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Questionable health and safety issues hit the headlines again
Posted by David Cant on July 21, 2014

Health and safety mythbustersAlthough health and safety will always remain extremely important, it would seem that some officials are still erring too much on the side of caution. Here are some current examples of ‘elf n safety’ apparently overriding common sense.

The case of the Devonian hanging baskets

Elderly residents of a council-owned block of flats in Bradninch, near Exeter, have recently received letters from Mid Devon Council demanding that hanging baskets be taken down. According to the letter, the flower-filled baskets present a health and safety risk which breaches the terms of the tenancy agreement attached to the property.

When residents first queried the demand, they were unable to clarify exactly what the identified risk was. However the council’s Head of Housing has since pointed out a clause in the tenancy agreement – ‘you or anyone living in the property must not allow anything to fall from any windows, balconies or communal areas’.

Despite there being no evidence of any hanging baskets dropping from windows or balconies, the council remains determined to uphold the ruling.

Veritas Consulting verdict:

Items falling from heights do pose a genuine risk to public health and safety. However it is relatively simple to implement fail safe devices that prevent hanging baskets from dropping. It would appear that the council is being somewhat heavy handed in this case and could easily devise an agreeable safety measure that will allow the hanging baskets to remain in place.

Burnley’s Brick Bust

Over recent years Burnley FC fans have been encouraged to purchase commemorative bricks that are placed on the “Burnley Football Club Wall of Legends”. Over 300 inscribed bricks of great sentimental value currently adorn the shrine.

Club officials have recently written to brick owners advising them that the wall now needs to be dismantled ‘for health and safety reasons’. Fans have not been given any explanation as to what danger the bricks present, although they have been offered a discount on a replacement marble stone that will be mounted elsewhere at Turf Moor.

Fans have been promised that existing bricks will be moved to an alternative location, but again details have not yet been released. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many fans are very upset – particularly as they were told the bricks would be a permanent fixture at the time of purchase.

Veritas Consulting verdict:

Burnley Football Club are keeping tight-lipped about the exact nature of the dangers posed to the match-going public. Without knowing the details it is hard to say whether there are any legitimate grounds for the bricks to be removed. If the memorial bricks are properly fastened to the Wall of Legends however, it seems very unlikely that they pose a genuine risk to public health and safety.

To avoid accusations of ‘health and safety gone mad’ both Mid Devon Council and Burnley FC should both consider making full disclosure about the risks that they have identified. In the event that they are unsure whether these are genuine risks, a call to a third party health and safety specialist should help them clear matters up quickly.

Do you have any tales of Elf ‘n Safety you’d like to share?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Competent Person Service, Health and Safety, Health and Safety Consultancy

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