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Elfin safety gone mad...including a ban on dog classes in North Lanarkshire, frilly socks and wooden canes

A BAN on dog shows and training classes on council premises has been included in an official list of health and safety blunders.

North Lanarkshire Council was heavily criticised when it stopped local dog clubs using its schools or community facilities.

Councillors backed the ban after hearing claims the pets had damaged new gym halls and could spread allergies among children.

The decision left dogs groups furious and they launched protests and rallies, and now new guidelines issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has cited it as an example of over-zealous officials wrongly imposing sanctions.

The minister responsible for health and safety, Mike Penning, has now written to councils and schools across the UK on issues ranging from a ban on Help for Heroes wristbands to a refusal to clear dog mess in a playground.

He said: "Enough is enough. Health and safety has long been used as a smoke screen by jobsworths who have little knowledge of the law and who want to fob people off with an easy excuse.

"I want all councils and schools to take advantage of this advice from the HSE to make sure we get the right balance in the future."

North Lanarkshire Council's Learning and Leisure Services Committee voted to stop letting out their facilities to dog groups in March last year.

Margaret Wotherspoon, ­secretary of the Lanarkshire Road Safety Dog Training Council, said it was an example of "health and safety gone mad". She added: "Now the HSE have said it's bonkers, that will give clubs ammunition when going into meetings about letting halls."

In April 2012 the HSE set up a Myth Busters Challenge Panel to encourage people to challenge daft decisions made in the name of health and safety. It deals with more than 100 cases a year combating senseless safety excuses.

Charlotte Mullen, 24 , of Hamilton, reported North Lanarkshire to the panel over the dog issue. She said: "They replied saying that the council should use common sense on an issue such as this. They even said there are no health and safety regulations that mean dogs shouldn't be brought into these halls. It would be nice if the council was truthful about the reason they wanted us out, instead of hiding behind health and safety."

Other examples of health and safety gaffes include a school in Hampshire stopping a pupil bringing in a baby chick due to concerns about spreading bird flu.

A school in Gloucester banned girls from wearing frilly socks in case they tripped over, and a borough council in Derbyshire ordered wooden canes protecting daffodil bulbs to be removed in case someone tripped and fell in the flower bed.

Judith Hackitt, chairwoman of the HSE, said: "I would urge all decision-makers to take a step back and ask themselves whether a decision made in the name of health and safety is actually just an excuse for something else.

"Real health and safety is about protecting people in the workplace from life- and health-threatening risks - it is not about stopping a child taking a baby chick into school or banning indoor dog training. Own up to the real reasons behind the decision, don't just reach for the easiest excuse."

North Lanarkshire defended its stance. A spokesman for Culture NL, which runs community and school halls on behalf of the council, saying: "There was never a blanket ban on dog shows in our facilities. However, we do not allow such activities to take place in our facilities where children might be using them afterwards. For example, in school halls where dog training might take place one night and toddlers would be crawling over floors the following morning.

"We do not think our young people's health is something for a flippant press release."

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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