Are they ‘bonkers’?

I read this in the print edition of the Daily Mail today and was struck once again by just what a ludicrously misleading headline and tone was used: ‘Are they bonkers? Council strips tree of conkers in elf ’n’ safety drive after girl, 4, is injured by falling stick‘. It wasn’t visible on the Mail website but a quick keyword search reveals it. The journalist – Claire Ellicott – starts her article with the following:

They have been collected by countless generations of eager schoolchildren at this time of year for a spot of harmless fun.

But, if one council is to be believed, conkers are a major health and safety risk.

Nottingham City Council has removed all the conkers from one horse chestnut after a girl was hurt by a falling branch.

It said the branch was believed to have been thrown into the tree by a group of children who were hoping to dislodge the conkers so they could stage tournaments.

On Friday – more than a year after the accident – the council sent out staff with a cherry-picker to remove every single conker on the tree, which is on a school route.

Yesterday, the council’s actions provoked angry protests from residents who said it was a waste of money.

And then moves on to the expected howls of outrage from local residents at why the council would want to do this and so forth – as is par for the course with this media narrative. Then you arrive at a few reasons as to why they council have decided to take this action.

Firstly, the falling branch was 3ft long and fell on Katie Roden, then four years old, who suffered a fractured skull – which, as is noted in the article, if she had been a year or two younger could have killed her. Check out the Mail article and the pretty gruesome picture of the scar, it was pretty serious.

Secondly, the tree lies – according to the council – on a ‘main thoroughfare, including a route to school, and is bombarded with a huge number of sticks, branches and even metal bars’ by kids trying to dislodge conkers. As a result of this a young girl suffered a fractured skull last year and damage has been caused to nearby properties by stray missiles.

And finally, as the council makes perfectly clear: ‘It’s a solution to a particular problem in this location and not something we plan to do anywhere else.’

These details make it perfectly that the headline is the usual dishonest mess you come to expect from the Mail – a three-foot branch that fractures a skull can hardly be described as a ‘stick’. Likewise, a one-off measure taken by a council for one specific tree for a myriad of reasons not directly relating to health and safety can hardly be described as a ‘elf n safety drive’. The council has not banned conkers or removed them either – before anyone tries to reignite that myth. They merely used a cherry picker and in a ‘few hours’ had picked all of the conkers and placed them at the bottom of the tree. This makes the Claire’s claim that: ‘if one council is to be believed, conkers are a major health and safety risk’ a complete lie, given that the council’s reasoning has nothing whatsoever to do with conkers, but rather the damage and injury caused by children trying to get them down from this particular tree.

The Mail implies that this is a waste of money and that ‘the council spokesman would not disclose how much the operation cost or how many staff were involved’. This is a typically blinkered way of looking at things because the Mail never stop to consider how much it cost to treat the young girl with the fractured skull, how much time it wasted the NHS, and how many properties were damaged by kids throwing stuff into the tree and the actual dangers that this represents on a busy street.

All of these factors seem to suggest that this was a few hours and a few quid well spent by the council – and has probably saved the taxpayer money and grief in the long run. But the Daily Mail don’t let facts get in the way of a rant against those evil ‘elf n safety’ zealots and instead claim that the council are ‘bonkers’.

The BBC repeats health and safety myths

The BBC are not as gleeful as the Daily Mail in reporting that the Tories intend to ‘reduce the health and safety burden’ but they are equally culpable of repeating myths. The article currently on the BBC News website actually takes myths created by tabloid newspapers and repeats them as fact:

It follows a number of well-publicised cases – such as this year’s official cancellation of a 200-year-old cheese-rolling event in Gloucestershire, due to safety concerns.

This myth has been thoroughly debunked because the event was cancelled due to the event outgrowing its location, the HSE had nothing to do with it. Likewise, the first accompanying photo contains another classic health and safety myth:

Conkers and goggles

The Health and Safety Executive featured this in their Myths section in 2007 and even produced a free poster to reassure schools that wearing safety goggles to play conkers was ridiculous:

This is one of the oldest chestnuts around, a truly classic myth. A well-meaning head teacher decided children should wear safety goggles to play conkers. Subsequently some schools appear to have banned conkers on ‘health & safety’ grounds or made children wear goggles, or even padded gloves!

