome.
However, while some rules are required by law, others rely on the company to identify risks specific to that business. That can lead to some quite strange, and weird, rules that few can understand.
A lot of the arguments against the increase in Health and Safety rules fall back on the idea of common sense. While this argument relies on everyone being able to navigate simple, everyday situations as they would outside of the workplace, the problem is that everyone has a different idea of what common sense is and how it should be applied.
Health and Safety policies aim to bring this to a level playing field by ensuring everyone has the same rules to follow. While this isn’t always the case, and some situational differences arise, these are accounted for with safety in mind.
With each passing generation, our idea and understanding of common sense changes to reflect the current world. This makes it hard to rely on common sense as a ruling safety factor.
With so many Health and Safety rules, it was always going to happen that some were weirder than others. We’ve found some absolutely bizarre examples enforced by companies, while others are only strange on the surface with pretty solid reasoning behind them.
Depending on your stance, you might think these are acceptable rules or downright strange, but they exist – even if they’re not all legal requirements.
A common rule found in many organisations is that doors should be closed in most situations, and there are plenty of reasons for this. It might seem strange, but a lot of doors in a business are fire doors designed to isolate and reduce the spread of any flames as much as possible. This can’t happen if the doors are open, and even automatic systems that should allow them to close in emergencies are not foolproof.
Doors also act as a security measure to prevent unauthorised people from accessing areas they shouldn’t and blocking external noise. They also play a part in the property’s insulation setup, so there are a lot of factors behind this one.
How many times have you changed a lightbulb at home without a second thought? Okay, you may take a second to ensure the light is off at the wall before doing so, but it’s a pretty normal task that most people don’t worry too much about.
This isn’t true at work, with many organisations putting a rule in place to stop workers from doing it. In some cases, it’s understandable. Some of the light fixtures aren’t as simple with coverings or grates in the way, and the bulbs themselves could be a different style than what’s used at home. Given the workplace can be a taller area, it means other risks are included, too, and specific knowledge or experience might be required.
We’re not sure how many people plan to wear flip-flops at work, but sandals often fall into this category. Whether it’s for a dress code or a specific environment, proper footwear can be essential for some jobs. Where you are lifting, carrying or handling any type of goods, exposed feet are at risk if something is dropped.
They also don’t offer the grip that other shoes can, making trips and falls more likely to happen. This could then impact other people nearby, so while it might seem a strange rule or an innocent piece of footwear, there is logic behind that policy.
Birthday celebrations often carry over into the workplace – not everyone can take their special day off, and some don’t mind spreading it over a couple of locations! For many, cake plays a part in these events and what’s a birthday cake without candles to blow out? Well, for many employers, that’s a big no.
While small and contained, the candles bring open flames that, should the worst happen, could spread to other furnishings and areas of the workplace. Even the most careful people can have accidents and not only would it threaten the safety of all employees, but the damage could put a heavy financial burden on the business, so no candles or open flames are permitted.
All workplaces will have first aid boxes or supplies that, should an accident occur, can help those involved. This is a legal requirement and needs to be checked regularly to make sure everything is stocked up. What’s included is usually quite uniform, but individual industries and businesses might have other items related to the risks staff face.
While no one wants to be injured or need to use these supplies, some businesses have a rule that no one can take these supplies – which seems counterproductive! In most cases, this is to ensure only trained first-aiders can tend to anyone injured and keep track of what’s used, however it can extend to sharing things like paracetamol as well. This is because of allergies and intolerances that someone may have.
This one caught us by surprise, but in some organisations there’s a rule that forbids facial hair on employees. After a little digging, this can be refined to growing facial hair, rather than it existing completely. The belief is that growing a beard looks messy and unhygienic, and this is something found in hospitality or food-focused businesses.
It’s an odd one, as with the right hygiene practises, it’s no dirtier than any other style of facial hair. It’s an appearance issue rather than a Health and Safety one. Some companies are very strict, ensuring their staff shave daily while others offer a little leeway. If you want to grow a beard while working for these organisations, better take some time off.
Most workplaces have an area for staff to eat and take breaks during their shifts, with facilities such as microwaves, kettles and cutlery to eat their food. These are things people use every day, so you would expect no problems with them being used at work.
However, some organisations feel that metal cutlery, however practical, represents a risk to people and provides plastic alternatives which are less likely to cause injury. Not only does this treat people like children, but these are often disposable and add more waste to be removed every day.
The potential to snap these items is also a risk itself, so we’re unsure as to why this rule is enforced in some places.
When was the last time you were told not to turn something off?
To save energy – and lower bills – turning appliances, lights, and equipment off when not in use or at the end of the day seems pretty normal to most people. Everyone can understand the strain of high energy bills, afterall.
There could be reasons behind this, though. In some cases, there are rules as to what lights can be switched off and when, for example. This usually means there are automatic systems in place and switching these off could cause problems. Companies where technology is used throughout the day, in various ways, can also have problems if it is shut off. This should be clear to all employees so everyone knows what should and should not be switched off.
There are more than a few occasions throughout the year when employees can get into the spirit of the occasion – think Christmas or Halloween as just two examples. Part of the spirit is decorating the workplace with seasonal decorations to create the atmosphere and get people excited.
However, some businesses have banned these decorations – or rather, the act of putting up decorations. This is because, if done incorrectly, it can damage the walls and put people at risk while they climb ladders or use tools to get the job done. Whether a designated individual or team can take over this is up to the business, but some forgo the risk entirely and come up with other ways of getting the seasonal spirit going.
While we want to make sure your Health and Safety policies and rules are up to date, it’s important to get them right. Health and Safety violations for rules that make no sense can have an adverse impact on the atmosphere and culture at work. Where there is a risk, and a clear explanation of why it exists, most people will happily make sure these rules are followed – especially if alternatives and solutions are offered.
At Rhino Safety, we take a common sense approach to Health and Safety. Some rules are nonsensical and do more harm than good to the productivity and atmosphere in a business. It’s a balance, and we’ll help you find the right one.
The impact of a safe workplace, with clear procedures that don’t slow down or put walls in front of employees and customers, can be seen instantly. Our Health and Safety consultants at Rhino Safety are ready to help put your business in the best shape for everyone, so get in touch and find out how we can help.