Untoasted fruit bread! Scary stuff! The customer might have… might have… taken a bite, not liked it, spat it out into the road and caused an accident!

In this newsfeed, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have brought to our attention an example of excessive risk avoidance. A customer wished to buy a packet of fruit bread. They wished to buy it cold and toast it at home. The supermarket did not allow that, saying it was a health and safety risk. The HSE thought it a pity such an excuse was given, and felt sorry for the disappointed customer.

Health and safety is serious. That is why lapsing below appropriate standards can result in criminal convictions. It is also why the HSE has been established: this statutory body produces secondary legislation, guidance to assist us in towing the line and enforces health and safety legislation. In addition to the criminal aspect, damage caused by negligent breaches can result in the civil courts.

The HSE’s guides are measured and helpful. Most of what they say can be seen as common sense and it is useful to have them set out systematically. As they say regarding self assessments, “A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork , but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.”

The HSE’s newsfeed shows the seriousness of health and safety issues. It documents numerous cases where transgressors have been fined tens of thousands of pounds for breaches causing death or serious injury. But as the linked newsfeed also shows, the HSE also has a sense of humour and they do not advocate excessive or disproportionate approaches to avoiding health and safety risks.

Certainly take health and safety seriously. But if your customer wants something and you cannot see any risk, we would suggest you allow them to be happy.

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