Realistically the risk from playing conkers is incredibly low and just not worth bothering about. If kids deliberately hit each other over the head with conkers, that’s a discipline issue, not health and safety.

Even the Daily Mail has recognised that this story is a myth – although they still happily report fearful headteachers who insist on the measure and wrap it up in ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ and ‘nanny state’ overtones when it clearly is nothing of the sort – it is another classic misleading headline from the Mail, but at least they point out that the HSE poster and dismissal of the matter. The next picture repeats the cheese-rolling is banned myth:

cheese rolling

The BBC then repeats Cameron’s claims at the time:

When he launched the review in December, Mr Cameron cited cases of children being told to wear goggles to play conkers, restaurants being banned from handing out toothpicks and trainee hairdressers being banned from using scissors as examples of silly practice.

Without challenging any of the examples. For the record the HSE myths section mentions the ‘toothpick banned’ myth, ‘cheese-rolling banned’ and I work in a college in which hundreds of trainee hairdressers happily handle scissors and cut real hair on real people with them.

A few people being daft enough to ban something within their small jurisdiction – their shop / school / restaurant / hair salon – should not shape government policy on health and safety and nor should it make the HSE such a mocked and hated organisation. The HSE have nothing to do with these individuals and as they made clear in April this year, they ban very little:

We’ve said it all before, but there are still too many reports that HSE and health and safety law are responsible for all sorts of bans – cheese-rolling events, knitting in hospitals and even toothpicks!

In reality HSE has banned very little outright, apart from a few high-risk exceptions like asbestos, which kills around 4000 people a year.

Too often health and safety is used as a convenient excuse, but it’s time to challenge this and remind people to focus on the real risks – those that are still causing people to be killed, injured or made ill at work.

Challenge the myths, tackle real risks!

It seems we are still a long way from doing this and the BBC should be ashamed of today’s article.

Daily Mail repeats ‘cheese-rolling banned’ myth, again

In March the Daily Mail invented  a new ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ myth:

Tabloidwatch covered the myth at the time, pointing out that:

as usual with such stories, it’s not entirely accurate.

Yes, this year’s race at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester has been cancelled. But:

‘The organisers of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake regret to announce that the 2010 event has been cancelled.

The attendance at the event has far outgrown the location where it has traditionally been held for several hundred years: last year more than 15,000 people tried to attend (according to official estimates) which is more than three times the capacity of the site.’

So the organisers cancelled it. Not ‘health and safety killjoys’ then?

And it’s nothing to do with the actual cheese-roll race itself, which the Mail seems to imply.

Naturally Richard Littlejohn repeated the myth in a segment where he was attacking the chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health for daring to accuse him of making up health and safety stories. Seriously, Richard Littlejohn attempted to defend himself by repeating yet another invented health and safety story:

Badly timed attack
The chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has accused me of making up stories about elf’n’safety.

Never mind that he can point to only one example, a story which came not from my imagination, but from the Rotary Club of Stranraer, which was told that it would have to employ a lifeguard and a ‘trained outdoor specialist’ if it intended to use a footpath alongside Loch Ryan.

He also, rather unfortunately, chose the day on which we learned that the traditional cheese-rolling contest in Gloucestershire had been cancelled this year on grounds of elf’n’safety.

Sometimes, even I can’t make it up.

Well, I guess his final line is correct, he didn’t make this one up, the Daily Mail did. He just repeated it. This was a complete non-story and in the end a ‘unofficial’ event took place which gave the Daily Mail another chance to repeat the myth that the event had been banned for being too dangerous as well as the chance to print a picture of a woman with her boobs hanging out. It was the perfect Daily Mail one-two of an invented ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ myth wrapped around heaving breasts – the editor must have been giddy with delight.

