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Judith Hackitt responds to the Daily Telegraph's coverage of the ongoing red tape saga

Judith Hackitt, HSC's Chair responds

The Editor
Daily Telegraph
111 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 0DT

6 February 2008

Sir,

Do I note a turning point in the Daily Telegraph's coverage of the ongoing red tape saga? I note a more balanced approach in several stories (6 February) referring to the increasing influence of the compensation - or at least litigation-phobic-culture in our society rather than the usual easy hit on "health and safety".

To conkers and Santa's sleigh we can now add pancakes as something which has supposedly been brought to a halt by "health and safety".

I was saddened to hear that Ripon Cathedral decided to cancel their annual pancake race. As Chair of the Health and Safety Commission, I can say with complete confidence that there was no reason or rule to cancel the event on grounds of 'health and safety' or risk assessments.

For an annual event, a straightforward risk assessment should have been done several years ago; thereafter all that anyone needed to do was to review that assessment to check that nothing had changed. If, as I suspect, the event has been held for many years without incident or injury, there will be a wealth of evidence to back up the risk assessment and show that the event can be held safely, allowing fun to continue.

For an organisation that exists to prevent loss of lives and serious injuries in the workplace, it is deeply frustrating that 'elf and safety' continues to be used as an excuse to hide other less convincing reasons, which others would prefer not to give.

I welcome the apparent emergence of a more thoughtful approach which highlights the real reasons behind the ubiquitous excuse.

Yours faithfully

Judith Hackitt
Chair, Health and Safety Commission
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge Road
London
SE1 9HS

Updated 2011-11-07