The Health and Safety executive has said problems at the Library of Birmingham which have left staff unable to reach books is down to “bad planning” not safety issues.
The Post revealed last week that thousands of books at the flagship £190 million library could not be accessed six months after it opened because it has not bought equipment to reach high shelves in the reference “stack” area.
Officials told the Birmingham Post that health and safety concerns meant staff were unable to retrieve items requested by visitors for fear of injury – leading city academics to dub it “unfit for purpose”.
However, Samantha Peace HSE director for Wales, Midlands and the South West contacted the Post to say the real reason was a lack of equipment and health and safety was not to blame.
She said: “I read with a mixture of surprise and confusion that ‘health and safety concerns’ were reportedly preventing staff from accessing books on high shelves at the Library of Birmingham.
“The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would like to point out that it appears bad planning and failure to purchase appropriate equipment is behind this story, not health and safety.
“It is relatively easy and inexpensive to hire rising platforms as a solution while the purchase is sorted out. Health and safety is not going to get in the way of that kind of sensible decision either.
“Unfortunately, health and safety is often trotted out as an excuse for other misgivings and failings.
“We feel it has been used on this occasion to mask bad planning on the authority’s part and the people of Birmingham are being misled.
“I would encourage your readers to challenge decisions wrongly made in the name of health and safety. They can contact the Myth Busters Challenge Panel by visiting our website – www.hse.gov.uk/myth.”
Brian Gambles, director of the Library of Birmingham, said: “We fully understand how popular materials in the closed stack areas of the Library of Birmingham are and it is frustrating that we haven’t yet been able to give our customers access to them.
“We had planned to introduce this service in the autumn, after the initial post-opening rush had settled a little, but because we’re still awaiting delivery of equipment to enable staff to retrieve items from the storage stacks safely, we have had to delay this service.“We are in frequent contact with the suppliers to get a delivery date.
“We need mobile platform lift devices to enable safe working at heights. The contractor has not as yet supplied an option which satisfies all our requirements, so we are testing alternatives.”