Fast forward to today and the cheese-rolling myth has been rolled out (apologies) once again: ‘At last! An end to the elf ‘n’ safety madness as meddling officials face fines if they ban events. They illustrate the article with a picture of cheese-rolling as the example of the kind of thing ‘meddling officials’ will face a fine for banning:

Click to Enlarge

Except of course that officials – meddling or otherwise – have never attempted to ban cheese-rolling and it has never been classed as ‘too dangerous’. This is what I really despise about the tabloid press; they invent stories and repeat them until they become fact and are perceived as being a real evil. This then leads to extremely dim politicians getting involved to tackle a problem that does not exist. The Daily Mail then screams hurrah at job well done and claims it as a victory for ‘common sense’.

This is now at least the fourth article the Daily Mail have produced based on a complete lie; how many more will there be? I guess we’ll get some idea of how brazenly the Daily Mail is prepared to lie if they dare to mention ‘Winterval’ as a PC attempt to ban Christmas this year. They certainly flirted with the myth when the Pope stated we should stand up and defend Christmas against those attempting to outlaw it. I imagine at least one tabloid newspaper will repeat it. If you spot any newspaper – local or national – repeating it, please get in touch.

The Daily Mail on Asbestos

Richard Wilson has an excellent guest post on the Guardian website today on how Daily Mail published an article by Christopher Booker that claimed white Asbestos was ‘relatively harmless’ and that the threat from such products was ‘vanishingly small’. Wilson calmly highlights what the Daily Mail reader probably does not know:

What many reading the Daily Mail article won’t have known is that the author, Christopher Booker, has a long track record of downplaying the health risks of white asbestos. Though not a scientist himself, Booker has written at least 42 newspaper articles on this subject since 2002, making claims that run counter to the views of most experts, but are remarkably similar to those of the asbestos industry.

Several of the claims in the Daily Mail article – including that an HSE study once concluded the health risks of white asbestos cement were “insignificant” – have previously appeared in Booker’s Sunday Telegraph column, prompting a series of direct rebuttals from the HSE. The available evidence, as assessed by – among others – the World Health Organisation, the UK and US governments, and the European Union, is that white asbestos poses a serious risk to human health that needs to be carefully managed.

It is highly recommended that you read the rest of the article about why correcting such disinformation matters and why it takes 7 months to the Daily Mail to print a correction.

What a difference your age makes

Tombstoning is one of those ‘crazy’ activities that receives an awful lot of coverage in the Daily Mail each summer:

And so on, but you get the picture. Here are a few Daily Mail descriptions of what tombstoning is:

‘ultra-dangerous craze’, ‘A dangerous summer craze’, ‘a dangerous dare’, ‘a moment of madness’, ‘a dangerous craze’

Again, I could go on, but you get the picture. An activity that when participated in by teenagers is described as ‘suicidal’ is today being used as an example of a daring pensioner giving two fingers to ‘elf n safety’: ‘Elf ‘n’ safety be damned! The ex-Army major, 75, who leapt off Durdle Door tells his critics to go take a running jump‘.

Considering the amount of serious injuries and death reported by the Mail from partaking in this activity it seems extremely irresponsible and actually pretty offensive to the families / partners / friends who have lost or seem loved ones disabled for life because of this activity. To claim that Christopher Irven’s jump – just because he is a pensioner – is some kind of rebellion against an overbearing ‘elf n safety’ culture is shameful – even more so when you consider the terms that tombstoning is normally described in by the Daily Mail.

Furthermore, the results of this jump demonstrate exactly why health and safety takes issue with idiots jumping into the sea from great heights: Christopher Irven required rescuing. According to the Mail:

[his sons] plucked him from the sea the other day and dragged him back to shore, then caused a fuss by calling 999.

HavIng said that, when the air ambulance arrived, he was lying on the beach, his shorts ripped, a large red bruise on his head, his groin aching and his body shaking uncontrollably from the shock.

