Readers, once in a while â€“ if you ignore the school safety drills involving real helicopters and the school boy suspensions involving imaginary gunsÂ â€“ you can feel like things are going in exactly the right direction. This is one of those moments. Look at this article, â€œCall to Ditch Red Tape on Playtime Safetyâ€:
Â â€¦Paperwork designed to protect children at play can be discarded, according to â€œseminalâ€ guidelines issued by the Health and Safety Executive.
In a plain-speaking statement,it dismisses the â€œmisguided security blanketâ€ of reams of paperwork that purport to prevent children from harm.
The statement went on to say that safety assessments should focus on â€œthe real risk, not the trivial and fanciful.â€ 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 â€“ 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 â€œhealth and safetyâ€ is â€œanalyzing real health and safety instead of red herrings and black swans.â€ As a policy analyst there, Ben Miller, put it:
Â The biggest risk in most play areas isnâ€™t bruises or scraped knees, itâ€™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 canâ€™t regulate away every conceivable danger, but we can empower administrators to look out for childrenâ€™s best interests â€“ not lawyerâ€™s.
The Health & Safety Executive outlined what it means to â€œstrike the right balanceâ€ when it comes to legislating whatâ€™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 â€“ the government and the people â€“ to accept that the possibility â€œof even serious or life threatening injuries cannot be eliminated.â€
Which is such an incredible thing to hear! So adult!
And it adds that our goal cannot be to continually reduce risk, nor demand â€œdetailed assessments aimed at high-risk play activitiesâ€ when examining low-risk activities.
That last tendency has led to things like outlawing tag, orÂ requiring goggles when using thumbtacks at school, because when you look for risk with a magnifying glass, as has been the penchant of late.Â it will loom large even if itâ€™s minute.
How exhilarating simply toÂ 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 letâ€™s hope your words soon echo over here!
Maybe playing is…good? Not just an injury or lawsuit waiting to happen?