Readers, once in a while – if you ignore the school safety drills involving real helicopters and the school boy suspensions involving imaginary guns – you can feel like things are going in exactly the right direction. This is one of those moments. Look at this article, “Call to Ditch Red Tape on Playtime Safety”:
…Paperwork designed to protect children at play can be discarded, according to “seminal” guidelines issued by the Health and Safety Executive.
In a plain-speaking statement,it dismisses the “misguided security blanket” of reams of paperwork that purport to prevent children from harm.
The statement went on to say that safety assessments should focus on “the real risk, not the trivial and fanciful.” Moreover, it begged bureaucrats to understand that looking at play solely through the lens of risk and liability has meant losing sight of the fact it is, overwhelmingly, health and good – not crazy and dangerous.
My friends at Common Good, the organization that tries to cut red tape and restore common sense, are, of course, thrilled that a department devoted to “health and safety” is “analyzing real health and safety instead of red herrings and black swans.” As a policy analyst there, Ben Miller, put it:
The biggest risk in most play areas isn’t bruises or scraped knees, it’s the ubiquitous fear of lawsuits that leads to red tape and replaces common sense with paranoia. Our mantra at Common Good is that people, not rules, make tings happen. We can’t regulate away every conceivable danger, but we can empower administrators to look out for children’s best interests – not lawyer’s.
The Health & Safety Executive outlined what it means to “strike the right balance” when it comes to legislating what’s allowed at playgrounds:
Weigh the risks and benefits when designing playgrounds and activities. (Not just the risks!)
Understand that the purpose of risk control is not to eliminate all risk, which is, of course impossible. Instead, the statement asks us all – the government and the people – to accept that the possibility “of even serious or life threatening injuries cannot be eliminated.”
Which is such an incredible thing to hear! So adult!
And it adds that our goal cannot be to continually reduce risk, nor demand “detailed assessments aimed at high-risk play activities” when examining low-risk activities.
That last tendency has led to things like outlawing tag, or requiring goggles when using thumbtacks at school, because when you look for risk with a magnifying glass, as has been the penchant of late. it will loom large even if it’s minute.
How exhilarating simply to start thinking of playgrounds as a happy place, instead of the mall of death. And how lovely to remember that play is something good, not just something that could go terribly, terribly wrong. Huzzah, Health & Safety Exec! And let’s hope your words soon echo over here!
Maybe playing is…good? Not just an injury or lawsuit waiting to happen?