He was given emergency oxygen on the beach, strapped to a stretcher and flown in great haste to Dorchester hospital.

As if to make the Daily Mail’s disdain for health and safety or risk in this instance just look at how they portray the experts:

The local coastguard was unimpressed by Irven’s dive. ‘He shouldn’t have been doing it, especially at his age. You’d think he’d know better,’ sniffed a spokesman.

[Emphasis is mine]

The coastguard – commenting on an activity that the Daily Mail regularly describes as ‘crazy’ and ‘suicidial’ is being ‘sniffy’ about it now, just because it was a pensioner jumping and not a teenager. The dangers of the activity are also dismissed:

James Weld, of the Lulworth Estate, which owns Durdle Door, added: ‘It’s a very, very stupid thing to do because there are a lot of rocks under the water.’

But Irven says that things have just become a little overblown: ‘All this talk about serious injury is codswallop.

‘I wasn’t injured – I’d had a bit of a bang and I was in shock. All right, I shouldn’t have been in shock and it was my b****y fault. But I wasn’t seriously injured.’

You see, when you’re a feral teenager you’re acting ‘crazy’ and ‘suicidal’, but when you’re a pensioner you are merely seeking ‘fresh experiences’ and sticking two-fingers up at the PC-health-and-safety-gone-mad nanny state. He’s a Daily Mail hero and Vince Graff – the Daily Mail ‘journalist’ that pieced together the article – is close to worshipping him by the end of the article:

‘Safety at all costs is disastrous. It is producing the most namby-pamby frightened generation of fat, gutless children. Thank heavens my grandchildren aren’t like that…

I don’t believe in avoiding risk at all costs.’

He adds: ‘I’m not hugely interested in being dignified.

‘I lost dignity with the Durdle Door dive, but so what? At least I won’t have regrets.’

And somehow, you just know he’s right.

Funnily enough Vince misses the part where Irven describes the seriousness of what happened:

Grandfather Christopher Irven said he felt he had gone 10 rounds with a heavyweight boxer after a ‘swallow dive’ went wrong, leaving him with injuries to his groin and stomach.

He said: “The dive was a bit of a cock-up and I hit the water at a bad angle – it was too shallow. My face, chest, tummy and legs took a battering. It was rather like being badly winded and my bits hurt a bit.

“I started to swim back to shore but couldn’t and my two sons and another fella came and got me out. I lay down and a bit of shock set in – then the medics arrived and said I ought to go to hospital.”

Funnily enough there is also no mention of the taxpayer picking up the tab – no rentaquotes are consulted – and no outrage is directed at the pensioner for wasting the valuable resources of the Air Ambulance.  It seems all you need to do to win the sympathy of the Daily Mail is to be of a certain age and willing to insult the ‘namby-pamby’ nanny state and you can get away with anything – even an activity that normally has the Daily Mail thoroughly outraged.

The Red Arrows respond to Daily Mail lies

A few days ago I did a quick round up of three stories in which the Daily Mail told lies. One of them was this ‘story’: ‘Now health and safety chiefs ban Red Arrows display… because ‘vibrations’ could damage nearby buildings‘ and the article made it absolutely clear that the event was definitely cancelled and banned:

The Red Arrows have been banned from putting on a flying display over a seaside town – over health and safety fears.

The world famous RAF team were scheduled to top the bill at the annual regatta in Dartmouth, Devon.

But organisers decided to cancel the display – which has taken place every year since 1980 – amid fears that vibrations from the low-flying jets might damage buildings.

At the time I pointed out that the article completely contradicted the assertion that the event had been banned or cancelled, but that organisers were considering the impact of low-flying planes on a large amount of historic buildings that had recently been gutted by a fire and were unstable. It was not a case of ‘health and safety gone mad’ as the Mail was claiming, rather a holiday resort town trying to cling onto as much character as possible. No ban had been issued, and the event had not been cancelled, people were simply looking into making sure there would be no adverse effects.

