Health and Safety Gone Really Mad

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

If we asked anyone what he or she thought about health and safety, the reply probably wouldn’t be printable. Heck, it’s even got the Prime Minister fooled!

So where did it all go wrong and why has health and safety got such a bad reputation?

Health and Safety Gone Really Mad

I won’t name names but I have it on very good authority that a fairly large, national utilities company recently issued a new health and safety guideline to their staff. If an employee working in said company’s offices drops a pen under their desk, they are not permitted to bend down and pick it up. They have been instructed to leave their desk, collect a hard hat and return to their desk to retrieve the pen without risk of banging their head whilst doing so. I kid you not.

In the Name of Health and Safety

But where do these “rules” come from? Who says you can’t pick up your pen without a hard hat? Although there are rules, they certainly aren’t this extreme. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the HSE that sets these bonkers rules. It’s the health and safety managers and “professionals” who implement the craziest policies in the name of health and safety.


What’s worrying is that a lot of companies are making vast amounts of money out of YOU by advertising goods and services that you “need” and that are “vital” to your business, citing compliance as a good reason to spend your hard earned cash with them. Frankly, it’s all a bit of a con. A perfect example of which landed in my email inbox a few days ago…

A first aid supplies company sent me the following offer:

‘Our new workplace first aid kits guarantee compliance with the new BS-8599-1 standard – order today to ensure your workplace is compliant with the latest British Standards!’

BS-8599-1 Compliant First Aid Kits

Now if I didn’t know better, I’d think that I’d better get some of these First Aid kits for my workplace because they are to BS 8599 standard so they must be the law. I read on…

The British Standard Institute (BSI) have published BS-8599-1 which specifies contents for Workplace First Aid Kits. BS-8599-1 Compliant Workplace First Aid Kits are a clear and simple way for employers to meet their first aid obligations – choose from our extensive range today!

Luckily I do know better and I can pass some of that on to you… British Standards DOES NOT dictate either how first aid provision is applied in the workplace or what goes into your first aid kit. There is no legal requirement to be BS compliant.

The HSE and ACOPs

First Aid is controlled by the HSE through a document called ‘First aid at Work – The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981’. This document is also known as L74. L74 is an ACOP (Approved Code of Practice). ACOPs are written by experts in the field to which the ACOP refers, so although they are not legal documents, they are seen as such when investigating any contravention of the regulations.

It is the ACOP document that businesses need to adhere to when deciding on first aid or health and safety provision.

L74 is FREE to download off the HSE Website in pdf format and is written in fairly plain English. Nowhere in the document does it tell businesses what to put in their first aid kits! Far from it.

It’s Just A Suggestion

The HSE don’t tell you what you need to have in your first aid kit and quite rightly so given the huge number and wide diversity of businesses in the UK. Because every business is different, L74 simply gives a list of suggested items and then qualifies this list with bold type text that clearly states:

“this is a suggested contents list only”

I know L74 pretty well. In paragraph 37 of L74 the HSE states:

“There is no mandatory list of items to be included in a first-aid container. The decision on what to provide will be influenced by the findings of the first-aid needs assessment”

What’s A First Aid Needs Assessment?

A first aid needs assessment is a careful examination of YOUR workplace, where you look at what type of injuries could be sustained should there be an accident or incident. It also looks at any accidents and incidents that have been recorded in the accident book. From this needs assessment you can decide what goes into your first-aid kit AND to what extent you need to train your First Aiders.

Now I’m not saying that these off-the-shelf first aid kits are rubbish and I am all for businesses making money, but when they do it through sensationalism and scaremongering then that’s a different matter. If they want to sell ready made kits and those ready made kits meet your workplace requirement then go for it! But don’t be conned into thinking they are a legal requirement and without them you are breaking the law. You’re not.

So Why Am I Ranting Over This?

Lets say that company A gives an employee the task of buying some new first aid kits for the workplace. After searching on Google, that employee ends up at one of these first aid supplies sites. After reading the grand (and false) British Standards and compliance statements the employee goes back to their manager with the news that they have found some first aid kits that would make them compliant with British Standards. “Great” says the happy manager, and orders four for the factory thinking that the workplace is now fully compliant and there’s nothing to worry about. WRONG…

If that company then had an accident or incident that was serious and warranted either Local Authority Health and Safety Inspection or HSE Inspection and first aid was cited as a possible failing, then the first aid kits that were being used at the time would be closely scrutinised during the subsequent investigation. But Mr. Manager is thinking it’s OK because the kits are BS compliant so they’re covered.

Wrong again! The HSE and the Local Authority may say that the first aid kits were not adequate for the business. You don’t need me to tell you the rest. Let’s just say there could be some hefty fines and even a lawsuit bought by the person who was injured. It could get nasty… and expensive.

Straight From The Horses Mouth

I have spoken with the HSE on this very topic and their take is that first aid is an individual company responsibility and should be dictated by the outcome of the First Aid Needs Assessment. L74 is there to guide employers very simply on their responsibilities. Organisations have said the HSE standard of first-aid kit is no longer relevant. If they knew what they were talking about they would know that the HSE don’t tell employers what to have in their first-aid kits in the first place!

There are so many more companies using and relying on people’s ignorance of health and safety to make a living. BEWARE that what you are being told might not be the whole truth and could leave you open to trouble further down the line.

If you would like a FREE document explaining first aid needs assessment and how to do one, get in touch and I will be more that happy to send you a copy.



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