Petty rules introduced by officials on spurious “health-and-safety” grounds are giving genuine measures to protect people from illness or injury a bad name, specialists in the field fear.
Senior staff at the Health and Safety Executive have been alarmed by the number of stories they are hearing from the public about pointless precautions imposed by officials, some of whom appear to have been driven simply by what suited their convenience. A Myth Busters Challenge Panel they set up last October to counter the problem has received 300 complaints so far.
The minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, has appealed to staff not to ruin people’s enjoyment of the bank holiday by imposing absurd rules. Mr Harper was annoyed by a decision announced in June that the Crufts dog show in Keswick, Cumbria, had banned the contests in which dogs caught Frisbees, in case one of the animals was injured.
Other examples of seemingly pointless rulings include the case of a child in Cardiff who was banned from going on a bouncy castle while he was wearing glasses, despite his plea that he could not see without them. In a Bedfordshire café, a member of staff refused to put strawberry sauce on ice cream because of “health and safety”. Some London schools told parents not to put suncream on their children’s limbs. Some schoolchildren have also been made to wear long sleeves and hats in the playground to avoid sunburn.
Judith Hackitt, the chair of the Health and Safety Executive, said: “Real health and safety is about protecting people in the workplace from life- and health-threatening 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.”
Mr Harper added: “Real health-and-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.”