In response to Max Hastings's suggestion (Guardian Comment & Analysis 30th April) that it is health and safety law (and specifically the Health and Safety Executive) that are out of control and a threat to personal liberty I would urge readers to reflect on the two main groups in this debate that really are out of control. The first is a group of supposedly libertarian academics and media commentators who, because of their lofty position feel under no obligation whatsover to study the philosophical and legal basis of modern health and safety law. (I suggest they read HSE's 'Reducing Risk, Protecting People' which talks about 'risk tolerability', 'balancing risks and the costs of controls' and its commitment to basing difficult decisions about such matters on full public consultation.) The second group are a minority of incompetent and hopelessly risk averse health and safety advisers outside HSE who give bad advice to their employers and public authorities. (As a result we get suggestions such as 'hire wire artists must wear hard hats' and 'children must not be allowed to have snowball fights', neither of which emanate from the much maligned regulator of health and safety.) These two groups of ignorami become locked in a vicious circle of absurdity and moral outrage which in turn fuels the pernicious myth that sensible laws designed to provide protection to workers or the public (who otherwise might be harmed by the thoughtlessness of others - and not themselves) are but another symptom of the overbearing State. Readers who are interested in developing a more thoughtful view of safety might like to visit www.rospa.com to reflect of 15 key points which guide RoSPA's approach to these issues.
Roger Bibbings MBE Occupational Safety Adviser Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents