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April 18, 2012

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Grayling narrowly avoids falling into own myths trap

Employment minister Chris Grayling chose a conference held today (18 April) on the future of the labour market to publicise the new Myth Busters Challenge Panel – and just managed to avoid making a slip-up of his own.

Speaking at the event held by Policy Exchange – the centre-right political think tank – Mr Grayling drove home the need to reduce red tape and regulation that stifles jobs.

In a version of the speech seen by SHP a few hours before he took to the stage, the minister hit out at officials in Brussels, saying: “It baffles me that, at a time when we face a huge jobs challenge across Europe, someone thinks it is sensible for the EU to be spending time legislating to ban high-heeled shoes in a hairdressers. Don’t they understand that more and more red tape drives more jobs to emerging countries, and away from Europe?

“Creating new jobs should be absolutely at the top of the priority list for the EU and for any government in Europe. Any measure that damages employment in Europe should be set to one side. We cannot afford to do otherwise.”

The reference to the apparent ban on hairdressers wearing high-heeled shoes in salons relates to a draft European framework agreement on the protection of occupational health and safety in the sector, expected to be signed next week between the European sector employers’ organisation, Coiffure EU, and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty, a union for hairdressers.

However, the specific mention of high-heeled shoes was wiped from the speech at the last minute – with Mr Grayling instead making a more general reference to “someone in the EU machine thinking it is sensible for it to be spending time legislating on rules in hairdressers”.

The European framework agreement, which can be viewed at fullfact.org – a website that claims to promote accuracy in public debate – states the desire of both Coiffure EU and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty that the agreement become binding in EU member countries.

A section outlining specific protective measures at work includes a clause that “workers shall wear suitable clothes for their activities, or workwear clothing, and, in particular, shoes with non-slip soles”. Nowhere in the document does it specifically state that high-heeled shoes should be banned, although several reports in the national media made the assumption.

Had Mr Grayling not side-stepped the shoes reference, he would arguably have fallen foul of perpetuating exactly the sort of health and safety myths that the new Government-inspired Myth Busters Challenge Panel aims to debunk.

The minister recalled how, on a visit to a small engineering company, he was shown its health and safety paperwork, which he described as “18 inches-wide on the shelf”. Telling the audience that “before you blame the regulations, it’s worth checking,” Mr Grayling gave copies of the files to the HSE, which confirmed that 90 per cent of the information contained was totally unnecessary for the company concerned.

“It brought home to me just how important it is that business doesn’t just take what it is told at face value, and is ready to challenge if they think they’ve been ill-advised,” he said. “And we have to make sure that the right information is as simple and easy to obtain as possible.

“So we’re setting up, through the HSE, ‘challenge panels’ to help business get quick and easy advice when they fear they are being misled, so we can slay the myths that waste the time of our entrepreneurs.”

Complaints for the Myth Busters Challenge Panel can be sent via an online form on the HSE’s website.

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Andy
Andy
10 years ago

I agree with Grayling in this case (and that’s a rare thing).
By and large EU regulations are job specific, or hazard specific and try to regulate in too much detail giving absolute duties and setting absolute limits rather than creating a framework which protects people, they produce a set of black and white rules which make no sense in many companies.
Unfortunately it’s not enough for us to comply with UK law, we also have to comply with badly written EU regulations and directives.

Bob
Bob
10 years ago

Careful your sounding sexist.

I was accidently stood on by a women wearing heels, hurt like bloody hell.

Other chaps pay for that kind of thing, horses for courses I suppose.

Never felt the need for them myself. I digress. Completely lost the theme.

Bob
Bob
10 years ago

Remembered the theme now.

I hope the shelf is engineered for such imposed loading, could be catastrophic if it fell and hit a sub-commitee member.

MP`s talking about high heels, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

People in glass houses shoud`nt through stones comes to mind.