Today the Red Arrows have felt compelled to issue a formal response on their website to these claims, and they demonstrate just how completely invented the Daily Mail story was:

There have been reports in the national news today that the Red Arrows will not be displaying at Dartmouth.

This is not true and the Team is still planning to display at the Town’s Royal Regatta event.

Squadron Leader Ben Murphy, Officer Commanding and Team Leader of the Red Arrows said:

“We are still planning to display at Dartmouth on August 27. We have not been contacted by the event organisers with any concerns about damage to buildings. In fact the Mayor of Dartmouth contacted the Team this morning to say that the town is still very much looking forward to the display and that reports in the national press about the town cancelling are simply not true.”

I have posted the above under the Daily Mail article which is supposedly not moderating comments in advance on the article, but funnily enough when I tried to post I was informed that my comment would have to be moderated in advance. I do not expect it to appear, no more than I expect the Daily Mail to update or issue the correction that should be standard practice for any news organisation. It also would have been nice to name and shame the reporter, but sadly the hack who cobbled this nonsense has hidden behind ‘The Daily Mail Reporter’, I like to think this was because even Mail hacks have a sense of shame.

Thanks to Tabloidwatch for the tip-off.

Yet Another Misleading Headline

Heard this story on 5Live this morning and it caused a rather passionate argument between two people I’ve never heard of, one arguing that it was absolutely fine, whilst the other suggested it was complete ‘madness’ on the part of the parents, me I’m fairly non-plussed by the story:


I think if it was my children (I do not have any yet) I’d probably want to wait a little longer until they made such a journey by themselves, so I can understand some of the concern here, but at the same time the kids could be old for their age. The thing is, I don’t know the details so I shouldn’t judge, and neither should I make stuff up to dramatise the situation. This is exactly what the Daily Mail has done with this headline though because social services are not even involved in this case, let alone threatening the parents at the article makes clear. In the very first line:

Boris Johnson today slammed ‘barmy’ health and safety rules after a London couple were threatened with being referred to social services for letting their children cycle to school. [My italics]

So, they haven’t even been referred to social services, yet in the Mail headline this becomes ‘couple threatened by social services’. Brilliant. In fact (used in the loosest sense here), according to the Daily Mail article the concern stems from ‘other parents and teachers at £12,000-a-year Alleyn’s Junior School in Dulwich, south east London, [who] are said to think the practice is irresponsible and dangerous’. However, it is too complex for the Daily Mail to side with some parents and be against others, which is why they have had to blame the social services because then is falls neatly into the media narrative that it is just another example of ‘barmy’ health and safety rules.

Whereas if the Daily Mail properly acknowledged that the concern was raised by fellow parents and teachers it might inspire a more thoughtful approach from readers who might think for themselves for a second and consider whether they would be happy knowing that children in their local school cycled to school at 8 and 5 unaccompanied by their parents. It is not an easy one, and you could imagine that you’d feel better about yourself as a human being if you at least raised the concern with the school or the parents, just to make sure you are doing your bit as a caring citizen. It might not be appreciated, but at least you took the time to care.

But, far easier to just accuse the nasty social services getting involved thanks to the dreaded health and safety which – in wanting to try and protect two children (one 8, one 5) – is clearly completely ‘barmy’ because some floppy-haired Tory tosser said so. And quite how their actions makes them ‘heroes’ in the eyes of Boris is beyond me – although he reasons it is because the couple ‘have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety’. In my eyes he lost the argument when he misspelled health and safety.

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The ‘Safety brigade’

A charming piece of guff on the Mail website today: ‘Do you remember your first car? ‘Yes, it cost £150 in 1956 – and I’m still driving it‘. Contains a rather bizarre dig at the ‘safety brigade’ from the car’s owener:

He drove it car on the roads of France soon after Caroline was born and his most vivid memory is of Jenny breastfeeding the baby as she sat in the front seat while he drove at 110mph.

‘You couldn’t do that now – the safety brigade would make sure of that,’ Mr Harrison said.

Yes, absolute madness of them to want to stop that sort of behaviour, isn’t it?

