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HSE urges caution on reaction to school flooring

A health and safety advisor has been criticised for an over-zealous recommendation made to a UK school that the parquet flooring within the workshops be looked upon as a fire hazard. This forced the school to consider costly plans to replace this flooring with concrete so as to satisfy the guidance.

The HSE concluded that these plans were unnecessary and that there was no significant evidence to suggest that a fire risk was posed by its hardwood flooring. From Wirral to Winchester, the HSE is seen as a beacon of health and safety legislation, but its own panel, set up to scrutinise guidance and examine complaints provided from outside the organisation, deemed the advice invalid.

The so called Myth Busters Challenge Panel, decided the advice given was unnecessarily cautious, and it recommended that the school contact the health and safety officer in question to get clearer definitions as to exactly why the flooring needed to be changed, rather than simply citing “health and safety”. The HSE alludes to the fact that it aims to only manage real risks and to manage them appropriately, and that there was little evidence to support the idea that engineered flooring in such an environment would pose a significant risk.

If no valid or acceptable definitions can be given, apart from an instance where the floor would be in poor condition due to deterioration, then it is possible that the school may avoid the huge expense it was going to incur through changing it, not to mention the disruption to staff and students.


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