The poor Health and Safety Executive. They get such bad press, being blamed for banning everything from little sticks in daffodil beds to the wrong-shaped flapjacks. ‘It’s Health and Safety gone mad!’ sounds the cry.
In fact, the HSE have a refreshingly practical response to the worst of these incidents – it seems to be ‘jobsworth’ teachers, council workers and others who start having conniptions at the thought of a little mud impinging on their day.
It’s good that we want to protect those in our care and do all we can to prevent harm from coming to them, but these Health-and-Safety panics are not a sign of loving care but of fear. The goal may be to protect, but the motivation is far too often fear of reprisal, not genuine concern for others.
And all too often, as the HSE statements about the first two examples highlight, the safety precautions would not be necessary were people acting responsibly in the first place. Accidents happen, and we ought to take reasonable precautions against them, but those precautions include acting responsibly, and training the next generation to act responsibly.
Or as mothers around the world used to put it ‘If you fall off there and break your legs, don’t come running to me’!