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'No leaving doors open' is Britain's most bizarre health and safety rule, claims poll

Pollmakers who surveyed 2,000 workers found one in five are not allowed to change light bulbs in their workplace

Emma Elsworthy
Thursday 16 August 2018 09:01 BST
Man tries to enforce bizarre health and safety measures to see how Brits react

Not being allowed to give a colleague a paracetamol, filling out a form to use plasters and a ban on birthday cake candles are among Britain’s most bizarre health and safety rules.

A survey of 2,000 workers also found one in five are not allowed to change light bulbs in their workplace.

And another fifth are banned from wearing flip-flops in the office amid safety concerns.

The survey, conducted by international animal charity Spana, also found some workers are only provided with plastic knives and forks, while others must tuck-in their shirts when shredding paper.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of Spana, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries around the world, said: “It’s clear some workers feel that health and safety rules in the workplace have gone too far – and there are certainly a few strange policies.

“It’s positive, however, that employers are taking the physical wellbeing of their staff seriously and there are protections in place to keep them safe.

“Sadly, it’s a very different story for many working animals overseas.

“Far from having a health and safety policy, these animals often undertake backbreaking labour in dangerous conditions and extreme heat, with no veterinary care available when they are sick or injured.”

The survey found more than a third of respondents believe the health and safety laws in their workplace are too strict.

One noted that a wound as minor as a paper cut was required to be logged in their company’s “injuries book”.

Another was not allowed to change the clocks on the wall to fit in with daylight savings – being forced to call an engineer to complete the task.

And an employee was shocked to find that tinsel was banned from their Christmas decorations, “in case someone got tangled up in it”.

It also emerged nearly four in 10 respondents are happy to break rules in their place of work they deem unnecessary, or generally do not agree with.

One fifth have been disciplined for ignoring what they believed to be an overly strict ruling at work.

In fact, for 14 per cent of respondents, things got so bad that they considered looking for a new place of employment.

Half of British workers think health and safety regulations have become more strict since they started working at their company – with the average employee having been in the workplace for more than eight years.

More than four in 10 have said “it’s health and safety gone mad” after a new rule was introduced.

And one in four said they would have preferred to work 50 years ago, when health and safety regulations were much less strict.

Although, of those who have been injured in the workplace, a quarter admit they were contravening health and safety rules at the time.

Geoffrey Dennis added: “Health and safety rules that are deemed over the top can cause frustration for employees.

“However, most people in the UK recognise that these policies are there for a reason – and over three-quarters think that we are lucky to have health and safety regulations as workers.

“Ultimately, everyone wants to go home safely at the end of the day, whether that’s from an office or a building site.

“For working animals and their owners in developing countries these workplace protections simply don’t exist.

“On a daily basis, working animals such as donkeys, horses and camels face many serious threats – from wounds, injuries and road accidents to tetanus and other deadly infections.

“That’s why Spana’s work is so important – ensuring that the welfare of these hardworking animals is improved and that they get access to the vital veterinary treatment they need.

“We believe that a life of work shouldn’t mean a life of suffering.”

The top 40 bizarre health and safety rulings

  1. No leaving doors open, as it is a fire hazard
  2. No wearing of shorts
  3. No heavy lifting
  4. No open toed sandals in case you drop something on your foot
  5. Do not wear flip-flops in the office due to safety concerns
  6. Do not change light bulbs
  7. No running
  8. Do not climb a ladder
  9. No drinks near a PC or laptop
  10. No toasters
  11. Only allowed hot drinks in certain areas
  12. Do not give each other painkillers, such as paracetamol
  13. Do not take get any medication from the first aid box
  14. No candles on someone’s birthday cake
  15. Do not take a plaster without filling out a form
  16. No heaters
  17. No open windows
  18. Must hold handrail when walking up or down stairs
  19. No tinsel to be put up anywhere near work stations
  20. No hats
  21. Do not carry drinks up or down stairs
  22. No carrying boxes
  23. Water bottles only – no cups or glasses
  24. Nobody is allowed to bring nuts into the building
  25. No Christmas tree to be put up
  26. No fans
  27. No eating while walking
  28. No turning things off
  29. Do not shred documents
  30. No hot drinks
  31. Do not attempt to remove paper jams from the printer
  32. Do not move office chairs
  33. Must wear a headset to be on the phone
  34. Do not share food from home, such as cakes, with colleagues due to the potential food poisoning risk
  35. No balloons in the building
  36. Employees must clock out before engaging in conversation
  37. No facial hair
  38. Anything left on your desk gets thrown in the bin
  39. Only plastic knives and forks to be used
  40. No more than one personal item on your desk

South West News Service

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