3 September 2014

The Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Judith Hackitt, has slammed suggestions made, during a recent online debate, to conduct an investigation and risk assessment in response to an incident in which someone was stung in the workplace by a wasp.

Writing in her latest Risk Assessment blog post, Judith Hackitt described a “disturbing” health and safety debate which she had recently seen on social media.

She said that the debate described how someone in a workplace had been stung by a wasp, resulting in the work manager demanding to see the risk assessment, as well as wanting a full investigation into the incident. The originator of the debate had been tasked with conducting the investigation.

She said it was “shocking” to see the number of contributors to the online debate who supported doing a risk assessment and conducting an investigation or trying to come up with measures to prevent a recurrence and so on.

Commenting on the debate, she said, “I hope most of you reading this share my view this would be a totally disproportionate response?”

Instead, the HSE Chair urged a “common sense approach,” namely to check that the organisation’s first aid response was administered quickly and effectively and whether anyone on the workforce is known to have an allergic reaction.

The key, she said, was “simple follow up steps — no need for lengthy risk assessments and investigations”.

Urging managers to demonstrate “leadership” and “common sense” while “determining real incidents for concern and responding appropriately”, she concluded, “it’s time for health and safety advisers to be frank and tell their bosses when an ‘over the top’ reaction is likely to do more harm than good”.

Judith Hackitt’s Risk Assessment blog can be accessed on the HSE website.