Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

The Risk Of Misplaced Trust In Health And Safety
Posted by David Cant on July 11, 2013
1 Comment

Workplace health and safety risksIn the world of health and safety there’s no doubt that guards and guard rails are highly important. But there are three types of guards:

  • those which are present and working
  • those which are entirely absent
  • those which are present, deemed to be fine, but which are unfit for purpose.

I think that when it comes to health and safety having a damaged, unsuitable or inappropriate guard is actually worse and more dangerous than having no guard at all. That’s a generalisation, but the problem is that if no guard is present, and staff are aware of the fact and of the dangers, they are likely to exercise great caution. However, when a guard is present there is a very real risk that employees will place too much faith in the guard, and ignore the risks.

Hull Bakery Fined Over £27,000 For Unsuitable Machinery Guard

This was the case with a Hull bakery which this week was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,318 by Hull Magistrates’ Court for breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

An agency worker was using one of the dough mixing machines on site when it became slightly blocked. Aware that there was a guard in place to prevent his hands from coming into contact with the blades he attempted to clear the blockage himself.

However, the guard was not fitted correctly, and did not cover the entire gap. Both above and below the guard was a gap large enough for fingers to enter the dangerous part of the machinery, and whilst trying to extract the blocked dough the worker’s fingers came into contact with the blades, completely severing the tip of one finger.

The Danger Of Assuming Safety Means Safe

There is a danger in almost every working environment that workers will assume that because a health and safety policy has been created, and safety equipment provided, that the working environment is safe.

There is also a danger that employers with responsibility for ensuring that health and safety is implemented will assume that because a risk has been identified, and safety equipment, procedures or other forms of protection implemented, that workers are safe.

In essence the danger is the use of the word ‘safety’. In the world of health and safety the word ‘safety’ doesn’t mean safe’, it simpler means ‘safer’. Invariably you can never completely eliminate every risk, but by assuming that because something has been done, everything that could be done has been done, people are at risk.

It’s important to make sure that the tick boxes on your health and safety inspection really deserve to be there, and that assumptions haven’t been made at any stage by anyone. Call Veritas Consulting today on 0800 1488 677 and make sure that your business isn’t taking ‘safety’ for granted.


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety, Health and Safety Consultancy, Health and Safety Services

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