Hell and High Mortars

Across the country students are celebrating their hard work and recording their graduation for posterity with a photograph, usually including the tradition of tossing the mortar board in the air.

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Last year it was widely reported that the University of East Anglia (UEA) put a stop to the traditional ‘hat throwing’ photo opportunity for all students this year following a number of injuries over recent years to graduates hurt by falling mortar boards. Entrepreneurial spirited photographers were quick to offer a photo-shopping service to add the outlawed millinery.

This myth tends to re-surface around this time every year and the HSE have been quick to close it down. Geoff Cox, who heads the Health and Safety Executive public sector team, said: “You’d think universities would study history and do a bit of research before repeating tired health and safety myths like this one. The banning of mortar board tossing on supposed ‘health and safety’ grounds is one of our most popular myths and actually appears in our Top 10 all-time worst health and safety excuses.

“As far back as 2008, HSE made it clear the law does not stop graduates having fun and celebrating their success 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. We usually find the concern is actually about the hats being returned in good condition.”

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