Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Complaints from the public being fobbed off with health and safety excuses – ‘elf and safety myths – are at a record high.

From dangerous daffodils being banned on a village green, to pork crackling not on the menu at a restaurant because it might splash the chef – complaints from the public being fobbed off with ‘elf and safety excuses are at a record high.

More than 600 people approached the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Myth Busters Challenge Panel in its first 3 years after being told ‘health and safety’ stops them from doing something.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the HSE panel has confirmed that health and safety regulations do not ban the activity and that ‘health and safety’ is being used as a smokescreen, usually to hide poor customer service.

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Work and Pensions Minister, Lord Freud said:

“People have had enough of bizarre health and safety excuses.

“The HSE’s myth busters panel is quashing these ridiculous excuses and making sure people know it isn’t the law standing in their way.

“As part of our long term economic plan, we have reinstated common sense and brought in a simpler set of legislations.

“For too long businesses have been consumed by red tape and confusion, often feeling they needed to go beyond the requirements of the law, but it’s never been easier to understand the rules and make the right choice, without diluting protection for workers.”

List of ‘elf and safety myths

‘Dangerous daffodils’ and 10 more ‘elf and safety myths:

  • pork crackling not on the menu at a restaurant because it might splash the chef
  • prams banned from a children’s centre for health and safety reasons
  • dangerous daffodils removed from a village green
  • custard pie fight at a local event cancelled because of health and safety
  • chippy not allowing customers to put salt and vinegar on their fish and chips
  • ban on playing with conkers and yoyos, using skipping ropes, and climbing trees
  • selfie sticks banned in a nightclub
  • sheep and cow droppings in a field stopping a scout group camping
  • school production cancelled because lighting operator had not attended ladder training course
  • loose flowers and pots not allowed on graves
  • office ban on paperclips

The continuing popularity of the Myth Busters Challenge panel shows that people are not afraid to challenge overzealous behaviour which is still rife in the retail and leisure industries, education and workplace health and safety, despite action to bring in a simpler, modern set of rules.

A report published on 24 March 2015 shows that the HSE has reduced the overall stock of health and safety legislation by 50%. And a legislative package is currently going through Parliament that will enable 1.8 million self-employed jobs to be exempt from health and safety law if they present no risk of harm to others.

Read the final health and safety reform progress report.

Myth Busters Challenge Panel

The Myth Busters Challenge Panel (formed in April 2012) looks at complaints regarding advice from non-regulators such as insurance companies, health and safety consultants, employers and general advice where the term ‘health and safety’ has been used.

To date, over 350 cases have been considered and their responses published on the HSE website.

Read more about the Myth Busters – www.hse.gov.uk/myth

Department for Work and Pensions and Lord Freud: Improving the health and safety system, Business and enterprise and Regulation reform

Please Note: This Article is 5 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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