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Written by
on 10 December 2018


The annual Christmas elf n safety madness is in full swing. Here’s our favourite ridiculous stories this year.

The first week of the new academic year, and the month of December have one thing in common – elf n safety. Historically the end of the year is fairly slow news-wise so journalists struggle to fill column inches. This year the Brexit fallout has reached fever pitch – but old habits die hard and the seasonal spectre of elf n safety has already raised its head.

Here are two of the weirdest stories we’ve seen so far this year.

Sainsbury’s ad investigated by watchdog

Television adverts come under all manner of criticism, with some attracting hundreds of complaints from viewers. Some complaints are perfectly justifiable and result in adverts being taken off the air.

Some are just downright odd.

Sainsbury’s new ad features a boy dressed as a plug on an appliance. Imaginatively nicknamed “Plug Boy”, at one point the character jumps into a giant wall socket.

Despite being relatively innocuous, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has received 35 complaints from UK viewers. These objections focus on fears that children may try to emulate Plug Boy, inserting themselves into sockets.

The ASA is yet to announce whether the complaints will be upheld. As news about the objections spread, responses have been strong. Most seem to suggest that children inserting themselves into plug sockets is unlikely – especially as no home has one of this scale at home. Instead, counter-objectors believe that children can be taught (quite easily) to not touch sockets.

Upton Town Council bans Christmas lights

It wouldn’t be Christmas without one local council banning something on health and safety grounds. This year that dubious honour goes to Upton Town Council who have banned the town’s Christmas tree because of concerns that people may become entangled in the lights.

The tree, a traditional feature of Upton High Street in December, would be installed near a bench – as it is every year. Council inspectors have objected this year, claiming the bench – and anyone sitting on it – would be too close to the cables powering the tree’s lights. As a result, people may become entangled.

Unsurprisingly, local people are upset, particularly as plans for an even more impressive tree have now had to be cancelled. The council has refused to issue a licence, and Upton town centre will be treeless for the first Christmas in years.

Obviously, entanglement in cables is dangerous, and the council is correct to assess the tree plans accordingly. But at the same time, risk assessments are intended to address genuine threats – those that really could become a reality.

As local people have commented to the press following the council’s decision – anyone choosing to sit on a bench outside in the middle of December should exercise personal judgement – simply paying attention to their surroundings should help to prevent any kind of entanglement.

Common sense

Risk assessments are supposed to balance common sense with real dangers. Unfortunately, Christmas elf n safety stories rarely contain either.

Perhaps next year assessors will finally allow the whole country to have some fun without making arbitrary – and silly – decisions.

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter and Linkedin.

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