Tuesday 18th December : Release time immediate
Britain’s journalists must be provided with adequate safety equipment when covering dangerous stories, the Health and Safety Executive has ruled.
It means newspaper offices should provide items like hardened hats, stab-proof jackets and even armoured footwear to reporters and photographers – both staff and commissioned freelances – covering riots and other public disturbances, or when going into ‘sink’ estates where their safety may be threatened by unruly elements.
The ruling, given to the Chartered Institute of Journalists, is to be forwarded to the Newspaper Society and the Newspaper Publishers’ Association by the HSE at the request of the Institute.
It is a significant triumph for the Institute which launched a campaign and published a safety precautions brochure called ‘Revolting Britain’ earlier this year. The brochure, which gives advice to those covering stories where violence can be expected, has been widely distributed and some copies are still available from its head office.
The chairman of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board, Robin Morgan, said: “This is a very significant ruling that means journalists must be given as much personal protection as the police and other emergency services are given when they have to cover violent events. The Health and Safety Executive have made it very clear that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide this clothing, not only to their staff but also to freelances whom they commission to cover these events.
Dominic Cooper, the Institute’s general secretary said: “The Institute has been very concerned at the lack of care exhibited by some newspaper proprietors in safeguarding their journalists in dangerous situations. The most protection we have heard of in some offices is the presence of plastic hard hats – usually filched from a local building site.
“But this ruling makes it plain that hardened hats, stab-proof waistcoats and safety footwear have to be provided under the terms of the Health and Safety at Work legislation.
“The riots in Birmingham nearly two years ago demonstrated the potential dangers when several journalists were injured by flying bricks but the whole issue has been studiously ignored by the employers.
“We approached the Newspaper Society earlier this year and were met with supreme indifference. The NPS said frankly that it was not their responsibility to remind their members of their responsibilities in this direction. We hope individual employers will now take a more responsible attitude.”
Mr Morgan said: “We now want to see every newspaper office in the United Kingdom holding a stock of large, medium and small sizes of equipment, ready for use when trouble breaks out. It is part of a journalist’s job, in a democratic society, to report these events from as close to the scene as possible and we don’t want to see injuries sustained because a recalcitrant employer has been too stingy to invest in protective clothing. We are not saying that reporters and photographers have to be clothed like Robocops but good protection can be provided by equipment that looks like conventional attire and does not attract attention.”
Dominic Cooper, tel. 020 7252 1187, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chartered Institute of Journalists, 2 Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, London SE16 2XU. Website www.cioj.co.uk
Notes for Editors:
1. Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.