Great Britain, like many other countries, has become so obsessed with health and safety, that some of its rules and bans have become a source of amazement, ridicule and jokes. Examples range from an area of lawn popular with fans who could not get into a court being out of bounds in Wimbledon tennis club because it was wet, to schoolyard soccer games not being allowed unless the ball was made of sponge.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a public body in the UK, explained that health and safety legislation is there to protect people from real risks. However, it could not see the logic behind what it called “10 of the most bizarre health bans or restrictions spotted in media coverage by HSE over the last year”. On its website, the HSE listed them, here some of them:

  • Wimbledon officials closed Murray Mound because it was wet and people might slip on the grass. Murray Mound is an area within Wimbledon (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club) where fans who could not get tickets can watch matches on a giant screen.
  • At Butlins, Skegness, officials banned dodgems from bumping into each other for health and safety fears.
  • During the Royal Weddding, officials telling people that if they wanted to have street parties they would need five million pounds insurance.
  • An 85 yeard old lady paid the local council (municipality) to come and remove an old TV. Workmen told her to carry it out of the house herself in case they injured themselves.
  • Kite flying banned on East Riding beaches for safety reasons
  • Children banned from playing in playground monkey bars because officials say they are too dangerous
  • Banning use of pins to secure commemorative poppies
  • Sack race at school sports day banned for safety reasons

Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment, sent the following letter to Dermot King, the Managing Director of Butlins (a holiday camp):

“I was disappointed to read in the papers today that Butlins has banned bumping in dodgems or ‘bumper cars’ at three of its resorts, citing health and safety reasons. While I fully appreciate the need to operate dodgems in such a way as to minimise serious impacts, I wish to make it clear that there is nothing in health and safety legislation or guidance to ban ‘bumping’ in dodgems.

Health and safety legislation plays an important part in the prevention of death, injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities, but – all too often – it is used as a convenient excuse to justify decisions that have been made for other reasons.

I hope Butlins will make it clear publicly that its decision to ban bumping in dodgems has no basis in health and safety rules and that it has absolutely no obligation to take what I suspect will prove to be an extremely controversial decision. Given the public interest in this issue I am releasing this letter to the media. . .”

Written by Christian Nordqvist