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On that bombshell...

Jeremy Clarkson has never been shy about offering an opinion on health and safety, and I've not often agreed with him.

But consider these latest comments in the Sun: "Like many people, I've spent the past few years lambasting the clipboard wielding health and safety morons who are turning this country into a risk averse nanny state. But the truth is the real culprits are actually the insurance companies."

What sparked his wrath is a civil court case in which an insurance company is contesting a compensation payout to a teenage girl who was knocked down and injured by a motorist. The driver's insurers, he says, have argued that the girl should have been wearing a high viz jacket and in doing so are in danger of setting a precedent that means "every single pedestrian will be told that they can't go out at night unless they're dressed up like a riot policeman".

Is he right? Certainly others will look at the result and worry about what they might need to do now to reduce their risk of civil claims.

We see this all the time in everyday life. Every cup you take away from a coffee shop these days has a warning that the contents are hot. All because somebody sued after being burnt by a drink. Is it really necessary? No, of course not. Coffee should be hot. Is it health and safety? Absolutely not.

But these sort of stories often end up with health and safety getting the blame for something which has nothing to do with the actual regulations. And they are not just stories. They have unintended consequences - activities get watered down because people are nervous about getting sued and want to minimise all risks, not matter how trivial. Others conclude it is just not worth the hassle and abandon events altogether.

I'd like to think that in a small measure, Jeremy Clarkson has picked up on some of the work we have been doing to bust the health and safety myths apart, and the encouragement we have been offering people to question who is really causing this risk aversion.

So if you are reading Jeremy, you made my day. If you want to get me into that reasonably priced car, I'd be happy to show you what managing risk means.

2014-02-10