Social media stirs up a safety wasps’ nest

It would seem that Health and Safety Executive chair, Judith Hackitt, has been a busy bee on social media recently, stumbling across an interesting debate surrounding emergency response in the event of a wasp sting in the workplace.

Writing in her blog, Ms Hackitt gives a stinging summation of the many conversations buzzing around the internet.

“Some of the debates which take place on social media are fascinating – if not sometimes a little disturbing,” she says, turning her attentions to a “debate raging” among health and safety professionals about the “right response to a wasp sting if it happens in the workplace”.

“Someone somewhere had been stung while in the workplace and the work manager was demanding to see the risk assessment and wanted a full investigation into the incident. The originator of the debate had been tasked with conducting the investigation.

“But what to investigate? How the wasp found its way into the workplace? How to prevent further wasp stings? Should there have been a risk assessment for wasps in the workplace? Should the incident be recorded in the accident log? Is there a need for safety signs saying ‘beware of wasps’?!”

Well it would seem some professionals do see a need for stringent measures, with calls for risk assessment and investigations leaving Ms Hackitt in a state of “shock”.

The HSE chair goes on to caveat her denunciation of “disproportionate responses” by acknowledging that some people can of course “react very badly” to wasp stings.

“They can trigger allergic reactions that can – in extremis – be fatal,” she says. “Even so, after someone gets stung in the workplace surely the common sense approach is to check that the organisation’s first aid response was administered quickly and effectively? Is there anyone on the workforce known to have an allergic reaction? Simple follow up steps – no need for lengthy risk assessments and investigations.”

Ms Hackitt writes: “Perhaps the most worrying thing in the debate was a general sense that too many senior managers’ knee jerk reaction to any incident, no matter how trivial, is to call for a “full investigation” – leaving the poor health and safety adviser having to explain to everyone why they are investigating a wasp sting!

“What on earth is going on here? No one can seriously expect to be prosecuted because an employee was stung. It’s highly unlikely an employee would even pursue a civil claim against the employer. So why investigate? What is there to learn? Not a lot.”

Ms Hackitt concludes by calling on managers to take the sting out of the tale of such scenarios by displaying common sense and for safety advisers to “tell their bosses when an ‘over the top’ reaction is likely to do more harm than good”.

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