Health and safety: don’t feed the gulls

During a recent trip to London Zoo I wandered past a sign advising against “feeding the lions”. Fair enough, I thought, I’ll keep the king of the jungle at arms’ length. Now, had the sign warned against feeding seagulls, my response might have been different.

But should it be? Members of the public in one town encountered a similar sign on their travels. In this instance, the town council urged them: “Please do not feed the gulls. In the interests of health and safety please do not encourage these birds. They may look pretty but can be very aggressive and could easily hurt people, especially small children. Thank you for your co-operation.”

The question remains therefore as to whether such signage is a reasonable use of health and safety. Cut to the Health and Safety Executive’s myth buster panel.

Who you gonna call? Safety mythbusters

The Health and Safety Executive’s myth panel was quickly on the case. Gull feeding was quickly ascertained to not be an occupational safety and health issue. Even so, the panel found that the council did take “reasonable steps” to protect the public.

Deterring people from feeding seagulls, concludes the panel, is in the “interests of public safety and health”.

“They scavenge food from a number of sources which may present public health risks and can be aggressive. The panel does not consider this notice to be an unreasonable use of the term ‘health and safety’ because it did not imply there was any form of regulation in place.”

So what do you think? Next time you’re about to toss a chip in the direction of a seagull, will you think twice?

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