How the Daily Mail Manipulates Risks and Belittles Health and Safety

An important disclaimer: I am not using real figures in the examples used in this post. Also, the maths is my own, so the examples may well be wrong, as might my shaky understanding of various risks. If so, please feel free to correct me in the comments.

Yet more hilarity on the Daily Mail website today with a story on how ‘elf’ and safety killjoys have put up a sign near a public paddling pool WARNING parents about the dangers of paddling in cold conditions. ‘Bemused parents’ – according to the Daily Mail – claimed that the sign was ‘health and safety gone mad’ not once but twice in the article and the sense of outrage simmered throughout. The Council would shut the pool if the air temperature dropped below 15 degrees but any temperature above that it would be at the discretion of the parent. A council spokesman said:

‘This sign gives people some basic information that might be useful in helping users decide how to best enjoy the paddling pool with their families.

‘If the temperature gets quite low it can have effects – it can be dangerous.’

Doesn’t seem hugely controversial to me, in a society that demands information and wants to know what risks they face. It is funny how the Daily Mail screams ‘elf and safety gone mad’ at every attempt by a council or employer to identify and warn against risk (remember, health and safety normally comes in the form of advice that you are free to ignore at your own risk, it rarely ‘bans’ anything) yet they constantly pinpoint minute risks to their readers. For instance, today’s front page contains a dire warning to mothers; ‘RISK FOR BABIES BORN 1 WEEK EARLY’ screams the headline and the tagline makes it clear what the risk is: ‘Serious health problems more likely, finds study on UK children’.

Firstly, as a newspaper, why froth about health and safety identifying risks that people can take simple steps to avoid or reduce and laugh about why a council should bother pointing them out, when you are perfectly happy to publish largely unavoidable risks on the front page of your newspaper? The Daily Mail are actively against reducing avoidable risks, but in favour of scaring people with largely unavoidable risks.

Secondly, presumably the thing that annoys the Daily Mail – and leads to them trotting out the ‘health and safety has gone mad line’ – is that the risks identified by councils are tiny, and therefore it is a waste of time for an overbearing nanny state to even identify that they exist, let alone produce information on avoiding them. Yet, conversely, they are prepared to scare people – pregnant mothers and new mothers of all people – with a tiny unavoidable risk on the front of their newspaper.

When it comes to risk it is vital to realise how newspapers use percentages to make it sound like a risk is massively increased by either doing or not doing something, consuming or not consuming something; or, as in this case, having a child even 1 week early. First of all, you need to understand what absolute risk is in this case. For example (IMPORTANT: these are not real figures, just an example), say out of every 10,000 babies born at 39 weeks (1 week early) 1,000 developed special needs. Risk is always a figure between 0 an 1, 0 being an impossible event (probability of 0) and 1 being an inevitable event (probability of 1).

To get the absolute risk figure here we merely divide 1,000 by 10,000 to get 0.1. So the probability of having a child at 39 weeks with special needs would be 0.1 or 10% (10 in every 100 children would develop special needs). If you did the same for children born with special needs at 40 weeks (the ‘full term’), say 100 out of every 10,000 developed special needs, then the probability of full term babies developing special needs would be 0.01 or 1% (1 in every 100 would develop special needs).

You can then start looking at the relative risks involved and it is these figures that the media commonly uses. In this instance to work out the relative risk you would divide the percentage of children developing special needs at 39 weeks (10) by the percentage of children developing special needs at 40 weeks (1). 1 into 10 goes ten times, meaning a child is ten times or 1000% more likely to develop special needs if born at 39 weeks instead of 40.

So, what are the real scary relative risk percentages that the Daily Mail lined up? Well, for a child born at 36 weeks: they are 36% more likely to develop learning difficulties, which in our example above would mean that 1.36 children in every hundred would develop learning difficulties as opposed to 1 (remember, to double the absolute risk you need to increase the relative risk by 100%).

