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Health and Safety: The apple of The Mail’s eye

October 29, 2010

A new health and safety headline caught my eye on The Mail site today (and after I’d read the article, I realised if I had been wearing goggles my eye would never have been caught, and I could have avoided a nasty injury that has seriously affected my indignation). It said, Halloween health and safety horror: ‘remove the stalks and wear goggles’ before you go apple bobbing.  The story has been changed today, and been promoted from a generic Daily Mail Reporter piece to one with a named author, Jaya Narain (you can see the difference between the first and second versions here and here).  The second version opens with these words:

Most sensible people consider it a jolly Halloween tradition that poses a danger no graver than getting a squirt of water up your nose.

But now apple bobbing has fallen foul of the health and safety police – with participants advised to wear goggles, remove stalks and use bottled water.

Imagine that.  The health and safety police, raiding hallowe’en parties across the land, waving their badges as they frighten the children and shout, “Put the apple down!  Nobody needs to get hurt!”  Madness.

The key quote in this article, attributed to consultant opthalmologist, Parwez Hossain of the Southampton University Hospitals Trust,  is as follows:

Where there is a chance of a high-velocity impact, for example with an apple, you need to wear eye protection such as goggles.

‘It is also advisable to remove stalks because they could poke you in the eye, especially in the dark.

I have, so far, been unable to locate this particular piece of advice anywhere other than The Mail and The Sun websites.  The Sun ran with the rather charming headline, Fruit ‘n’ nuts, but doesn’t really add anything to The Mail story apart from a few emboldened capitals on words such as BLINDED, HANDS and MINERAL, presumably because these words have added shock value.

After receiving a tip from Atomic Spin about the Telegraph’s coverage of the same story, which contained no mention of goggles or stalk removal, I went looking for more information.  I found stories similar to The Telegraph’s on the Southampton University Hospitals Trust website (who appear to be at the centre of this storm, if The Mail is to be believed, and whose post has the earliest date), and the Press Association (which, I would hazard a guess, is where the press versions originated).  None of them say anything about goggles or stalk removal.

There’s a couple more quotes in The Mail which I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.  Mr Hossain has been quoted as saying:

I would suggest using bottled water or boiling tap water and waiting for it to cool down, like we do for clinical trials. This is because stagnant water and tap water could contain waterborne organisms.

and:

It may defeat the whole object of the game, but you could remove the apple with your hand.

I really don’t know where these quotes have come from.  If anyone does, I’ll gladly update this post with the information.

None of this is really the point, though.  This is simply another example of The Mail’s hatred of anything they consider to be health and safety.  A consultant offered safety advice.  This was published on a hospital website with the intention of reducing injuries, and, by extension, visits to A&E, which, by further extension, would save the NHS time and money.  This is not a ‘Hallowe’en health and safety horror’ at all.  There won’t be any health and safety police bashing your door down and telling you to stop having fun.  Mr Hossain himself said:

We are not telling people to avoid fun and games, but we are asking people to take a bit of extra care while enjoying themselves at Hallowe’en to ensure they avoid an unwanted trip to hospital for treatment.

Strangely, that piece of information was included in the first version of The Mail story, but hacked out of the second one.  It is, however, still available to see on the Southampton University Hospitals Trust website.

I did learn that there’s an apple growers association called English Apples & Pears, who have acted in a Tax Payers Alliance capacity and provided a quote to The Mail.  The original, unadulterated quote has undergone some chopping too, but here it is in all it’s glory for you to enjoy.  Adrian Barlow said:

Like all activities, apple bobbing carries an element of risk but the risk here is minuscule. Health and safety can be taken too far and in this case it is ludicrous in the extreme.

‘I have never heard of anybody suffering an injury as a result of apple bobbing. It is a traditional English activity at this time of year and gives an enormous amount of pleasure to many people.

‘To suggest we should remove the stalks, wear goggles and use bottled water is utter rubbish. I would encourage everybody to get involved, using a good English apple.

Don’t worry, Adrian.  Nobody’s taking health and safety to extremes.  I can’t guarantee everyone will buy English apples for it, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of apple bobbing going on across the country on Hallowe’en.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 29, 2010 10:34 am

    I wouldn’t get too upset about this one – I would say its a clear case of a press office trying to get a story. The fact that the newspapers fell for it is more pathetic even than the content.

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