The dangers of hanging baskets: 'Regulatory myths' and media representations of health and safety regulation
Almond, P. (2009) The dangers of hanging baskets: 'Regulatory myths' and media representations of health and safety regulation. Journal of Law and Society, 36 (3). pp. 352-375. ISSN 0263-323X
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6478.2009.00471.x
The successful enforcement of health and safety regulation is reliant upon the ability of regulatory agencies to demonstrate the legitimacy of the system of regulatory controls. While 'big cases' are central to this process, there are also significant legitimatory implications associated with 'minor' cases, including media-reported tales of pettiness and heavy-handedness in the interpretation and enforcement of the law. The popular media regularly report stories of 'regulatory unreasonableness', and they can pass quickly into mainstream public knowledge. A story's appeal becomes more important than its factual veracity; they are a form of 'regulatory myth'. This paper discusses the implications of regulatory myths for health and safety regulators, and analyses their challenges for regulators, paying particular attention to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has made concerted efforts to address regulatory myths attaching to its activities. It will be shown that such stories constitute sustained normative challenges to the legitimacy of the regulator, and political challenges to the burgeoning regulatory state, because they reflect some of the key concerns of late-modern society.