For a child born at 38 weeks: they are 19% more likely to develop learning difficulties, which in our example above would mean that 1.19 children in every 100 would develop learning needs as opposed to 1 in 100.

For a child born at 39 weeks (remember the headline: ‘RISK FOR BABIES BORN 1 WEEk EARLY’) the increased risk is just 9%, meaning that using our above example figures the risk would rise from just 1 in 100 to 1.09 in 100. Hardly significant, and certainly not worthy of a front page scare story.

What is worse is that the reasons for delivering babies early are often closely related to the health of the unborn child and parent and that because early deliveries are normally carried out to offset different risks more research would be needed before it could even be implied that babies born early are at more risk than if their mother waited the full term before delivery.

The report raises some interesting questions, but before you could make any conclusions or offer any advice to expectant mothers (or indeed to doctors making the decisions) you would have to weigh up the relative risks of not inducing an early delivery or using a C-section, against the known relative risks of waiting for the baby to be in the womb for the full term. Without balancing these risks it is quite conceivable that it is riskier to not deliver a baby early than it is to wait until 40 weeks. This is the conclusion that the medical profession reach during the Daily Mail article yet the Daily Mail completely ignore this with a typical scaremongering headline that neatly ignores the complex reality of childbirth – and even the content of the article that follows.

The hypocrisy with which the Daily Mail tries to scare people with the identification of tiny risks – real or imagined – whilst simultaneously frothing if a council acknowledges a risk and produces information to counter it, is typical of a tabloid newspaper.

It also misses a key point: health and safety advice serves a clear purpose; it helps prevent avoidable accidents and even deaths. For example, whilst the Daily Mail froths and laughs in equal measure about the paddling pool ‘story’ they are also running a story on how popular artist Govinder Nazran has died – aged just 44 – as a result of head injuries. Head injuries caused by a fall directly related to using a spray varnish on his paintings in a room without suitable ventilation, as the coroner pointed out:

‘The underlying cause was two-fold – the chronic damage from the volatile solvent and the acute effect of the alcohol intake contributed to that final fit and fall.’

…He warned: ‘People using this product and similar products must be extremely careful. They must read the instructions and take precautions.’

Still, I guess any advice on reading such instructions if given by a council would be classed as ‘elf and safety gone mad’ and bemused people would scramble to let the Daily Mail know that they find such advice ‘laughable’ and so forth. The sad truth is that this death was easily avoidable, if the product had been applied in a well ventilated area this death would never have happened. The trouble with the media promoting such a blase attitude towards health and safety is that human beings are very irrational and often ignore basic instructions.

Perhaps if a little more media time was spent highlighting easily preventable deaths – and the consequences of ignoring instructions – we would live in a nation that respected that we live in a dangerous world and that health and safety is an attempt to make it slightly safer – and nothing else. Furthermore, perhaps if the media stopped regularly de-sensitising the population through the repetition of minute relative risks relating to doing or eating pretty much anything people might take more significant absolute risks a bit more seriously.

Health and Safety, Again

Another photo for Daily Mail Sadface as ‘Father told he cannot swim with more than one child over health and safety fears‘:

A father-of-two was left stunned after he was told he wasn’t allowed to take his two children swimming in a local pool – because of health and safety rules.

Dave Large was turned away from the swimming baths because of a ban on parents taking more than one young child in at a time.

He has accused the management of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre of discriminating against single parents who want to teach their children to swim.

Dave Large was stunned because the swimming pool has banned a parent from trying to look after two young children who cannot swim in a busy swimming pool. Truly, as Dave Large comments, ‘It’s health and safety gone mad’. Just in time for Littlejohn’s column tomorrow as well. No prizes for guessing the kind of comment on this article that has earned the most red arrows:

Click to Enlarge

A no doubt frustrated spokesman for Coventry Sports Trust made it clear that:

‘We have these procedures in place to protect customers and to help prevent accidents happening.

‘The sheer volume of swimmers alone is enough to justify this course of action.

‘We appreciate that this may cause inconvenience for some customers but the majority are happy to accept the policy.’