Speaking at a conference on the future of the UK’s labour market on 18 April 2012, employment minister Chris Grayling took the opportunity to publicise the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Myth Busters Challenge Panel, and barely avoided launching a myth of his own.
Grayling’s speech underlined the government’s determination to reduce red tape and regulations which it maintains are slowing job creation in the UK. An early version of his speech was seen by Safety and Health Practitioner, the magazine published by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Heath (IOSH).
The earlier version had Grayling criticising European Union officials, 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 hairdresser’s. Don’t they understand that more and more red tape drives more jobs to emerging countries, and away from Europe?”
The reference to the ban on hairdressers wearing high-heeled shoes in salons relates to a draft European framework agreement on health and safety in hairdressing. It is expected to be signed in late April 2012 between the European sector employers’ organisation, Coiffure EU, and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty, a union for hairdressers.
But somone in Grayling’s office was on the ball, and erased the specific mention of high-heeled shoes shortly before the speech was delivered. It was a good call, because the draft framework includes a clause specifying that “workers shall wear suitable clothes for their activities, or workwear clothing, and, in particular, shoes with non-slip soles”. The document makes no mention of high-heeled shoes.
If Grayling had mentioned the high-heeled shoes example he would have been guilty of spreading exactly the sort of health and safety myth that the Myth Busters Panel aims to challenge.
The minister told the conference that the government supported the challenge panel because it would “… 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 Panel to look into can be submitted online via HSE’s website.