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Bubble Ban At Parties: Safety Myths Exposed


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said over 150 cases were reported to a panel it set up in 2012 to target “jobsworths” who use safety laws as a ruse to ban legitimate activities.

Example Cases

  • Bars refusing to serve pints in glasses with a handle
  • A hotel saying they could not serve burgers rare
  • Toothpicks removed from a restaurant
  • Shredded paper banned from a school fete
  • A birthday party venue which refused to use a bubble machine
  • A hotel chambermaid could not make up a cot bed for a couple’s son because of health and safety regulations

What does the HSE say?

Judith Hackitt, who chairs the HSE, said:

“We never cease to be amazed by the cases we consider.  Why on Earth do people think that they can get away with banning pint glasses with handles, bubbles at a birthday party, or burgers served anything other than well done, claiming they are a health and safety hazard?  The reality is that people hide behind health and safety when there are other reasons for what they’re doing – fear of being sued perhaps, or bad customer service.  It’s time for them to own up to their real motives.

“The sad fact is that while all this nonsense is being spouted, it overshadows what health and safety is really about – ensuring people return home without injury from their day’s work, every day.”

What Does The Law Say?

Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957, the occupier of a Property which has invited visitors in (such as a pub, restaurant, shopping centre, etc) has a common duty of care to:

 “take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that visitors will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted to be there.”

What is Reasonable?

‘Reasonableness’ is the underlying theme and takes into account the following circumstances when evaluating reasonableness:

  1. The purpose of the visit
  2. Whether the visitor was an adult or child
  3. The Occupier’s knowledge
  4. Lighting
  5. Warnings
  6. Difficulty of removing the danger
  7. Expense of removing the danger

Are you protected if you put up Warning Signs?

Under s2(4) Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957:

 “where damage is caused to a visitor by a danger of which he had been warned by the occupier, the warning is not to be treated as absolving the occupier from liability, unless in all the circumstances it was enough to enable the visitor to be reasonably safe.”

If there is an understood warning it does not preclude someone making a claim but it will be taken into account by the Court along with such things as:

  1. How serious was the danger
  2. How specific was the warning
  3. Where the warning was placed (too high, too distant, etc)
  4. The tone and import of the warning (eg, oral warnings given casually may not suffice)
  5. Was the warning sufficient to enable the visitor to be reasonably safe

Do You Want To Know More?

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