The Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday both ran very similar stories at the weekend:
The professional body that represents health-and-safety experts has warned businesses not to grit public paths. (Mail)
The professional body that represents health and safety experts has issued a warning to businesses not to grit public paths. (Telegraph)
Both then went on about health and safety gone mad etc.
Only one problem.
The experts had said nothing of the sort.
The Sunday Telegraph had approached the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health who in fact gave a comment which said the opposite of what the newspaper subsequently reported. Far from warning businesses off gritting public paths, they actually on encouraged them to do so:
Deciding whether to grit beyond the boundaries of their property needs to be carefully considered by companies. If access to the premises is covered in ice, companies may choose to grit the access to help their staff and visitors arrive and leave safely, even though it’s not their property. However, in this instance, if they failed to grit the surface properly and someone had an accident as a result, then they could incur some liability.
As a general rule, though, it’s sensible for firms to consider the risks and take reasonable steps to prevent accidents from happening. If this means gritting outside the boundaries of your workplace, then it’s better to do that than to have people slipping over or involved in car crashes on your doorstep.
The IOSH subsequently commented:
The IOSH position is most definitely to encourage people to be good employers and neighbours by gritting icy areas and to emphasise that health and safety wants to help protect life and limb, not endanger it.
So where did the story come from? As explained by the IOSH in a comment on Malcolm Coles’s blog:
This comment [quoted above] was ignored, and instead they took words from the “Just Ask” column of SHP magazine in February last year, contributed by legal consultancy Croner, and attributed them to IOSH, passing this off as guidance issued by IOSH to its members.
IOSH has been completely misrepresented.
Health and safety gone mad? Poor journalism run amok more like.
UPDATE: Credit to Labour minister Lord Adonis for his very robust answer in Parliament when asked about snow, clearing, suing, world ending et al:
It is total nonsense to say that health and safety legislation should stop people being good neighbours or doing their local duty. People should do their local duty. They should show common sense, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit, which the overwhelming majority of people are doing up and down the country.