We've seen the stories on television and in the newspapers about children banned from playing conkers unless they wear goggles or flying paper aeroplanes because they've been deemed too dangerous by the people at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We've laughed at them, and consider it a nanny state run amok. But the fact is that the incidents have happened. We want to keep our children safe, but where do we find a balance?
Some of the tales might be urban myths, but there's a lengthy catalogue of incidents where the HSE has been involved to stop things – everyday events that have gone on for generations – happening.
A tree swing that children had played on for many years was deemed too dangerous by officials.
Models from egg cartons, something long used by every child and once a staple of Blue Peter, were banned because of the risk of salmonella from the eggs that had been there.
Teachers were not allowed to apply sunscreen to pupils for fear they'd be accused of child abuse.
A lifeguard instructor and her husband were prevented from taking their three children into a swimming pool for toddlers because the healthy and safety rules ordained that there must be one adult for every child.
They seem excessive, and they are. Many people, even senior executives, believe that Health and Safety rules have become overly bureaucratic. To most people, that's not criticism enough. Many think it's simply bureaucratic madness.
What's to be Done About it
Children have played tag and climbed trees since time immemorial. It's part of the ritual of childhood, growing up, playing and trying new things, and test boundaries. Part of being a kid is acquiring Scrapes, Cuts and bruises. At the time they can seem like badges of honour.
Schools have to abide by what the health and safety inspectors dictate. That decision is out of their hands. But even the head of the HSE has come out and said that at times his people have made stupid decisions.
You can protest decisions at schools and swimming pools, but don't do it individually. Use an association, gather names for a petition if you feel the rules are restrictive or excessive. In view of comments by the head of HSE, you might be able to affect the outcome this way.
On a personal level, the best rule is to use common sense. Remember, too, that just because things have been a certain way for a long time doesn't mean they're the best way. For generations kids didn't wear bike helmets, but there's general agreement that they've saved many injuries and lives since their introduction. At the same time, you teach your kids the Importance Of Cycle Safety, and wouldn't let them on the main roads until they were old enough to have acquired good road sense.
You know your kids better than anyone, and you can judge what's safe and wise, and what limits to place on them. Children grow in part by pushing boundaries and asserting some independence. Coddling them too much simply isn't good for their development. They need to run and play, to climb trees, fly paper planes and kites, ride their bikes or scooters and play conkers. If the regulations won't let them do those things at school or in organised groups, make sure they have the freedom to do it at home.
I am very upset with the school my grandson goes to,,he banged his head on bars in the play ground The lump on his head was big and the blood marks started to appear that was at 11-15 we were not told untill 12 o'clock Our grandson is under special needs and we think we should have been told as his speech is not clearAfter inquiring into what happens his teacher could. Not even tell us what happened and had to result in looking a a small notebook Our grandson wasn't even seen by a nurse and when we saw the head his answer was we don't have to tell parentsIt's awful if we had not picked it up for dinner we may not have known till school ends we think we should be able to complain to some higher authority that can deal with this it's all wrong A head injury can be serious even when seeing the head he never even looked at our grandson before opening his mouth Were not happy people our standards of rules in schools are lowering
Luckylady - 13-Jan-13 @ 1:20 AM
I visited a play cantre/soft play centre last week and as we entered, the staff told me that i was welcome to come in for my little boy to play BUT they had no toilet facilities as there was ablockage to the mains foul waste sewer due to customers putting papert towels and nappies (what??) down the toilets. I thought they had to provide toilet facilities as they have tables for people to eat and drink at(they have a cafe) but the satff said they dont.
I cannot find anything on internet about child center facilites although there is alot about schools so do play centres and soft play centres( not creches or supervised play) have a legal obligation to provide public toilets?
jbunny - 13-Sep-12 @ 2:47 PM
they are invincible. They need to learn (preferably in a controlled environment) what they can and can't do. When I was a kid if I fell over in the playground and told my parent's they would say "well, look where you are going next time!". These days with the constant bombardment from no win, no fee companies (on TV and to your mobile), schools are terrfied they will receive a letter from one of these "ahem" companies. As a result they try to ensure every eventuality (not matter how stupid or extreme) is covered...just in case.
I work in a low risk enviroment but still need to consider fire, stress, conflict handling, hazardous substances, musculoskeletal discomfort to name but a few topics I get involved in. I help with phased return to work (to help staff who have been on long term sick leave feel they have a place that cares to return to...even if it just means listening to the person for 20 minutes - that's the human side of H&S that is often overlooked). Us H&S bods are human too you know so claiming we're corrupt and extortionists does make us wonder why we bother....but we're also thick skinned so, hey ho...back to work!
Safetybod cont! - 11-Jun-12 @ 2:39 PM
Never been called "corrupt" or tried to extort money from any business and have been working in H&S for a while!
What I have done is provide practical advice to companies on how to reduce the possibility of their EMPLOYEES and work colleagues heading home in a coffin (or several body bags).
