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Health and Safety Myths


Health and Safety Myths

Health and Safety Myths explained.  How many times have we heard “The law is an ass!” or even said it ourselves? How about “We can’t do ‘XYZ’ because of Health & Safety”? Well believe it or not, this just isn’t true! In the majority of cases, we have been conditioned to believe the law, or some dusty, distant relic of a regulation is preventing us from doing something. Every time I have been told something can’t be done due to H&S I have asked which particular regulation of H&S they are referring to… Believe it or not I have never received a straight answer! When I have probed further, the person concerned isn’t actually referring to any particular guideline or regulation, but relying on what they have been told by someone else who in turn is also relying on what they were told by another. When I’ve approached the HSE about those particular issues, what I had been told previously was woefully inaccurate. This leads me to believe that it is either the lack of knowledge or laziness that is behind many decisions behind policies or actions of individuals. From the First Aid perspective, I have heard on many occasions that a plaster cannot be administered by an adult to a child. Why? “Due to H&S Regulations as the casualty may be allergic to the glue on the plaster” is the usual response. What does the Health and Safety Executive say? The response to the question can be found on the HSE website.

“We’ve often heard of teachers, volunteers and carers being told to ask parents for permission, or even requiring parents to drive over and put the plaster on themselves. This persistent myth causes a lot of unnecessary hassle and worry.
There is no rule that says a responsible adult can’t put a plaster on a child’s minor cut. Some children do have an allergy to normal plasters. If you know a child is allergic you can use the Hypo-allergenic type of plaster. The important thing is to clean and cover the cut to stop it getting infected.”

I have also heard, in relation to reasonable force, that a person could only defend themselves when struck first, otherwise they would be seen as the aggressor. Ok, so bearing that in mind let me ‘draw an image’ for you. Someone has blocked your path and is threatening you with violence and you believe the threat is genuine. Are you really going to stand there and wait for the aggressor to attack you? Taking the scenario a stage further, the aggressor has a knife and you believe that if you don’t act first, then the aggressor WILL lunge for you. Are you really going to wait for him to attack before defending yourself?

Alternatively a loved one is being threatened in the same manner. Are you going to wait for the aggressor to strike first before defending your friend or family member? In short, no you’re not and the law completely supports this. This is called a ‘pre-emptive strike’ and as long as it is used when necessary and to a proportionate level, then it is justifiable.

Another myth I’ve heard is if I use force that causes pain, then I will be guilty of assault. Ok, if an aggressor trying to strangle me (and I think we can all agree that’s pretty life threatening) and I deliver a strike to the assailant’s solar plexus causing pain and temporary difficulty in breathing, is that unreasonable? How about if I misplace the strike and break a rib? No, this is not unreasonable force… particularly if it saves my life.

For force to be deemed reasonable it has to be proportionate to the level of threat or potential injury it is being employed to prevent. In addition, other options need to have been weighed up and found unfeasible, leaving force as the only option. For instance, if there is a way to withdraw and escape then that should always be the first option, but that is not always possible.

In short, there are a lot of myths out there in relation to the use of force, both in self-defence and in physical intervention. I think we can agree this lack of understanding and underpinning knowledge in relation to the use of force can be very dangerous to members of the public when confronted by an aggressor, either on the street or in their home. This is largely because the uncertainty of legal repercussions and knowing what to do prevents a person from acting in their own defence.

What about in the workplace? What about employees being able to defend themselves in the capacity of a service provider? Well, in short, the law makes no separate account for a person’s private or professional existence when providing for an individual’s self-defence or indeed, the defence of another. In other words, we all have the same legal right to defend ourselves and others in the workplace, just as much as in our private lives and no company policy, regulation or guideline is above the law and our legal rights. In addition, no company or organisational policy is allowed to remove or restrict our legal rights and obligations.

If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to send me a message and I will be more than happy to discuss this with you further.

Colin Vowles
Training Director
COVIC Training Solutions