HSE blasts school tree felling decision

The Health and Safety Executive has criticised schools that “hide behind non-existent” healthy and safety regulations, after a primary school was given the green light to fell a 150-year old chestnut true.

St John’s Primary School in Knaphill, Surrey, won the right to cut down the 18-metre high tree, following a meeting of Woking Borough Council’s planning committee last month when a proposed tree preservation order was rejected.

Headteacher’s claims

The committee reports show that the school’s headteacher, Sarah May, had written to the councillors, objecting to the order, partly on the grounds of health and safety.

According to the committee report, Ms May said area surrounding the tree has to be closed to the removal fallen chestnuts in order to “ensure the health and safety of the children”.

And her letter also warned leafs from the tree cause a “slip hazard if left on the ground” and bird droppings have caused “an impact on the provision for children within the play area”.

HSE comment

But commenting on the issue, a spokesperson for the HSE said: “It seems school and councils still regularly hide behind non-existent health and safety regulations to excuse all kinds of questionable decisions. “Through initiatives like Mythbusters, the public are increasingly aware that health and safety is simply used as a catch all phrase in these cases, and people who make these decisions increasingly open themselves up to ridicule.

“Here at HSE, we like to think that chestnuts have fallen from trees for millennia and leaves do indeed get wet and slippery, it is nature, and is likely continue for some time yet! However, while it is nature, it certainly isn’t health and safety, which is a set of laws designed to prevent death, serious injury and ill-health in the workplace, not eradicate any risk at all from people’s lives.”

HSE Mythbusters

The HSE’s Mythbusters Challenge Panel has been set up to assess whether sensible decisions have been made in the name of health and safety.

To contact the panel, click here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/myth-busting.htm