The council and contractors have in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire have traditionally put Christmas trees on ledges over shop fronts and above the market hall. In October 2008 it was announced that this could no longer happen due to health and safety.’
There does not seem to be any suggestion that putting the trees up in 2008 would be any more dangerous than it had been in previous years. Instead, it was considered that using a ladder to provide access to the brackets would be illegal under the work at height regulations.
Reporting the Story
The South Wales Guardian first reported the story on 29 October 2008 in an article titled “The World has gone a bit mad.” It suggests that “killjoy rules state all trees above a certain height must be erected with scaffolding and a mobile platform.” However, it also says that the “goodwill gesture has been strangled by health and safety red tape because members can no longer carry out the task as they are not covered by insurance.”
An article appeared on the BBC News website on 1 November 2008, and even included videoed interviews from the town. This reported pretty much the same, but included a quote from the Deputy Mayor who said the council “cannot afford to pay for scaffolding or hire a cherry-picker to conform to the requirements.”
Is this seriously silly?
According to the HSE “On average 13 people a year die at work falling from ladders and nearly 1200 suffer major injuries. More than a quarter of falls happen from ladders.” So there was definitely some risk involved. In this case the heights did not appear to be great, but a Christmas tress could be quite awkward to handle up a ladder so making a fall more likely. However, it is not clear whether it was really the safety rules causing the problem, or whether it was insurance or simply cost that was the issue.
Should this event have gone ahead?
It is quite a surprise that the Council did not have access to a suitable access device. And, a quick look at a hire company website suggests some form of platform could have been hired for less than £100.
In fact, according to an article in the South Wales Guardian on 3 December 2008 the trees were put up using ladders. But before doing this “I” bolts were installed that allowed the ladder to be lashed into place. This was following advice from Access International , who deserve credit for shows there was a simple, sensible and safe solution in this case.