Health and Safety Gone Mad

Health and Safety Gone Mad

16th June 2014

Many of us here in the UK often think that health and safety has gone mad with legislation governing every part of our lives.  We hear crazy stories about children no longer being allowed to play the much loved traditional game of conkers due to the risk of injury or hanging baskets being banned in public areas due to the risk of them falling and hitting somebody on the head.

While improving working conditions and ensuring a raised awareness of health and safety in the workplace is essential, you can be forgiven for thinking that health and safety is going too far.  In the wake of these stories about health Safety Laddersand safety going way over the top, when you take a closer look at what actually happened it’s very often the case that the press is reporting the incident in a less than truthful manner.  As we all know, shocking headlines sell newspapers, so it’s very often the case that the headline itself is often to blame here.  While the banner headline might give you the impression that society is hell bent on preventing anybody suffering an accident at the expense of being able to live a normal life, if you look a little closer, it’s often clear that the story has been totally sensationalised.

This was the case back in 2004 when the BBC News website ran a story about Suffolk County Council banning baskets of flowering plants hung from lamp posts in Bury St Edmunds.  The members of the town council were supposedly irate and accused the county council of “guarding their own backs over health and safety”.  This same story has since surfaced with other local authorities named as the culprits and you can be forgiven for being surprised if you see your local high street sporting baskets of fabulous flowers in the spring and summer months.

Let’s take a look at what really happened back in 2004 and how this story gained legs that has kept it resurfacing to this very day.

It seems that the local council in question became concerned about the weight of these flowering displays when they had been watered.  We all know that if we water a pot of flowering plants, the pot becomes heavier until the soil has dried out again.  Well, because the council was concerned about the weight, workers were asked to take down some of the hanging displays of flowers so that they could be weighed before and after watering.  Once the baskets had been weighed, it was discovered that the extra weight when they were watered did not pose a risk and that the lamp posts they were hung from could easily bear their weight.  However, the story was out and newspapers were up and running with this juicy item.  Just this one story serves to demonstrate how the press manipulates the facts in order to provide readers with some titillation.

While health and safety in the workplace is a vital issue and reducing the number of accidents and injuries both in work and outside work is important for us as a society, it’s important that we don’t believe everything we read in the papers and that we take some of these stories with a pinch of salt.