HEARD about the child in Cardiff who was banned from going on a bouncy castle while wearing glasses although he couldn’t see without them? Or the Bedfordshire café that refused to put strawberry sauce on ice cream? Or the London schools that told parents not to put sun cream on their children’s limbs? Or the dog show in Keswick, Cumbria, that banned the contests in which dogs caught Frisbees, in case the animals were injured?
A Myth Busters Challenge Panel set up by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive last October to counter the problem of daft regulations has, to date, received 300 complaints.
According to Judith Hackitt, the HSE chair: “Real health and safety is about protecting people in the workplace from life- and healththreatening risks – not about refusing to apply suntan lotion, or put sauce on an ice cream.
Health and safety has become an all too convenient excuse, which means the law is being applied disproportionately or, more often than not, entirely erroneously.”
And Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People, added: “Real healthand- safety laws exist to protect Britain’s workers, and not to be used as a smokescreen by jobsworths who have little knowledge of the law.”
But is the nit-picking aim of bureaucrats to enforce rules to the letter the sole cause of the problem? Modern legislation certainly favours the setting up of a whole industry of people advising on ‘risk assessment’ and cracking down on infractions.
Or is it just as much the fear – in an age of ambulance-chasing law firms – of very costly litigation? Probably a bit of both.
The Health and Safety Act was passed in 1974, but only in recent years has it been so misused.
Now everyone’s trying to cover their behinds in case there’s an accident they could be held responsible for (and hence sued for) – much of this petty regulation due to insurance companies, trying to minimise their liability by refusing to pay up. Remember the old mantra: “Where there’s blame there’s a claim…”
Isn’t the problem, then, a combination of the current ‘proactive’ nature of risk assessment – making rules to cover what might go wrong so the remotest risk, because it could happen, is legislated against – compounded by over-zealous interpretation by ambulance-chasers and jobsworths?
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’
(www.norajohnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89; £0.77) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.