Royal Mail made cycle helmets compulsory for all its 37 000 cycling workers in October after a vote by 65 officials from the Communication Workers’ Union. The rule was implemented despite there being no UK law obliging cyclists to wear helmets, and no Health and Safety Executive requirement for cycle helmets to be used by UK employees.
Since Royal Mail implemented its decision, one worker has been sacked for not wearing a cycle helmet.
CTC believes Royal Mail may have acted on "inaccurate and incomplete advice" in adopting this rule.
Roger Geffen, CTC's mampaigns and policy manager, said:
“The reasons why Royal Mail backed this new rule may have been well-intentioned, but we believe they are deeply misguided. CTC is not ‘anti-helmet’, but for both practical and legal reasons we believe Royal Mail would be better advised to make helmets available, allowing postal workers to decide whether or not to wear them on the basis of balanced advice about their benefits and limitations.”
The Health and Safety Executive's position is:
“Cycle helmets used on the public highway are specifically excluded from the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at work regulations. This means that it would be very hard for an employer to force an employee to wear a cycle helmet on health and safety grounds. HSE has no remit to dictate the uniform policy of a company unless it falls within the scope of PPE. Ultimately, the wearing of cycle helmets is a matter of individual choice, any stance to the contrary could potentially be challenged on human rights grounds. With regards to the use of cycle helmets on the public roads by members of the public, this is a policy area that falls totally within the remit of the Department for Transport.”
The CTC believes that pressure to make cyclists wear helmets is misguided for the following reasons:
Cycling is healthy: People who cycle regularly have lower incidences of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, obesity and mental health problems. Regular cyclists are as fit as someone ten years younger, and can expect to live 2 years longer, than the average.
Cycling gets safer the more people do it: Within the EU, countries with the highest cycle use have the lowest rates of cyclist fatalities.
Pressure to wear helmets reduces cycling, without improving cyclists' safety: The effect of helmet laws or promotion campaigns has always been to reduce cycle use thereby eroding its health and other benefits. The British Medical Association opposes compulsory helmet laws for this very reason. At the same time, increased helmet wearing has never been linked to improved safety for cyclists – indeed, in some cases the situation has actually worsened.
Why not helmets for other road users? Helmets for drivers, passengers and pedestrians could save 12.5 times as many lives as cycle helmets.
Good cycling countries don’t promote helmets: In countries which have achieved much higher levels of cycle use than Great Britain, helmet wearing outside cycle sport is very low.
A more detailed briefing on helmet promotion can be downloaded from http://www.ctc.org.uk/.../HELMETS.aspx
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