Health & Safety Around the Home: Ridiculous myths busted

Health and safety seems to have gone a bit mad in recent years. Whether it’s banning children from playing Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, or the perceived risk of impalement by candy floss, there is no shortage of tales of councils, schools, housing associations and employers going a bit overboard and risking removing all the fun from life. You can read all about it on the government site dedicated to busting health and safety myths, which makes for VERY entertaining reading.

Some councils, landlords and housing authorities often cite “health and safety” to cover up other concerns, legitimate or otherwise, which does nothing to further the cause. These stories often stop health and safety from being taken seriously when it is an issue.

We took some of the weirdest health and safety myths related to the home from the government’s site and created a series of vintage-style warning posters taking them to their most ridiculous conclusions.

Fire Extinguishers … Cause Fires?

One housing association removed fire extinguishers, wall signs and front door mats from a block of flats for “health and safety reasons”.

As the Mythbusters site says, “it’s hard to understand how anyone could sensibly use “health and safety as a reason to remove fire extinguishers”.

There’s a Lightbulb Joke in Here Somewhere…

How many caretakers does it take to change a lightbulb? Well, if you live at one particular block of flats, none! Their odd-job person was forbidden by the management company from changing any lightbulbs, as the company believed this would expose them to negligence claims. Instead, they decreed that a qualified electrician would be required to carry out this task.

Which, as the HSE points out, is “unhelpful”, to say the least.

When Health and Safety is a Slippery Slope…

One council attempted to ban people from clearing their own driveways of snow and ice, citing a health and safety hazard. And apparently missing the point that snow and ice are, in themselves, hazardous, and that trying to walk or drive down an icy path might also cause injury.

The government website states that it is in fact perfectly safe to clear your driveway and paths yourself, and that you are unlikely to be held responsible if someone is injured once you have done so.

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back in the Water…

One property management company decreed that the pond in the middle of a housing development should be fenced in. The pond and development had been in place for 25 years without incident, but that didn’t stop the company from apparently deciding that all the residents would suddenly start inadvertently taking up open water swimming. Or maybe they were just concerned about the pond’s rampant shark population. Who knows?

The reality is, there is no health and safety requirement to fence in ponds and open water, and a panel ruled that the fence could create risks of its own.

Hanging Basket Hazards

Back in 2004, one town removed hanging baskets from its lamp posts over fears that the old lamp posts would collapse. Not sure what they were putting in those hanging baskets that could topple a lamp post, but at any rate this one didn’t last long. The council came to their senses (or there was a massive outcry from outraged residents, maybe?), and realised that there was quite a low risk of this happening. The hanging baskets went back on the lamp posts and have remained there ever since.

Special Delivery, or Not

One housing association politely informed tenants in a block of flats that they would need to seal their letterboxes in case of a firebomb attack. Why they thought this was more likely than the postman needing to deliver letters is unclear.

Eventually, common sense prevailed, and the housing association was informed there is actually no justification for asking residents to seal their letterboxes, unless in a high-risk area for arson. Even then, the request would have to come from the fire officer.

Take Care at Teatime… if You’re a TV Engineer

Then there was the case of the satellite company that informed a customer that their engineers would not be able to install satellite dishes and other TV equipment after 5pm, citing the fact that it would be unsafe to do so. Maybe they thought that engineers were at risk of attacks by bats, owls, large moths, or other crepuscular creatures. Or perhaps they were just complaining they wanted to get home, have their tea and watch Pointless.

Either way, the HSE confirmed that this information was completely wrong and that there is, in fact, no health and safety guideline that prevents engineers being out after 5pm.

Say No to Knick-knacks

The housing company in charge of one block of flats decorated the corridors (at residents’ expense) and then promptly informed residents that they could not hang pictures or put ornaments up. Apparently they could fall on someone. But, unless the apartment block was in an earthquake zone (not too many of those in the UK) or was home to a particularly angry poltergeist, the company really had no standing to cry “Health and Safety!” here.

From Vibrant Doors

Leave a Reply