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on 18 February 2013
'Playing It Safe' is a collection of nearly 250 short press clippings compiled by journalist Alan Pearce. They paint a rather unflattering portrait of 'bureaucratic Britain' which may have you holding your sides with laughter, or your head in your hands with despair, according to your sense of humour (and, possibly, your age).

The cuttings have been gathered between 2000-2007 and come from a wide variety of sources . There's a good mix of articles from local and national tabloids and broadsheets and even some tales from Auntie Beeb herself. They are presented in one long stream, with no chapter breaks or any other headings. Without any natural pauses in the text, it's quite easy just to plough through the lot in one sitting, as I did. In spite of the cartoon image on the front cover, there are no other illustrations in the book.

The stories range widely in terms of subject matter. Ladders, conkers and Christmas decorations all feature heavily. Health and Safety Officers from local authorities are oft quoted. The town council of Bury St Edmunds is mentioned on more than one occasion! Overall, I didn't find the collection quite as side-splitting as some other reviewers did, but the story of Shenkin the goat's unfortunate incident at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff did cause a tear of mirth (no animals are harmed in the incident, before you ask). Another personal highlight was the tale of the shopping centre Santa who had to be given a hard hat after local kids threw mince pies at him.

Even in some of the more mundane accounts, there are some great quotes to be found. When Paul Hudson found that he could no longer take his pet iguana into the Metrocentre in Gateshead, his response was not entirely reassuring: "He is a nice animal. He could bite someone if he wanted to, but he wouldn't." There are also some feisty displays of righteous indignation, such as one pensioner's retort to concerns over distributing special napkins with meals-on-wheels: "To risk-assess a napkin is utterly ridiculous ..."

So, if you fancy a light-hearted look at life in modern Britain, you might like to give this a try. Downloading the Kindle version will, of course, reduce the risk of paper cuts whilst reading ...

This review refers to the Kindle edition of 'Playing It Safe: Crazy Stories from the World of Britain's Health and Safety Regulations'.

A note to Kindle users: I have found a number of typos in the Kindle edition, especially in the headings, which is a bit of a shame. The stories 'Losing Their Marbles' and 'Don't Eat The Napkins' have their headings the wrong way round, which is a bit confusing at first.
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on 23 November 2007
The book description claims this is "hilarious (all true, unfortunately) examples of Health and Safety gone mad." Well all it is is a trawl though the usual array of un-corroberated stories that have appreared in local papers and a few dubious websites. As a result it perpetuates myths like trapeze artists have been told to wear hard hats because the Daily Telegraph once reported that. This is despite the acceptance that this story is totally made up. In fact many of the stories are like this. Most of the others are actually nothing about health and safety simply about officials misunderstanding food hygience rules etc. I went through it looking for the promised stories of "health and safety gone mad" and all I found was a mixture of pretty boring press articles about people complaining about not being able to do something and then blaming "health and safty". Where are the stories of the Health and Safety Executive cracking down on all these poor employers for not having the right first aid box or whatever. They simply are not there. Why? Well perhaps it is because we do not live in a risk-averse society. If we did we would not have 2.2 million people suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by their work.
Nor do we have a "compensation culture" The book contains statements like how, after 1998 when the government introduced "no win - no fee" arrangements, "the floodgates opened". I am not sure how this squares with the steep fall in compensation claims in recent years, or the fact that 9 out of every 10 workers injured at work do not receive anything.
I guess this book will suit those who like their preconceptions pandered to and are not too concerned about accuracy.
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on 4 October 2013
Taking risk assessments is wise and sensible. But some results of "Health and Safety" regulations take all the fun out of life. If we do not take risks, we shall never achieve anything. Depending on what we are doing, those risks may be physical. Here are some of the almost unbelievable ones. Personally, I am waiting for football to be either played with a soft ball or for players to be required to wear helmets. And, of course, my local Sailing Club to sail on dry land: it avoids the risk of drowning!
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on 6 March 2013
A real insight into the crazy world of health and safety and jobs worths gone mad. From the sublime to the absolutely ridiculous. a book that you can read a couple of pages at a time and have something peculiarly interesting to tell your friends. I'm afraid if I was in the situation of some of the contributors I would probably have ended up inside for doing something illegal through sheer frustration at how petty people can be. I purchased the kindle version but now wish I had bought the hard copy to pass on and amuse somebody else. I can highly recommend this as something that should brighten your day.
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on 19 February 2013
I was really captivated by this book, and I laughed out loud at some of the completely ridiculous situations outlined in the blurb. I agree whole-heartedly that Health and Safety Regulations have gone quite mad. And yet I can see it from the other side two: Only yesterday, the electrician arrived to de-fur the blades of the extractor fan in the kitchen, which had filled with muck. He couldn't reach it, so the boy went to get a bicyle, but when the electrician stood up on the seat handle he still couldn't reach the fan, so he sent the boy to fetch a stool. The stool was perched on the cycle seat, the electrician climbed up, using cycle parts and stool struts to gain a foothold. After that he mounted the stool. The entire arrangement wobbled alarmingly, but a third person came to steady the base. The work was completed. Fetching a third guy was our level of Health and Safety.

