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Health and Safety isn’t the Christmas Grinch
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Health and Safety isn’t the Christmas Grinch

08 December 2016

Myths continue to abound about how health and safety is stopping New Zealanders from doing all the fun things they used to do.

The end of year season seems to bring a fresh avalanche of stories about how the Health and Safety at Work Act prevents kiwis from doing this and that.

Have you heard the one about how companies are banning workers from putting up decorations in their offices for “health and safety reasons”, or that WorkSafe requires the task to be done by a “qualified” person? I can tell you, some of our staff have been doing a bit of decorating and there wasn’t a qualified person in sight! Yes, WorkSafe is having a Christmas function for staff.

Then there was the laughable suggestion which has been coming up for years that sweets couldn’t be thrown to children in street parades or at pantomimes.

Now out of nowhere, and with no basis in fact come a couple of new myths - that employers might be liable for dance floor accidents at end of year work functions and that any function where a drink or two of alcohol was involved brought about a whole heap of compliance that made functions impossible to run.

We’re not grinches – never have been. What we’ve got here is people who’ve got completely the wrong idea about what health and safety actually is. They’re the grinches and all they’re doing is raising unnecessary angst over things that are simply not a problem. Please people; stop blaming the new Health and Safety at Work Act. All these silly suggestions were just as silly under the old legislation. The new Act doesn’t make one iota of difference.

It’s not about lollies at parades or putting up office decorations – never has been. It’s about keeping an eye on risks, and if there are real risks, making sure they are dealt with appropriately.

The fact is that neither the Health and Safety at Work Act nor WorkSafe as the regulator have any interest in banning things.

All the law requires is that persons conducting a business or undertaking do what is reasonably practicable to keep their workers safe – no more and no less.

When it comes to business social activities, staff functions, celebrations or after work drinks this means a sensible approach to host responsibility.

As for tossing a few sweets into the audience at a parade or a panto it’s very much a case of “Oh yes you can!”

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