A very quick internet search throws up the following three news items that have all been reported in the past week or two. A music festival planned to be held on the August bank holiday weekend at Crawley, West Sussex has been cancelled; a council-run paddling pool in Cleethorpes was closed on the hottest day of the year and a coastguard in Somerset advised children not to dig deep holes on beaches.
And the reason given for these outcomes? Three little words (I’m sure you’re well ahead of me here): health and safety.
Health and safety legislation often gets a bad press because it can be used as a catch all term for decisions (often unpopular decisions) that people find confusing and baffling. It is as if ’health and safety’ is often enough – no further consideration is needed.
Take, for example, the story about the lorry driver from Preston who turned up for work, again on the hottest day of the year, wearing shorts. He was sent home and docked a day’s pay. ‘Why can’t I wear shorts?’ he asked. ‘Health and safety,’ came the reply. According to reports, he was given no further explanation and, of course, this is the problem with the words ‘health and safety’ – they are often used without any further information or clarification. Three words, four syllables, end of discussion.
If a council doesn’t have the resources to adequately staff a paddling pool then that venue becomes a more dangerous place. Music festivals without adequate measures in place can be similarly dangerous.