“Thats ‘Elf and safety that is”.

You do have to feel for the health and safety executive. Whenever a petty manager makes a stupid decision  they often try and blame it on “health and safety” .

The HSE have a myth busting committee that evaluates various statements and offers clarification on what is, and isn’t health and safety.


Complainant told they could not use gym whilst lifting weights without wearing trainers


The complainant was told they could not use the gym whilst lifting weights without wearing trainers, even though it is accepted knowledge that they cause instability and thus lead to more injuries than lifting “barefoot”.

Panel decision

There is no health and safety regulation requiring shoes to be worn or not whilst using free weights. It would be better if the gym management simply explained the real reasons for its shoe policy, whether it is for hygiene or other reasons.

– A gym refuses to blend protein drinks unless mixture brought from themselves


Sign in a gym says “We do not make up protein shakes under any circumstances in our blender unless you have brought the protein from us for health and safety reasons. However you can purchase a shaker from us to blend your shake for only £4.99!”

Panel decision

The panel can conceive of a number of good reasons why the sports centre may have a policy in place which declines to mix protein shakes using ingredients provided by customers, but these are not health and safety related. It could simply be a commercial decision to promote their own products or it may be because they are concerned about any possible liability if they do not know the composition of the ingredients they are being asked to mix. The sports centre has now taken down the sign and it is hoped that they will provide customers with a proper explanation for their current policy.


 Free weights not allowed in gyms


Many gyms, especially commercial, only have resistance machines instead of free weights. Health and safety is always the explanation for this as it is said that free weights are unsafe.

Panel decision

There are no Health and safety regulations which would prevent someone lifting free weights in a gym. The gym has a right to set its own policy on the provision and use of fixed weights, which may be linked to levels of supervision and the need to ensure people know how to use the equipment properly. However, it should state its reasons clearly.
This is a clear case of “health and safety” being used as an easy catch all excuse rather than explaining the reasons for their policy.


Gym manager queried customer’s complaint on gym users topping up personal water bottles from cooler


A customer made a complaint about other gym users filling up personal water bottles from a water cooler instead of using the disposable cone cups provided. The customer stated that this was against health and safety regulations as germs could be spread this way.

Panel opinion

Well done to the gym manager for raising this and bringing it to our attention. It is important for gym users to keep hydrated and there are no health and safety reasons why they cannot do so using their own bottles rather than the paper cups provided. Other establishments which do ban gym users from using their own bottles are likely to have other motives for doing so – but it is not a health and safety issue.


A gym reduced it’s 24/7 opening hours, closing overnight for health and safety reasons


A gym reduced it’s 24/7 opening hours, closing overnight for health and safety reasons.

Panel opinion

Whilst there may be some additional health and safety considerations in operating the gym 24/7, they are all easily manageable as thousands of businesses demonstrate in providing round the clock opening. This facility chose to trump all of the other reasons behind their decision to curtail their opening hours with the health and safety card when they should have had the courage to reveal their full hand.

HR Manager for an office based company refuses to buy weights for a gym


A HR Manager for an office based company refuses to buy weights for a gym with the excuse that it is health and safety that is preventing her from buying them.

Panel opinion

Health and safety at work legislation does not prohibit the provision or use of weights in a workplace gym. The company may have other reasons not to provide them but they should explain the real reason to employees, rather than use ‘health and safety’ as an excuse. Management should clarify the position and find a solution. It is particularly sad that provision of facilities which should improve the health and well-being of staff is being marred on “elf n safety” grounds.


Local gym notice states “hairdryers can only be used for drying hair on the head”


The enquirer read a notice in their local gym stating that for “health and safety reasons members are requested only use the hair dryers for hair on the head”.

Panel decision

There is no occupational health and safety legislation regarding the use of hairdryers to dry hair on body-parts other than the head. This is clearly an easy excuse to deter people from using hair dryers inappropriately in a public place and the health club should give the real reason for their decision rather than hiding behind the &health and safety” catch all.


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