Health and Safety

Health and Safety workers are often seen as boring but valiant public servants, and they are easily and thoughtlessly teased.

But because of their daily drudgery we can now largely take it for granted that we can eat and buy, travel and work, in relative safety. If sometimes they seem sober and earnest, remember they may see the rough side of life when someone falls into farm machinery, is impaled falling from a ladder, or if a watchman sets himself alight while trying to keep warm.

PLEASE NOTE: HSE directives often require the most precise wording.  So what follows it couched only in general terms (to keep it to a reasonable length) and must not be taken as legal opinion or guidance.

So what is a health and safety assessment about?

There are two stages:

  • First looking at things that just might go wrong (these are called "hazards") 
  • Second picking out hazards that are most likely to actually happen (these are called "risks") We then try to reduce dangerous risks if possible, starting with the most serious. Unfortunately, some people (some even working for Councils) never get to the second stage of filtering out the improbable.

Health and Safety is about making England as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible. Banning meat balls in case someone chokes is definitely not part of the plan.  People have to exercise responsibility for their safety. The H&S Executive guidelines state that sensible risk management: - "Provides overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on reducing real risks - both those which arise more often and those with serious consequences "

Sensible risk management IS NOT about:

  • Creating a totally risk free society
  • Generating useless paperwork mountains
  • Scaring people by exaggerating or publicising trivial risks
  • Stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals whaer the risks are managed
  • Reducing protection of people from risks that cause real harm and suffering

Advice and support

If you find yourself faced by demands to meet what seem improbable risks, rather than sensible risk management, contact the HSE Information line:- 0845 345 0055  Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6 pm You can e-mail queries to  Or you can use the web page: Health and Safety rules apply to allotments, and the allotment authority is the responsible body - local authority, town or parish council, or charity or private landlord. BUT rules can be complex. Don't tie yourself up in details (the same advice goes for insurance queries) or people get discouraged.


Use common sense with all agricultural land: clear mud from the road, make sure chain saw users acting under your instructions are trained, keep children away from vehicles (have a turning circle if possible to avoid reversing), clear away vegetation from around the gate for good visibility on the road: depending of course on your judgment as to the degree of risk in each case. How serious is any risk? This is best judged by having more than one person involved in judging the riskiness, preferably those with experience; and if possible at least one from another allotment site.

Please go to the members only area for full access to this information, you need to be a member of SWCAA to enter this section.