From the TUC

High heels: Lies, damned lies and politics

18 Apr 2012, By

It is always said that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and while we might expect that of some tabloids, what about when it is politicians? Today the health and safety Minister, Chris Grayling is making a speech to the Policy Exchange where it’s reported he will say:

“It baffles me that at a time when we face a huge jobs challenge across Europe, that someone thinks it is sensible for the EU to be spending time legislating to ban high-heeled shoes in a hairdressers.”

Now the implication of this is that the EU is planning legislation on this. Well that is news to me, and it is news to the European Commission.

What is happening is that discussions are taking place between the employers’ and workers’ representatives at European level through the organisations Coiffure EU and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty over proposals that they want to put to the European Commission on improving the appalling occupational health issues in this industry. So what we have is employers asking for minimum standards to protect their staff. Pretty responsible I would say.

These proposals have not gone to the Commission yet and there is no suggestion from them that they plan any kind of legislation. Also the proposals do not mention high heels. They do mention preventing skin disorders, musculoskeletal diseases and the needs of pregnant workers. Having read the proposals they make some genuinely positive proposals around issues like substituting dangerous chemicals and protective equipment. The nearest it gets to high heels is a suggestion that:

“Workers shall wear suitable clothes for their activities or workwear clothing and, in particular, shoes with non-slip soles.”

I first saw this story when it appeared in the Daily Mail last week. It also got picked up by The Sun. That was when I decided to check it out and within five minutes found out it was rubbish. Now you would have thought that the Health and Safety Minister, with a whole Government department at his disposal could have done the same. In fact you would have thought that, as health and safety minister, he would have known what legislation was currently being considered by the European Commission, so either he has not got a clue what is going on in his own area, or he know that this story was just made up by the tabloid press yet decided to run with it anyway.

I am not sure which is worse.

At a time when we are seeing huge attacks on health and safety in the media, and when workers are facing increased risks and pressures in the workplace we need a minister who is going to stand up for the area he is meant to be protecting. I have no problem with politicians, or anyone else criticising stupid decisions when they happen, but they also have a responsibility to take on the press when they make up these stories as a form of entertainment.

The problem is not that health and safety has gone mad, it is that employers are able to destroy the health of their workers with impunity because those who are meant to be protecting us are no longer willing to stand up for us. As a result, when sensible groups of employers, like those in hairdressing, are prepared to put their head above the parapet and say that they want to do something about it they will be far less likely to do so in the future for fear of getting ridiculed.

8 Responses to High heels: Lies, damned lies and politics

  1. Simon Reed
    Apr 18th 2012, 4:24 pm

    This has nothing to do with the the truth, and how good health and safety is a significant benefit to the UK, it is about what clueless politicians are told by their lobbyists friends. Bad health and Safety currently costs UK PLc. approx £20bn every year, when is the governemtn going to apply thier budget reduction strategy to this figure. Cutting Health and Safety will only add to this unreported/misreported figure.

    I remember sometime ago that when the Physical Agents Directive was first being talked about in 2004/05, the tabloid press were trying to create hysteria, I recall a headline in The Sun “Europe – the end to the busty barmaids” the article went on to state nothing about what this important directive was trying to achieve across Europe, the rheteric was based upon “it would be against the law for barmaids to show their bust in the sunshine”.

  2. Bob Pointer
    Apr 19th 2012, 8:14 am

    Once more we see the mis information that comes from certain sections of the press relating to H&S. There is a complete lack of understanding of the real issues in todays workplace.
    Instead of the “elf and safety gone mad ” headlines written from the benefit of a comfortable workstation with all the welfare benefits and facilities to hand, all of which that they enjoy are covered by the H&S regulations they need to address the real problems of industrial disease and injuries which plaque many.

  3. Ian Lawther
    Apr 19th 2012, 8:41 am

    What’s so frustrating is that the people who are trading this on here are not the people who need to see this.
    These stories need to be out in the mainstream to dispel the claptrap perpetrated by the gutter press!

  4. Ian Lawther
    Apr 19th 2012, 8:46 am

    Don’t you just love the auto correct (spell) feature on smart! phones.
    Obviously people are not “trading” things on here. We are reading!

  5. Graham Allen
    Apr 19th 2012, 3:42 pm

    Someone ought to make sure that this story lands in the QI’s researcher’s intray, S Fry bless him gets quite worked up about the right wing press’s Euro b*locks

  6. John Battye
    Apr 23rd 2012, 9:09 am

    Oh well, I have to admit defeat

    Lets pull out of Europe, then our second rate press will have nothing to report and hopefully we can see “rags” like the Sun & Mail go out of business

    I know its a high price to pay, but this poor journalism is costing lives of decent working people

  7. Paul Bright
    Apr 23rd 2012, 12:17 pm

    ThIs ConDem regime (that was never properly elected) is a massive risk to the UK.
    RMT member station staff have been got rid of so there will be no defence on the
    front line against terrorist attacks. Muggers and criminals increasingly rule the
    railway. The biggest criminal is the Al Cameron network rail which skimps on
    Maintenance, taking massive risks with the lives of passengers. In the Gulf
    the UK is now on the terrorist side, using known Al Qaeda terrorists to fight
    in Libya and Syria. In Bahrain, a Brutal dictatorship, Cameron says all is OK
    and F1 is OK too, many jobs etc. What a nonsense. This is NOT OK. The
    ConDem regime is exporting deadly weapons to terrorist backing states
    and is taking massive risks with Londoners’ lives. Stop Bin Boris Laden:

  8. High heels: Lies, damned lies and politics « UNITE – NASUWT staff branch
    Apr 25th 2012, 10:11 am

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