You mention common sense...fine in theory but this requires an understanding of a subject..afterall, you wouldn't let a 17 yr old into an operating theatre to perform brain surgery without them having studied for a couple of years at least (especially if you were the one on the table) but a 17 yr old on a building site...ah, that's just common sense isn't it...no need to give that person any sort of Health and Safety training is there? And if they fall or get mangled in a bit of machinery well that's tough luck - no redress for you boy..won't be prosecuting the company for failing to train you properly will we now if you were in charge? Mmmm thought not...no the company training records would be checked - did he receive training, was he being supervised..in other words...was H&S procedures in place to prevent him being mangled?
As for the school yard...I'll give you a "D" for your efforts on that one. Most H&S "Myths" that appear in the media are just that...myths based on NO current H&S LEGISLATION...normally used as an excuse not to spend money on an event (children can't go on outward bound trip due to elf and safety...er, no...we can't really afford to send 20 of them on it actually, cuts in our budget..what excuse can we give the parents...er, lets see...).
Course, if little Jimmy were to die while away on one of these trips and there wasn't any H&S policies or procedures in place by the company running the thing, you can bet the media would be screaming blue murder at why there wasn't adequate safety checks carried out..the necessary paperwork completed...folk with more than common sense but a real understanding of the risks associated with the tasks wee Jimmy was going to be doing running the thing.
I'm sure there are a few H&S bods out there that aren't great or provide good advice but I can think of a few organisations where that's the case....you still trust your bank as much as you did say 10 years ago? Had a PPI claim accepted perhaps? But the majority work hard to prevent injury and, where is has occurred, try and understand what went wrong and how the organisation can prevent it from happening again and weirdly, there are still people who work in H&S that do so because they genuinely care about other people [my Dad was retired out of the fire service due to a workplace injury that could have been prevented if proper procedures had been followed and was one of the reasons why I moved to the field]. And yes I'd love less paperwork...make my job easier as I'm the one completing most of it!
Children do need a degree of risk (to learn about limitations and boundaries or as others have said, they think
SafetyBod - 11-Jun-12 @ 2:03 PM
Just to clarify the situation as there seems to be some confusion about IOSH’s role and position. IOSH promotes sensible health and safety and believes young people need to experience some risk in order to develop valuable life skills. To further this, we work proactively with Young Enterprise and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and many schools also use our free teaching resources to get these messages across. IOSH is not an enforcement agency and do not prosecute anyone – we are a chartered professional body and a registered charity.Unfortunately, there is a lot of mythology and misunderstanding out there that we are continually seeking to debunk. For example we sponsored the ‘World Conker Championships’ for two years running to highlight that you don’t need to wear goggles for conkers. Often, over-the-top decisions are taken by people who are frightened of being sued and haven’t taken professional advice. In the case of the goggles, the decision was taken by a head teacher, who later admitted that he did it ‘tongue in cheek’. In these scenarios, the myths are either that the media story didn’t happen at all or, if it did, that it wasn’t because of real health and safety requirements. Please rest assured, the health and safety profession wants as many young people as possible to develop new skills and enjoy learning experiences. We’re keen to stop health and safety being misused by misguided people as an excuse to ban adventurous activities, when all that’s required is some sensible planning and practical precautions. This type of risk aversion just undermines real health and safety, which is about enabling workplace activities and ensuring the smooth running of industry without killing or maiming people. It’s certainly not about pointless paperwork, barmy bans or spoiling sports days! Richard JonesIOSH Head of Policy and Public Affairs
Richard - 21-May-12 @ 9:59 AM
I can give you an example of exactly this happening.
My local gliding club has banned under 18s on any of their activities - even spectating.
They realized that kids including teenagers did not have any respect for dangers on an airfield including walking in front of moving aircraft or walking through an aircraft's propellers.
The kids who put themselves in these dangerous positions simply believed that if any dangers existed, 'somebody else' would have recognized it and prevented them from coming to harm.They had no concept of looking out for danger for themselves.
peter - 29-Feb-12 @ 5:34 PM
As far as i am concerned Health and Safety is corrupt. Not only does it stop child development and learning dangers for yourselves, it is a money making racket extorting money out of business. One of the largest branches of Health and Safety is IOSH with branches all over the UK and in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Caribbean. They make their money out of prosecuting firms for any breach of Health and Safety, writing out reports, holding seminars, holding courses and many of their recommendations create rediculous form filling and additional costs to business in compliance. There are many other Health and Safety firms all over the place ELAS etc. There is no need for this costly burocracy, All that is needed is common sense. The original act was brought out in 1974 to protect workers in heavy industry and nuclear plants. Health and Safety has expanded beyong these boundaries into the School Yard and office work. It wants stopping in its tracks.
Brightspark - 16-Aug-11 @ 12:44 AM
The problem with extreme risk-averse behaviour with younger children is that the kids grow up to believe that nothing will ever be dangerous. So once they turn 17-18 and move out of the overly-cocooned world provided by schools and parents they think they can drink to huge excess with no consequences, drive cars like idiots with no consequences, and so on. A "salting" of minor danger (and yes, minor injury) at a younger age teaches that some behaviour has consequences, up to and including physical pain.