We're in India, you see. We did well. I won't deny that I blanched and bawled, bawled and blanched, but they took scant notice. In England the act would have been totally unacceptable, and measures would have to be adopted, as they should, to a certain extent, here. Yet how far do you need to go? There's the the rub!

In UK we have gone way, way too far not only in Health and Safety regulations, but in political correctness too. There can hardly be a soul left whose life hasn't at some point been tarred by bureaucracy and petty rules. So the point of the book soon becomes its own problem. Every single clipping is headlined, (say) "!Senior Citizen Banned from Drinking Hot Tea!" - "An edict was issued yesterday by their chief Executive which prohibits Sillyville's Council Workers to serve tea above 65 deg C to senior to prevent accidents..." You could write your own at the drop of a hat. We have all been affected one way or another. What's good for an elevenses natter over a cuppa isn't necessarily good for a book.

After ten minutes of this my mind was tiring and I wasn't in the least surprised. The double exclamation marks amused me for a bit, but after a while they grew incredibly irritating. It's really bad typographically and stylistically to use them persistently.

An amusing try, but I really can't see anyone being entertained by this book for long.
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on 18 March 2013
Apart from a brief mention at the start of the book that many perceptions about health and safety, especially by the 'gone mad' supporters, tends to miss the point that most of the bad press is either by people incorrectly interpreting the legislation or by over zealous application. After a brief one liner to that effect the book is just a collection of news clippings from over the years from a variety of sources ranging from local press to national news.

In themselves the reports vary from mildly entertaining through to bewilderingly confusing. However there is no attempt in the book to provide some commentary about the reports - most are the usual newspaper sensationalism that conveniently avoids delving into the reasoning behind the actions. A person with no understanding of H&S legislation or the many who just believe that there isn't a need for it wouldn't have a problem with this book, however it is clear that many of the examples would suggest individuals misunderstanding the law. The examples don't even seem to follow any pattern; they are an almost random collection of clippings. Ultimately I found the repetition and the lack of relevant background tedious and had to abandon the book before I finished it.
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on 1 April 2013
This is as the title suggests a collection of random Health and Safety "stories". Personally I don't believe the majority of them are actually true stories. They seem to have been culled from the more sensational newspapers together with a degree of urban myth. However, that said, they are an amusing way to pass a tea break at work!
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on 7 March 2013
Sorry, but I was expecting up-to-date examples of Health and Safety gone mad. I should have read the small print more carefully. Most of the examples quoted date back to 2005 or thereabouts and, quite frankly, I found it rather boring and not at all humorous. I gave up on it about half-way through it. My apologies to the author.
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on 18 March 2013
Enjoyed reading this book but had to shake my head in exasperation with all these crazy rules and regulations. How did we ever live without these rules, I will never know!!! Found the book to be a bit repetitive at times, but still a good read
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on 17 March 2013
There are some good examples of "Health and Safety gone mad" here. I enjoyed it but found it easiest to read in small batches. I did laugh out loud on several occasions so that is, I suppose, a good recommendation.
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