Crazy health and safety laws exposed, from bubbles banned at party to burgers that could only be cooked well done

From bubbles banned at a birthday party to toothpicks that were too dangerous for a restaurant, health and safety laws are getting ever more extravagant.

A panel of experts set up by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to expose barmy excuses being used by organisations to stop them being sued has clocked up 150 cases in its first year, helping the public fight back against jobsworths who use safety laws as a convenient way to ban legitimate activities.

Other examples of bogus laws included the restaurant refusing to serve burgers that were cooked rare, the school fete that banned shredded paper from a lucky dip stall and the hotel that would not let a chamber maid make up a cot bed.

The panel has had some success in overturning some of the decisions because after it ruled that banning bubbles form a children's birthday party was "health and safety humbug" the venue hosting the event backed down and let the bubbles blow.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt, who heads up the team of experts, has called for those who come up with bizarre safety laws to own up to their real motives.

"We never cease to be amazed by the cases we consider," she said. "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."

She added that all the "nonsense being spouted" overshadows what health and safety is really about - ensuring people return home without injury from their day's work, every day.

"We're helping people to fight back - and I'm delighted to hear of cases of our panel making jobsworths back down and admit they're wrong."

Employment minister Mark Hoban, who has the Government portfolio for health and safety, said: "I despair when I read cases like these. Health and safety is there to protect people from serious risks, not to be abused by jobsworths who stop people getting on with their lives."

Copyright Press Association 2013