Mortarboard ban: Sorting fact from fiction

Over the last century, the much-loved tradition of throwing a mortarboard in the air in jubilation has played a big part in graduating and symbolising the start of a new chapter. Alas, this was reportedly banned by The University of East Anglia last month, who defended the decision on the grounds of Health and Safety. So why is it only now that fears for graduates’ safety is being raised?

According to a statement published by UEA’s student newspaper, The Tab, the banning has been seen as necessary after several graduates were injured by falling hats, plus one was taken to A&E after being cut on their face.  Students have been told to act out throwing their mortarboards in the air and hats will be digitally added to the photo later, at an extra cost of £8.

Here at Shieldyourself, we are the largest employers of EHOs in the UK. We have a big graduate culture providing aspiring Environmental Health Practitioners with placements to help them qualify. So, we are aware of how significant this pinnacle moment is in university life.

George Cox, Head of the Health and Safety Executive public sector team, defended Health and Safety back in 2008, stating that “the law does not stop graduates having fun and celebrating their achievement in the time-honoured fashion.

The chance of being injured by a flying mortar board is incredibly small and it’s over-the-top to impose an outright ban.”

UEA have claimed that throwing mortarboards in the air presents an unnecessary risk that can be easily be avoided. A spokeswoman from the university reported that “this has been agreed by our academic dress suppliers who often receive back damaged mortar boards, and our photographers.”

You would hope universities would do a bit of research before contributing to these Health and Safety myths. In fact, the scrapping of mortar boards appears in one of the Top 10 all-time worst Health and Safety excuses (HSE):

  1. Children being banned from playing conkers unless they are wearing goggles
  2. Office workers being banned from putting up Christmas decorations
  3. Trapeze artists being ordered to wear hard hats
  4. Pin the tail on the donkey games being deemed a health and safety risk
  5. Candy floss on a stick being banned in case people trip and impale themselves
  6. Hanging baskets being banned in case people bump their heads on them
  7. Schoolchildren being ordered to wear clip on ties in case they are choked by traditional neckwear
  8. Park benches must be replaced because they are three inches too low
  9. Flip flops being banned from the workplace
  10. Graduates ordered not to throw their mortar boards in the air

It begs the question, what other changes has Health and Safety been unwittingly taking the blame for?

We think it’s about time the wonderful world of Health and Safety starts being appreciated – Health and Safety is about saving lives, not preventing people to live them.

If you’d like to find out more about how Shieldyourself can help you achieve full compliance whilst also saving you time and hassle, call the team today on 020 3740 3744 or visit

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shieldyourself take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shieldyourself services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email

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