Judith Hackitt’s ‘Risk Assessment’ – Season’s greetings

At HSE we know what season it is by the nature of the silly stories that appear in the press.

In summer we regularly read ‘elf n safety bans donkey rides on the beach, in school time the papers report on the hard hearted beasts in ‘elf n safety imposing all manner of draconian rules on what can and can’t be worn as part of school uniform – frilly socks and loom bands apparently being among the things ‘banned’.

For many, the countdown to Christmas is measured by the number of contestants left in Strictly or X-Factor, or by how many Christmas ads appear on TV. For HSE folk, it’s measured in seasonal silly stories and it’s already well and truly started; fairy lights that can’t be put on lamp posts (not only silly it’s actually a recycled story –remember the one about the bunting when the Tour de France was in town)?

Sometimes stories do arise because some Scrooge-like character somewhere has decided to opt out of the season of goodwill, but rather than give the real reason, it’s much easier to hide behind the easy excuse of health and safety.

I know our own Minister, Mark Harper, is regularly astounded as to how anyone could possibly think health and safety has any involvement in the multitude of stories attributed to this catch all phrase.

But Christmas and ‘health and safety’ now seem to go together like presents and gift wrapping. Stories which are clearly about something completely different get wrapped up with a health and safety headline to grab attention. The easy excuse for the jobsworths has now become the easy headline for the lazy sub-editors.

So as you countdown the days to Christmas, here’s a little game we will be playing at HSE and you’re all very welcome to join in:

  • How many seasonal stories in the press mention health and safety as a reason for something being cancelled or restricted?
  • Did the people in the story mention health and safety or did the sub-editors simply use it for ease in the headlines?

For a bit of fun, we’ll be keeping our own tally (below) and adding to it weekly, but if you spot any yourself please do let us know. Personally I’m waiting for someone to tell me that the John Lewis Penguin on the bus is a health and safety risk. It hasn’t happened yet – but then there is still plenty of time!

Season’s greetings,


Daft ‘elf and safety stories or newspapers introducing health and safety where there is none

Daily Mail on Christmas parade

Daily Mirror on taxi driver Santa beard

Article source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/judith-risk-assessment/seasons-greetings181114.htm