When it comes to health and safety legislation, compliance is not an option, it is a necessity. Unfortunately, ‘Health and Safety compliance' is a phrase which is increasingly being misinterpreted and labelled as a hindrance, and the tabloids appear to be fuelling this with the reporting of many misleading health and safety myths. But health and safety isn't about wrapping the business in cotton wool. It's about identifying and minimising risk which, when done correctly, will add value to your businesses and can even provide you with a competitive edge.

Myth 1: Employees don't have to take any responsibility for health and safety

Truth: The fact that employers must comply with health and safety is hardly news in its own right. The direct and indirect costs of non compliance are huge: consisting of fines, rising insurance costs and lost customers, after all no one wants to do business with someone whose reputation is tarnished by a poor health and safety record.

But it's not just the responsibility of those at the helm. Employees have a duty too and can be made accountable if found to be negligent. Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 identifies these responsibilities which are to "take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and others who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work and To co-operate with his employer or any other person, so far as is necessary, to enable his employer or other person to perform or comply with any requirement or duty imposed under a relevant statutory provision".
We need to think of risk assessment as a mindset rather than paperwork

We each have a duty to keep ourselves and our fellow employees safe. So next time you find one of your employees not working safely remind them that they can be fined or even prosecuted for their behaviour and ask them to use their common sense and be safe at work.

Myth 2: The health and safety people have banned step ladders

Truth: This falls into the category of myths that often arise through a lack of proper understanding of health and safety issues. 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing' - and can cause people to think they are more in tune with health and safety than they really are. The HSE has neither banned step ladders nor ladders. In fact, for short duration work, stepladders and ladders are a good solution but common sense tells us that doing complex tasks at height for long periods needs a better and more secure support system.

Myth 3: Risk sssessments must always be long and complex

Truth: We need to think of risk assessment as a mindset rather than paperwork. At a basic level it is something that we do as part of our everyday behaviour. When we cross the road we consider the hazards: we don't cross on blind corners nor do we let small children walk across roads without holding their hands. These two simple actions are, in themselves, basic risk assessments. On its own, paperwork never saved anyone. It takes thought too! For most businesses, a risk assessment is a fairly simple bullet point document highlighting risks with the potential to cause harm and then providing straightforward measures to readily control the risks.

In the workplace, however, a risk assessment should be documented and stored properly - whether on paper or electronically. Records such as these are vital to ensure that, in the unfortunate event of a safety incident, you can demonstrate that you have taken a sensible and thoughtful approach to workplace risk.

Myth 5: The HSE has banned school trips and classroom science experiments

Truth: Activities and hands-on lessons are an essential part of the learning process. They bring learning to life and teach children and young people how to manage risk. As in all matters of health and safety, all that is required are a few sensible precautions. With around half of the nation's schools wary of taking trips and undertaking science practicals, the misperception is clearly widespread. Misplaced fears over bureaucracy and litigation have crept into the public mind, partly as a result of the media's focus on exceptionally tragic incidents. Simpler guidelines and checklist templates for risk assessments can help to reduce the burden and allow teachers to show sensible risk management in action as part of the curriculum, which is really where health and safety learning should begin.

Unfortunately health and safety has had bad press of late. However, if applied with a good dose of common sense together with a full understanding of the intent of the regulations, it can not only ensure that your employees remain safe but also bring a competitive edge to your business.

For more information please visit www.mhlsupport.com or visit 0800 015 7541.