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Merseyside business leader backs crackdown

A Merseyside business leader is backing a new initiative designed to dispel myths about health and safety for small firms.
Lesley Martin-Wright, chief executive of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce, is encouraging employers to take advantage of free online resources after a new survey revealed the lengths some firms mistakenly go to trying to comply with health and safety.
One business completed a risk assessment for using a tape measure and another introduced written guidelines for walking up stairs.
These bizarre and unnecessary actions were uncovered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is encouraging small and medium-sized employers to use its free online tools and guidance, specifically designed to help them get their risk management right.
The H&S ABC provides simple information to help small firms save time, effort and money by identifying the things they really do and don’t need to do.
Lesley Martin-Wright, chief executive of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce, said: “Good health and safety is good for business, and despite great efforts over the years there are still numerous ‘myths and legends’ surrounding what businesses need to know.
“Many of our SMEs don’t have the financial resources to employ specialists to manage specific elements of their business, for example human resources or health and safety.
“We often find that rather than delegating the task to others, ‘owner-managers’ take on the responsibility for health and safety.
“In turn, having someone with multiple responsibilities can present unique challenges to the business and the health and safety agenda.
“It’s vital that SMEs have confidence in managing risk and accessing good-quality advice. I am therefore delighted that HSE is launching the H&S ABC, which is an excellent starting point.”
HSE’s survey shows how myths about health and safety could cause unnecessary confusion and flagged some of the most absurd things employers had been advised to do.
One in five people (22 per cent) surveyed believed they weren’t capable of managing health and safety themselves and needed to hire a specialist consultant.
Eleven percent believed that a qualified electrician must test electrical appliances, such as kettles and toasters, every year – another persistent myth.
Nearly a third of small businesses surveyed classed themselves as ‘hopeful-have-a-go’s’ when it came to health and safety - aware they have to take some action but unsure where to start or if what they are doing is correct.
HSE’s small business lead Kate Haire said: “Health and safety is all about taking reasonable steps to manage serious risks of ill-health and injury in the workplace. If something sounds completely unreasonable, more often than not it will be totally unnecessary too.
“What’s great about H&S ABC is that it contains all the information smaller businesses need to know to manage health and safety sensibly and comply with the law. It highlights the real risks in a workplace and how to put reasonable precautions in place.
“We hope employers will realise health and safety does not have to be complicated or cost lots of money.”
Whether a business employs one or two people, or is expanding to multiple locations, the free online guidance will help even complete beginners get health and safety right.
Visit www.hse.gov.uk/abc to get started with sensible health and safety.

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