Britain's "elf n safety" [Health & safety] police

Richard Littlejohn

They are almost certainly motivated by the natural tendency of public officials in general and the police in particular to constantly seek extra powers and to cover their backsides whenever there is the remotest possibility that something might go wrong.

Today, that mentality manifests itself in our hi-viz jacket culture of risk aversion to the point of mental illness. Councils routinely ban Bonfire Night parties, either on spurious public safety grounds or because they contravene ‘smoke-free’ environmental policies.

Police close roads for hours after minor car accidents and turn every skid-mark into a ‘crime scene’.

No area of human activity is exempt from the tentacles of elf’n’safety.

Traditional pastimes are outlawed or severely constrained by rules, regulations and arbitrary ‘guidelines’ enforced with Stalinist zeal.

The problem is compounded by ‘no win, no fee’ ambulance-chasing spiv lawyers, who pretend there’s no such thing as an accident and ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’. The fear of being sued for com-pen-say-shun petrifies private companies and public bodies.
We are plagued by over-policing and hysterical health and safety

We are plagued by over-policing and hysterical health and safety

This column has made a reasonable living over the years documenting the wilder excesses of elf’n’safety insanity. And I’m pleased to report there seems to be no shortage of material. I could fill this page week in, week out with the latest lunatic examples. The dilemma is usually what to leave out.

For instance, a golf club in Scotland has just been forced to pay £120,000 because it didn’t have sufficient signs warning players about flying balls.
Niddry Castle Golf Club, in Winchburgh, West Lothian, was sued by Anthony Phee, who was hit in the eye by a wayward drive from fellow golfer James Gordon.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Mr Gordon was 70 per cent responsible for the incident, but that the club had to bear 30 per cent of the blame because it had failed to post a sign warning players that they could be struck by balls.

Even though Mr Gordon shouted ‘fore’ — the traditional warning of a wild stroke — he was found guilty of negligence and ordered to pay Mr Phee £277,000 damages for his loss of sight in one eye.

The judge also ruled that the club was liable ‘for their failure to place signs at appropriate places’.

Mr Phee is naturally entitled to sympathy and some financial redress for his injury. That’s what insurance is for. But all the warning signs in the world would not have prevented him being hit by Mr Gordon’s mis-struck ball. It was an accident. And accidents happen.

Don’t be surprised, though, if some killjoy now demands that all golfers are forced to wear hard hats, safety goggles and hi-viz jackets at all times when out on the course. That’s if they don’t want golf banned altogether.

Elsewhere, in Lymington, Hants, one of the world’s oldest cricket clubs has been ordered by its local council to spend £50,000 erecting safety nets around its entire boundary and designate a person to patrol the perimeter shouting warnings about the dangers of flying cricket balls.

If it refuses to comply, the club — which dates back two centuries — has been threatened with eviction. So it now faces either bankruptcy, to cover the cost of the netting, or being kicked off the ground where it has been playing continuously for 175 years.

It almost goes without saying that of the estimated 1.8 million balls bowled at the ground in those 175 years, not a single one has ever struck a spectator or passer-by.
At this rate, they'll soon be banning all sports, short of tiddlywinks

At this rate, they'll soon be banning all sports, short of tiddlywinks

That didn’t stop Councillor Penny Jackman insisting: ‘The plain and frightening reality is cricket balls have been landing at great speed a matter of inches from unsuspecting people.’

During a heated meeting, Mrs Jackman was also overheard saying to a colleague: ‘Oh, let’s just shut the buggers down.’

There speaks the genuine voice of elf’n’safety — the genuine voice, in fact, of all authority in this country.

This has nothing to do with safety. It’s about throwing their weight around, showing us who’s boss, finding out what people like to do and then stopping them doing it.

At this rate, they’ll soon be banning all sports, short of tiddlywinks. And even that has its inherent dangers. Better safe than sorry, eh?

‘Let’s just shut the buggers down.’

Sounds about par for the course.


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