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Camping ‘health and safety myth’ busted by Health and Safety Executive

Aug 28 2012 Posted by Laura Canning

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is hitting back at ‘health myths’ used by companies citing health and safety regulations to avoid extra work, such as a campsite owner who told customers they could not sleep in a campervan because of ‘health and safety concerns’.

In a recent report, the agency cited the top ten health and safety myths claimed by businesses to avoid service, such as cafés refusing to heat up baby food ‘as it might hurt the baby’s mouth’ or an airline passenger refused a blanket when she asked for one – but told she could buy it for £5 instead.

The campsite example happened when a campsite owner told customers they could not have two people sleeping in a tent and two in an adjoining campervan, because of ‘health and safety regulations’, and that they would have to double the price of their holiday by booking a second pitch. When the decision was challenged, it was clear that four people in a tent next to the campervan would have been fine at the original price.

‘There are no health and safety regulations preventing persons sleeping in adjoining campervans and tents at camp sites,’ the HSE found. ‘This appears to be a case of health and safety being used as a convenient excuse for an unpopular or commercial decision.’

The campsite example is just one cited in the HSE report, which comes in response to its call in April for people to submit examples of ‘ludicrous’ health and safety practices. The ‘Myth Busting Challenge Panel’ then picked a top ten from submissions received about decisions made by employers, businesses, local authorities and insurance companies.

The top ten safety myths compiled by the HSE were:

  • A boot supplier said it was banned from accepting dirty boots for return.
  • Cafés and restaurants refused to heat up baby food.
  • Golf players at a golf club were told that golf buggies were not health and safety authorised.
  • A hospital would not let a microwave be used on a ward.
  • A gym-goer was told he could not lift weights without wearing sneakers.
  • A woman was banned by her boss from wearing sandals in the office in the summer.
  • A passenger was refused a blanket on a flight but told she could buy one.
  • A campsite banned sleeping in a camper van.
  • A primary school's tree house had to be located away from the premises because of a risk to children.
  • A council banned a nursery teacher from taking children to a garden.

The HSE is now targeting at least one safety myth a month on its website to inform the public of when companies are likely to be using health and safety regulation as an excuse for poor service or for profit.

HSE chair HSE chair Judith Hackett said the panel had ‘seen some blatant and disturbing examples of people using health and safety as an excuse in the last few months, ranging from a smokescreen for a whole host of unpopular decisions to completely nonsensical interpretations of what the law requires.

‘We're tackling these jobsworths and their lame excuses, which trivialise the real work of health and safety. The real task is to prevent death, serious injury and ill health caused by work,’ she said.