A Government minister has written to schools and councils to highlight a spate of "ridiculous" health and safety excuses including a ban on girls wearing frilly socks and refusal to clear up dog mess in a playground.
Health and safety minister Mike Penning said the law was being misused, which had led to a series of complaints from members of the public.
Recent cases ranged from a school in Hampshire not allowing a pupil to bring in a baby chick for a presentation due to concerns about bird flu, to a local council in Scotland banning dog shows from community halls.
Mr Penning said: "Health and safety has long been used as a smokescreen by jobsworths who have little knowledge of the law and who want to fob people off with an easy excuse."
Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: "I would urge all decision makers to take a step back and ask themselves whether a decision made in the name of health and safety, is actually just an excuse for something else.
"Real health and safety is about protecting people in the workplace from life and health threatening risks - it is not about stopping a child taking a baby chick into school, or banning indoor dog training.
"Own up to the real reasons behind the decision, don't just reach for the easiest excuse."
Almost 300 people have contacted a myth buster panel set up by the HSE two years ago, giving examples of "bizarre" mis-interpretation of health and safety law.
Other cases included a school in Gloucester stopping girls wearing frilly socks for fear of them tripping over, and a council near Manchester preventing loose flowers and pots being placed on graves.