A HEALTH and safety row has erupted after a passenger was banned from a bus for carrying a pot of paint.

David Houchen said the driver told him it would be a breach of health and safety rules to allow him to board.

Mr Houchen bought the tub of white emulsion in Newcastle city centre. When he tried to catch the 39 bus home, the driver wouldn't let him on.

After an argument, 42- year-old Mr Houchen went to the back of the queue - and sneaked the paint on to the next bus.

Managers at the transport company Stagecoach North East are investigating, but said paint can be taken on buses at the discretion of the driver as long as it isn't deemed to be a hazard.

Mr Houchen, a carer and telesales worker, said the driver suggested he should try to get on the next bus.

He hid the 7.5-litre plastic tub behind his back and managed to get on the number 40.

"I put it on the luggage shelf with my hand on to," he said.

When he got off that bus, Mr Houchen said the driver told him that if he'd spotted the paint he wouldn't have let him on either.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Mr Houchen, who had bought an all-day ticket for £3.20 and was on his way back home to Arthurs Hill in Newcastle's West End.

"It was sealed and it's emulsion, which isn't flammable.

"I'm asthmatic and if I'd walked home with a 7.5- litre tub of paint I would probably have had an asthma attack."

Mr Houchen, who doesn't have a car, said: "What's the world coming to?

"Aren't you allowed to paint your house if you don't have a car?

"They are trying to encourage people to use the buses yet they kick me off for something like this. I wasn't aware of this regulation and I bet not many people are."

Nigel Winter, operations director of Stagecoach North East, said: "Customers are welcome on board our services with paint as long as the driver believes that the item can be stored safely and will not pose a hazard to other passengers.

"Our conditions of carriage state that while emulsion isn't in itself dangerous when safely stored, if the storage container is compromised it becomes a dangerous substance through causing slipping incidents and potentially through being combustible.

"Drivers and conductors are therefore at liberty to deny customers access to buses with tins of paint.

"However, common sense should prevail in that if the emulsion is water-based and secured in a sealed container, not a tin can with lid, then a driver may exercise discretion.

"In this particular instance we will be conducting an investigation to identify if the bus was particularly crowded and whether there was a lack of suitable storage.

"As the gentleman was permitted to board the following service this is the most likely scenario. Furthermore, we will reiterate this condition of carriage to all drivers."

Coun Nick Forbes whose Westgate ward covers much of the city centre and Arthurs Hill, said: "It's ludicrous. We are all being encouraged to use public transport more and I can't see why people should not be allowed to carry their shopping on the bus."

Passengers can take cans of paint on the Metro, though people can be stopped from carrying hazardous or flammable materials.

Go North East spokeswoman Iris Boyd said: "We do allow paint to be taken on to our buses as long as it is carried in a well-sealed bag. This is because paint tins can easily tip over."

Arriva's John Fozzard said: "Our policy is that people are allowed to carry paint as long as long as the container is sealed and it's in a bag or something similar."