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Mountains must display height warning signs for climbers

March 24th, 2004



‘High up’ signs on mountains row
A Euro MP claims new EU laws to prevent falls at work will mean UK mountain pursuits centres having to warn people that they are “high up”… Welsh Tory MEP Jonathan Evans said…“This is madness – most people know that when they climb a mountain they will be up high!”
(BBC News Online, 22 March 2004)

Twit peaks – Signs warn climbers: Careful, you’ll fall off
Warning signs are to be put on mountains to let climbers know they are high up.  A bizarre new law from Eurocrats is intended to prevent people falling on building sites.  But the result is that mountaineers may also have to be warned they are at risk of tumbling off.
(Daily Star, 24 March 2004, page 12)

Going climbing? Better use scaffolding, says EU
Climbers may have to swap ropes for scaffolding and mountain walkers may have to negotiate warning signs telling them that snow is slippery, according to Brussels-inspired safety regulations.  The Temporary Work at Height Directive is aimed at protecting workers such as window cleaners and builders but leading figures in the outdoor sports industry warned yesterday it was being applied wrongly and could drive them out of business.
(Daily Telegraph, 26 March 2004, page 1)

Climbers to be told: Snow is slippery
Bizarre new EU safety regulations say climbers must swap ropes for scaffolding, while mountain paths will feature signs warning “Snow is slippery”.
(Evening Standard, 26 March 2004, page 20)

Sixty-eight people were killed by falls while working at height in the UK in 2002.  The BBC did not let this stand in the way of constructing a tabloid-style eurosceptic “row” which was rapidly followed up by the press.  There is no row over height signs on mountains because no such requirement exists.  When this was pointed out to the BBC, the retort was that because the claim had been made by an MEP that was sufficient to run the story.  How far-fetched does a claim have to be before it is considered worth checking?   
An EU directive aimed at protecting those who work at height, such as builders, comes into force in July of this year.  It was agreed by the European Parliament and member state governments in 2001, and aims to reduce the number of workplace fatalities due to falls.  The rules do not require “high up” signs on mountains or for climbers to use scaffolding.   They will also not see the advent of “Snow is slippery” warnings. 
As a directive, the rules have to be implemented into UK law, and this is being done by the Health and Safety Executive.   Even the most cursory of glances at the HSE’s draft proposals would have told journalists, or indeed MEPs, that notions of “high up” signs on mountains were fanciful.

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