04 November 2010
Health and Safety Gone Mad: Or Not
I saw in the papers recently an article about a consultant in a hospital advising those who were contemplating engaging in the festive game of apple bobbing, to take caution. The article dealt with the consultant’s comments that putting ones face into a bowl of water could lead to eye infections from bacteria from the water.The comments from the consultant and others was picked up by the press on the basis that this was a prime example of health and safety gone mad. I have to accept that it is exactly that. It does however, have nothing whatsoever to do with health and safety laws. It is a simply a case of the consultant commenting that in his opinion you are at risk of an eye infection if you put your face into a bowl of water. I am sure that he is absolutely right and that there is a risk, albeit a relatively small one, and the comments and story have actually been dealt in such a way as to make a headline.The fact of the matter is that since the introduction of laws relating to health and safety, there have always been those who have felt that those laws are restrictive. They are entitled to have their say. Indeed, we live in a free country and we pride ourselves on being one of those countries in the world which encourages free speech, people are entitled to make such comments. I anticipate their comments will have little effect in persuading Judges who for the most part are excellent and worth their weight in salt and entirely objective as they should be, that the health and safety laws have gone mad and have lost their meaning.Instead, my main concern is the stance taken by the press upon the regulators. By this I mean not those who draft the laws but those who ultimately impose them, namely Parliament. Politicians have increasingly over the years, and I say this objectively, tried to pander to the press. They have no doubt done so in the hope of satisfying the electorate that they are ‘on their side’. The dangers are that politicians start to meddle in the law. They do so, they say, on good grounds. They are trying to save costs and make access to justice much better for those concerned. I cannot agree with what they are doing is right. They have without doubt made access to justice by reducing spending in key areas, substantially more difficult. The result, as in the recent spending review is that those who require justice most, namely those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves, lose out. As a result and as usual, it is always those least fortunate who suffer the most.Can I say therefore that if we are to have a constitution on which we should be rightly proud, that politicians do what they should do and govern the Country rather than concentrating on their Facebook page, Judges do what they do best and interpret the law in an objective manner and we might just convince some parts of the press that they surely have something better to write about.Tristan Hallam is a partner in Personal Injury in the London office of Russell Jones & Walker.
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