With Christmas fast approaching, you might start hearing the office scrooge harping on about ‘elf and safety. Don’t hang Christmas decorations, don’t clear the snow, it seems like you can’t do anything without getting in trouble with the HSE elves.
The truth is that each year, health and safety is wrongly cited in the run up to Christmas as the reason why you might be limited in the way you express your holiday cheer, and in reality a lot of what you hear is total nonsense.
We take a look at some of the most popular ‘elf and safety myths that pop up around this time of year, so the next time you hear them, you’ll know the real story!
One of the most common health and safety myths we hear each year is that if workers clear snow from outside your business or home you are likely to get sued.
This myth began to appear after the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health gave a warning that snow clearing could lead to legal action. This statement prompted a response from Terry Rose, HSE Regional Director for the South West, who said:
“I would like to make it clear that under health and safety legislation nobody who volunteers to support their community by clearing pavements during icy conditions should feel they are in danger of being sued.
“The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) encourages a common sense approach to health and safety, and agrees clearing the snow and ice makes it easier for people to get about.
“HSE is focused on the real safety risks at work, and we think it is ridiculous that people should feel prevented from helping others, through a fear of being held responsible for an accident.”
This statement also caused uproar around the country with even Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister and critic of Britain’s burgeoning 'compensation culture', saying: “The idea you can be sued for being helpful is absolutely ludicrous.”
Other strange ‘elf and safety myths that pop up around Christmas time include:
1. Indoor Christmas lights need a portable appliance test (PAT) every year
2. Workers are banned from putting up Christmas decorations in the office
3. You can’t throw out sweets at pantos
4. Santa needs a seatbelt in his sleigh
5. Second hand toys can’t be donated for ‘health and safety’ reasons
6. Traditional shopping centre Christmas trees scaled back or replaced by artificial alternatives
7. Seats removed from shops – despite weary Christmas shoppers wanting to rest their feet
8. Carol singers are a health and safety risk
9. Children are banned from throwing snowballs
10. If you clear snow away from outside your business or home you are likely to get sued
11. Health and safety prevents people putting coins in Christmas puddings
All of the above myths are just that, so when the ‘elf and safety scrooge comes knocking, you’ll know what to say!