The Health ‘n’ Safety myth industry debunked

January 14, 2010

BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour interviewed elf ‘n’ safety chair Judith Hackett yesterday. She went into some detail about the misrepresentation of the HSE by the media. Thankfully the HSE has an antidote to most of this fabulation in their Myth of the Month page, going back to 2007.

Health and Safety stories have become an exceedingly easy way to ratchet the indignation of an angry readership. Stories like conkers being banned at schools (no they weren’t) are so beautifully seductive to both hack and reader; the journalist can make up all the lies he wants and never risk litigation, the reader can further convince himself that the world is indeed going (or has gone) mad.

Some indication of the magnitude of the reservoir of spurious health and safety stories is apparent in the numbers of them published in the papers whose very existences, it would seem, depend on the lies of tabloid journalists. These stories are oxygen for The Daily Mail and The Telegraph. Searching their sites you get the following results:

“health and safety” in Daily Mail = 4738

“elf ‘n’ safety” in Daily Mail = 140*

“health and safety” in Telegraph = 6360

The latest one to emerge is that you’ll face prosecution for clearing the snow outside your home. Another risible lie, but a myth which has had the momentum to carry it abroad. People in Ireland actually believe this shibboleth too. Nothing to do with the Irish Daily Mail, would it?

*Richard Littlejohn coined the term ‘elf ‘n’ safety’. He is arguably the most strident critic writing about the HSE and its fascist agenda, which he does from his home in Florida.