Hard as it is to accept, in this case it looks like Drayton Manor Theme Park did the right thing in discouraging the thrill seeking of one of its customers.

Surely a part of all of us feels sorry for this admirable lady who wished to ride the Stormforce 10 to celebrate her 90th birthday. William Bryce, the park’s managing director, certainly seemed to as he said, “we wanted to do everything we could to give her a memorable day”. They directed her instead to a more leisurely ride on a pleasure boat, and Mr Bryce’s father (the CEO) joined her. They also provided champagne and a meal for the whole family. No, it’s not what she queued for ages for, but it shows compassion.

And it also shows a legitimate concern for health and safety. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said how often height is a cause for injury at work, and it has reported on a roofer being fined for unsafe practices in not using scaffolding; the HSE was concerned both with the danger to others, for example if loose tiles fell, and the danger to himself. In this case, Drayton Manor’s specific concern was that if the ride broke down it would have been necessary to walk down 50 steps. Ms Joyce protests that she could have managed it. I have no reason to doubt her, but the park was justified in not simply accepting all her assertions – there was a legitimate risk to Ms Joyce as well to other punters out for a fun day.

Everyone agrees that that health and safety is important. On the other hand, no one wants to be portrayed as the party pooper who prevents people from having fun. There is sometimes a fine line to be drawn, which is why health and safety legislation has developed and why the HSE provides guidance to assist employers and other people in position of responsibility. Some of its guidance is quite general, like on completing a risk assessment, and some is more specific like addressing asbestos risk. They are not always on the side of excessive risk control – I recently reported on their mockery of a supermarket that did not allow a customer to take a packet of fruit bread away cold to toast at home. Health and safety advice is also available on elXtr, for example our advice on risk assessments.

I hope that the daredevil Ms Joyce enjoys far more fun during a long life. Perhaps next year she’ll return with proof of her athletic prowess so that Drayton Manor might have second thoughts about doubting her assertions. In the meantime, a glass of champagne never hurt anyone. Happy birthday!

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