Filberton
Filberton
10 years ago

Rather than knocking H&S, surely ministers should support good works i.e. say that H&S does not stifle industry and does not ban but rather simply asks that reasonable consideration is given.If you check legislation, there is very little that is banned. The law simply says consider and make suitable & sufficient assessment. Most directives say “…you will….” not “you won’t”
Let’s be positive out there and avoid that “…sorry guv, …more than me job’s worth..!” approach

Gary
Gary
10 years ago

“18 inches wide on a shelf”!! How many other firms think they have ticked the H&S box by having their documents on a shelf. Yes we need paper work, but H&S is carried out as part of the job at the ‘coal face’ not sitting in folders on the bosses office. That my friends is the major problem with percieved H&S. Paper work to “protect you” sorry, doesn’t work that way.

Googs1
Googs1
10 years ago

This is typical Grayling rhetoric i.e. opening his mouth and letting his belly rumble. I cannot see how hairdressers jobs will be lost to emerging economies! Although I have heard of Posh and Becks having thier hairdresser flown out from the UK to LA. Grayling’s neo-liberal right wing agenda aparent clouds the real issues. There is aneed for balanced effective legislation however at least take the time to find a relavant illustration. Furthermore make the EU states actually enforce existing law.

Maxbancroft
Maxbancroft
10 years ago

I would have thought that suggesting non-slip shoes comes under the heading of common-sense advice? And we’re all in favour of common sense, aren’t we?

Neale
Neale
10 years ago

{Well I’d say this reaction exemplifies the problem presented by loonydonistic luvvies using H&S excesses to advance their own otherwise vacuous vitae} @NEALETHOMASnet

Nigel
Nigel
10 years ago

Once again; government daily wail rhetoric style. It’s worker’s memorial day on 28 April. He should focus on that and also on our successful high tech exports such as satalites and CPUs for mobile phones – instead of whinging about red-tape and H&S laws. It was the Tories who dismantelled british industry under Thatcher. Don’t blame H&S. Also to focus on high-healed shoes seems a bit suspect to me – a foot fetish perhaps?

Nigel
Nigel
10 years ago

I agree but I think the implication is the paperwork is a waste of time. Paperwork and practice are not mutually exclusive. You need both. I don’t know the details of the engineering firm but 18″ – I guess that would be about 5 lever arch files. One could be a H&S manual, another full of COSHH data sheets, may be another containing inspection and servicing records, another full of Permit to Work certificates, and another full of risk assessmets and procedures.

Percy
Percy
10 years ago

I have no problem with ladies wearing high heels to work. The problem arises when they do so, go over on them, and then claim against the company. Similarly with wearing flip flops, dropping a packet of paper on their foot, breaking a toe, and then claim that it is the companies fault for doing so.
People have to take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences of them. The trouble is they don’t. “Where there is blame there is a claim” is correct, but often the blame is theirs.

Pike
Pike
10 years ago

“Creating new jobs should be absolutely at the top of the priority list for the EU and for any government in Europe. Any measure that damages employment in Europe should be set to one side. We cannot afford to do otherwise.”

This statement says it all, top priority above any safety consideration, any injury or fatality.

To be honest if a manager in a workplace other than a brothel allows people to wear high heeled shoes (no common sense) then they need someone to tell them it’s stupid.

Thehills12
Thehills12
10 years ago

Perhaps Mr Grayling could look at deleting lots of picky regulations which are inflicted om motorists every day by unaccountable officers seeking to gain profit for the fines levied which seem inappropriate to the driver of motor vehicles??
If Mr Grayling wanted to honestly remove excessive bureaucracy, perhaps eliminaiting the many extra `crats put in place by his govt since 2010?

Thehills12
Thehills12
10 years ago

agree Andy N

Vermaport
Vermaport
10 years ago

Percy, I totally agree – it’s about the claims and the blame culture. The majority of the faults lie within the insurance companies paying out on stupid claims and judges/lawyers not throwing the claims out immediately. It’s always easier for them to get the insurance company to pay.