Barmy health and safety army

Unlike just about everything else in life, the Brits take health and safety very, very, very seriously. So much so, that their obsession with health and safety is bordering on the absurd…

I have just returned from the global launch of the utterly sensational new Range Rover Evoque (don’t buy another car before test driving it). The event took place in Wales and England (Liverpool to be precise) and I was completely overwhelmed at the fanatical attention to health and safety.

The organisers were amazingly professional and ever so fastidious when it came to ensuring our well-being as we put the vehicles to the test. Safety marshals were everywhere (there was a veritable army of them). The vehicles were hoisted up and inspected after each and every section of the route. They even went so far as to erect a fence next to a railway line – just to stop us from gaining access to the railway line.

I have never ever felt safer on a car launch. They did an utterly brilliant job. And, in keeping with the Brits’ wonderful sense of humour, they did so with a smile all the time – one safety marshal, strategically positioned to rescue us from a tunnel that was under water, went so far as to don a snorkel and mask. Another asked what I thought of his PPE – pigeon poo eliminator…

I guess that, when it comes to the Brits’ obsession with health and safety, it helps to have a sense of humour. Otherwise you would go stark raving mad in the land of the Barmy Army. In fact, maybe this has already happened…

According to a recent article in the Daily Record, students at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge have been told not to pose for pictures throwing their hats in the air – lest they get hurt by the falling headgear. Over in Maidstone, the mayor recently removed the flag bearing the town crest from her limo – because it could be a hazard to drivers and pedestrians if it fell off. In the West Midlands, a 98-year-old pensioner by the name of Florrie Tranter was apparently refused the right to leave a hospital – officials were worried about her safety because of a four-inch step at her front door. Two safety assessments were carried out and she was only given the go-ahead to be taken home when her son-in-law contacted newspapers about the situation.

Speaking of pensioners, yet another elderly lady also fell foul of health and safety rules in the country recently. Wiltshire pensioner June Turnbell has apparently tended a council-owned flower bed for many years. But the council said that this was streng verboten and ordered her to erect “Men at work” signs, wear a fluorescent jacket and even employ a look-out – or else to step away from the flower bed.

But health and safety rules aren’t only pushing the elderly over the edge. When Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles recently arrived at the BBC with a birthday cake for sidekick Dave Vitty, he was told candles were banned (due to a risk of fire) and that he would have to cut the cake with a plastic knife so he didn’t hurt himself.

Other dippy suggestions, all aimed at boosting health and safety, include stopping dodgem cars from bumping into each other, forbidding kite flying, banning schoolyard football games – unless the ball is made of sponge – and prohibiting sack races.

Even prime minister David Cameron has gone on public record, stating that health and safety has “gone mad”. In fact, in an interview with the Daily Mail, he pledged to “free police, emergency workers and teachers from red tape which has been blamed for creating a culture where someone must be to blame for any mishap”.

I think Cameron may have a point; that nation has gone nuts. Recently a British politician by the name of Colin Charlwood even declared the English Riviera’s famous palm trees a danger to the public. “It’s a bit like keeping tigers – they are beautiful to look at, but you wouldn’t want them wandering the streets,” he commented. “What if one of those leaves caught a child in the eye, for example?”

Palm trees are like tigers? I rest my case…

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