St John’s Primary School in Woking has come under fire from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for asking the local council to remove a tree preservation order so they can chop down a centuries-old sweet chestnut tree amid health and safety concerns.
Woking Borough Council has decided not to implement the tree protection order, but no date has yet been set as to when the tree will be axed, the Daily Express reports.
But the HSE has spoken out about this particular case, with a spokesperson saying that chestnuts have fallen from trees for “millennia”, while leaves “do indeed get slippy”.
The representative went on to say: “It is nature and is likely continue for some time yet. However, while it is nature, it certainly isn't health and safety, which is a set of laws designed to prevent death, serious injury and ill health in the workplace, not eradicate any risk at all from people's lives."
It was further noted that members of the general public are becoming increasingly aware that the very idea of ‘health and safety’ is now being used as a “catch-all phrase” and decision-makers who do take action in circumstances such as this sweet chestnut tree case “increasingly open themselves up to ridicule”.
There may have several other instances were decisions have been taken and health and safety concerns have been used as one of the key factors for making such decisions.
In 2010, for example, Royal Mail told its postmen and women down in Devon that they didn’t have to deliver mail to homes on cobbled streets during wet weather.
And at the end of 2015, it was report that a blind girl had to move to a different school after her white walking cane was considered to be a health and safety risk by teachers. Lily-Grace Hooper was told by those at Hambrook Primary School in Bristol that she couldn’t bring her cane to class because a safety assessment had concluded that it represented a danger to others.
According to the Bristol Post, by way of the Independent, Lily-Grace’s mother Kirsty Hooper said she was flabbergasted at the school’s decision – although it was immediately overturned by the HSE.
Headmistress of the school Jo Dent said at the time that Lily-Grace hadn’t been banned from bringing her cane in with her, but she had been asked not to use it around school temporarily until teachers had the chance to meet with her parents to discuss the situation.
In yet another example, the HSE was compelled to issue a statement saying that there is no health and safety legislation relating to binmen wearing Father Christmas hats, after workers in Colchester were banned from wearing anything Christmassy on health and safety grounds. It was thought other road users could have been distracted!
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