Health and safety body admit legislation misused

North Lanarkshire councillors stopped a dog club from sharing facilities with children over health and safety fears. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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A SCOTTISH council that banned dog training classes from community halls features in a list compiled by a government minister to highlight a spate of “ridiculous” health and safety cases.

Mike Penning, the UK’s health and safety minister, cited the example of North Lanarkshire council’s decision to ban dog shows and training classes in a letter to schools and councils, warning against the potential misuse of health and safety legislation.

And even the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agrees.

“Health and safety has long been used as a smokescreen by Jobsworths who have little knowledge of the law and who want to fob people off with an easy excuse,” Mr Penning said.

Councillors in North Lanarkshire took the decision to stop local dog clubs using facilities that are also used by children after hearing that the animals had damaged gym halls and could spread allergies.

Other cases of overzealous officials cited by Mr Penning included a school in Hampshire not allowing a pupil to bring in a chick due to concerns about bird flu, a school in Gloucester stopping girls wearing frilly socks for fear of them tripping, and a council near Manchester preventing flowers and pots being placed on graves.

North Lanarkshire’s dog ban prompted complaints from local dog-owners. Margaret Wotherspoon, secretary of the Lanarkshire Road-Safety Dog Training Council, said it was “health and safety gone mad”.

Yesterday she said: “Now the Health and Safety Executive has said it is bonkers, that will give clubs ammunition when going into meetings about letting halls.”

Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Health and Safety Executive, said: “I would urge all decision-makers to take a step back and ask themselves whether a decision made in the name of health and safety is actually just an excuse for something else.

“Real health and safety is about protecting people in the workplace from life and health-threatening risks – it is not about stopping a child taking a baby chick into school, or banning indoor dog training.”

Almost 300 people have contacted a “mythbuster” panel set up by the HSE two years ago, giving examples of “bizarre” 
mis-interpretations of health and safety law.

Last night, a spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council defended its stance: “There was never a blanket ban on dog shows in our facilities. However, we do not allow such activities to take place in our facilities where children might be using them afterwards.”


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