'Ridiculous' health and safety bans challenged

Alan Jones
Wednesday 24 August 2011 10:00 BST

Kite flying, schoolyard games and sports day sack races have all been hit by an "epidemic" of health and safety excuses, which should be challenged by the public, the Government said today.

Ministers published a list of the most bizarre bans linked to health and safety rules, which were being wrongly used to curtail people's personal freedoms.

The "ridiculous" bans uncovered by the Health and Safety Executive had no basis in official regulations and betrayed an "obsession" with managing minor risks in heavy-handed and bureaucratic ways or complying with stifling restrictions imposed by insurance companies, said the Government.

Examples included:

:: Wimbledon tennis officials citing health and safety as a reason to close Murray Mount when it was wet.

:: Stopping dodgem cars from bumping into each other at a holiday park in Skegness.

:: Banning Royal wedding street parties.

:: Kite flying on a popular tourist beach in East Yorkshire

:: Stopping pupils from using playground monkey bars unsupervised in Oxfordshire.

:: Schoolyard football games banned - unless the ball was made of sponge.

:: Children no longer allowed to take part in a sack race.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "We have seen an epidemic of excuses wrongly citing health and safety as a reason to prevent people from doing pretty harmless things with only very minor risks attached. This has to stop. The law does not require this to happen - people must be encouraged to use their common sense.

"Health and safety laws exist to provide important safeguards against people being seriously injured or made unwell at work and should not hamper everyday activities. These regulations are intended to save lives, not stop them.

"Middle managers in councils and companies should not try to hide unpopular decisions behind health and safety legislation. People must acknowledge these myths and continue to challenge them."

Ministers voiced concern that misconceptions of health and safety law drew attention away from the real workplace risks that put people in genuine danger.

Health and safety legislation was generally focused on the workplace, dealing with risks such as unguarded machinery, unsafe work at height and exposure to toxins such as asbestos, said the government.

Richard Jones of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health said: "This statement by the minister represents an important watershed in putting the record straight about real health and safety, highlighting that it's only when it's misinterpreted and misapplied that there are problems.

"Better education and Government promotion of the sensible steps the law really requires should help debunk all this nonsense once and for all.

"Health and safety is about enabling things to happen and keeping people safe, it's certainly not about pointless paperwork, barmy bans or spoiling sports days."

A review of health and safety legislation, carried out by Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, will report to ministers in October with proposals for consolidating or simplifying existing statutes.


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