I've said many times that I don't entirely blame the press for publicising ridiculous health and safety stories.
Most often, they are merely reporting when a convenient excuse has been trotted out by someone to avoid having to answer for an unpopular decision, or when someone has decided on a ridiculous interpretation of perfectly reasonable rules. The press coverage plays an important role in helping us to get these jobsworths and other would-be petty minded people to change their behaviour.
However, there are occasions where the press can play the 'elf n safety' card unnecessarily. One case in point was a story I saw reported last week in which a lady who went to hospital for tests was advised not to bring young children to the hospital with her.
The hospital has very good reasons for this advice - namely that the tests to be carried out required a long period of fasting beforehand - and in the hospital's considerable experience this can lead to people fainting while the tests are being done as it concerns the withdrawal of blood.
The tests also require the patient to sit still for two hours - extremely difficult to do if a small child is demanding attention. Most of us would recognise that the advice given by the hospital is sound. Seeing mum faint would be distressing for small children to witness, and even worse being in the arms of someone who faints, so it is surely much better - common sense in fact - to leave the kids at home with someone else.
One of the tabloids conspired to turn this into a story where the lady in question was banned from breastfeeding on the grounds of 'elf n safety'.
In this case, never was the saying 'why let the facts get in the way of a good story' more appropriate.
Myth Busters is doing an outstanding job in exposing jobsworths who claim there are health and safety restrictions where there are none, and we really appreciate the role the media play in helping us to root out those silly cases. But let's not inflate the problem by turning perfectly sensible practical advice into a mythical health and safety story.
For more views from HSE's Chair go to www.hse.gov.uk/news/judith-risk-assessment/