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Flushing away 'elf and safety excuses

09 August 2013

From hotels refusing to supply toilet brushes to a village committee banning washing-up by hand, cleaning- and hygiene-related cases appear on the Health & Safety Executive's (HSE) new list of health and safety myths.

In its drive to combat misuses of health and safety legislation, the HSE has released more 'elf and safety myths, and three of the ten cases listed will leave professionals in the cleaning and hygiene industry particularly mystified. 

HSE's Myth Busters Challenge Panel was set up in 2012 to provide quick advice to people subject to ridiculous or disproportionate health and safety decisions by insurance companies, local authorities, employers and overzealous jobsworths.

The Panel has received over 200 cases since being launched in April last year with nearly all rulings finding a decision was made without having any basis in health and safety law.

The Village Hall Committee in Burford, Oxfordshire is amongst those exposed by the HSE on its latest list of cases for telling patrons that putting your hands in soapy suds is a health and safety issue. It has told people using the hall for private parties, christenings etc that they must use a dishwasher as a requirement of health and safety. 

The HSE myth busters panel retorts: "What nonsense, there is no health and safety legal requirement that would stipulate use of a dishwasher, so whatever the real reason, the panel says the washed-up Committee should stop misleading folk and come up with a better excuse to get out of doing the dishes!"

Elsewhere, a local gym raised a few heckles (and chuckles) when a notice stating that for "health and safety reasons, members are requested to only use the hair dryers for hair on the head" appeared in the changing rooms. One fitness enthusiast was left scratching his own barnet at the bristly directive so alerted the Myth Busters. 

The panel ruled there is no occupational health and safety legislation regarding the use of hairdryers to dry hair on body-parts other than the head. "This is clearly an easy excuse to deter people from using hair dryers inappropriately in a public place and the health club should give the real reason for their decision rather than hiding behind the health and safety catch all," the panel stated.

Finally, one might think that it would be in the best interests of hotels, restaurants and bars to provide the means for customers to leave the premises in the same way they found them. Not so one hotel, which refuses to provide toilet brushes in its bathrooms for patrons on the grounds of health and safety, despite there being no law preventing their use in loos around Britain. 

Bemused customer Malcolm Forbes, 64, from Hertfordshire contacted Myth Busters after staying at a plush hotel in Newport, South Wales in June. When the company director and father of two tried to flush out the real reason for the ban, he was told it was for health and safety reasons. The Myth Busters ruled that no legal requirements exist that prohibit the provision of toilet brushes in hotels or other public conveniences. Lots of shared toilet facilities in offices, bars, supermarkets etc do provide them with any hygiene risks easily managed.

Malcolm said: "I couldn't believe it when they cited health and safety. What about the effect on staff having to face dirty pans every morning? The hotel should not embarrass customers in this way. They have not thought this policy through and have just used health and safety as a cover. I can't imagine what the real reason is but I do know I would not want any of my family working as a housekeeper at a hotel that actively discourages residents from cleaning the pan after themselves."

So there you have it. Whatever the real reasons for the misuse of health and safety, the HSE thinks that businesses and others should come clean, stop pulling the public's chain and flush these tired excuses down the proverbial pan.