The elfin safety miff

Regulations!

Quangos!

Elfin Safety!

No wonder Britain’s going down the pan. You can’t do a thing without these ridiculous European rules stopping you and making you do it the hard way.

Obviously, the best thing is a bonfire of the regulations; a night of the long knives for the quangocrats. Enough of this elfin safety nonsense!

Why, just recently a famous restaurant maitresse d’ – Elena of l’Etoile in Charlotte St – was told she had to stop work, because she was too old and might have an accident. The restaurant is even named after her, and she’s as fit as ever she was. But no, she’s ninety, and the Elfin Safety rules mean that she’s got to retire. Whatever next!

Except it wasn’t the elfin safety regulations that stopped her. No, it was the business’s private-sector insurers.

Most of the elfin safety nonsense doesn’t come from government, it comes from the private sector. Litigation-mad and litigation-averse lawyers and insurance companies. Not Eurocrats.

I went white-water rafting once in America; they wouldn’t let us on the bus to the top of the rapids until we’d signed a piece of paper saying we renounced all our rights to sue the operator whatever they did. I complained; the owner said he wouldn’t sign it either, but the lawyers were killing America and his lawyer had told him not to take a customer who didn’t sign. And, no doubt, then charged him a lot of money to draft that paper. Then, the holidaying firefighters on the same bus (a bunch of really friendly down-to-earth blue-collar Americans) wouldn’t let it leave until the aisle was clear of wetsuits, paddles and helmets – which was elfin safety sense from a group who really understood the practical risks of a bus ride.

The UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act dates from 1974. It’s still in force, and its main principle is still that health and safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility, worker and boss together. Which, surely, is as it should be. I have no doubt it could be improved, but its approach – that safety is a shared responsibility, and you can’t pass the buck to anyone – is surely right.

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