Yet another health and safety story hits the headlines with budget airline easyJet placing impossibly tough restrictions on the carriage of disabled passenger’s motorised wheelchairs weighing over 60kg for health and safety reasons. A report by the charity Muscular Dystrophy Campaign found that thousands of disabled people were prevented from flying on their planes because of this weight restriction, which the company attributed to health and safety.

The British Safety Council believes health and safety laws should enable, not impede work and other lawful activities, such as going on holiday. They should not be used in a way that could discriminate against disabled adults or children in any aspect of their lives. It is important that a sensible balance is found and one that protects the health and safety of airline staff and enables disabled passengers to travel with the aids and equipment essential to their everyday lives. The British Safety Council calls on easyJet to look again at the operations that have to be performed in order to load electric wheelchairs safely and to properly assess whether additional mechanical lifting aids could be used without incurring disproportionate cost.

Neal Stone, British Safety Council head of policy and public affairs, said the guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive in support of the Manual Handling (Operations) Regulations 1992 identifies practical and safe alternatives to manual handling that would benefit disabled travellers and the business equally and comply with legal requirements: “It’s not beyond the wit of any airline to follow the lead of most carriers and come up with arrangements for transporting electric wheelchairs, including the use of additional mechanical assistance, that prevent injury to their baggage handlers and enables disabled passengers to use air travel facilities enjoyed by the rest of us.

“The British Safety Council urges all organisations to ensure they have the expertise and competence necessary in order that their working arrangements are safe and fully comply with health and safety law. Health and safety must continue to be a force for good rather than an excuse for stopping a whole range of reasonable activities.”