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The sitcom that writes itself

The BBC is to bring a sitcom to our screens later this year about a health and safety team in a local authority. Called Slings and Arrows, the series is reported to be based around the fortunes of manager Gerald Meakin, who is "dedicated to the minimisation of risk, even where no actual risk exists".

As inventive as writer Ben Elton undoubtedly is, he'll struggle to dream up scenarios more laughable than those tackled by our own Myth Busters Challenge Panel. In fact, this could be the first sitcom to write itself. There is certainly no shortage of inspiration.

The airline that can't give a passenger a blanket, but can sell them one. The caravan club that bans ironing. The school told to beware of blu-tack shattering its windows.

The panel has now tackled more than 50 cases since it was set up in April. There are some common themes emerging – the clearest of all is that many of the decisions which the public are told are made for health and safety have no basis in regulation whatsoever.

But there are other patterns emerging: a tendency to hide poor customer service behind 'health and safety'. The cafes and coffee shops that will sell you hot drinks but not let you have hot water to heat your baby's food really don't want your business, do they? Otherwise they would be paying more attention to their customers' needs.

In other cases, it is sheer cynicism. Any campsite that claims it is necessary "due to health and safety regulations" to book separate pitches for campervan and a tent can only be looking for a way to disguise a commercial decision to increase their own income.

Much of the nonsense takes place outside of the world of work but sometimes it is workers who are unfairly done to, being given inflexible rules by their managers or head office. I am sure one of the panel's many satisfied complainants will be the woman who can now show her bosses the advice that sandals are not prohibited in a low risk office.

There's no shortage of these daft decisions – and every day there's a good chance that there will be something more risible in the morning papers than dreamt up by Gerald Meakin.

So, good luck Ben Elton. I hope you have a cunning plan – but if you get stuck for ideas, we may be able to help you!

2016-04-13