Head of HSE warns against “excessive risk-averse” culture

Dame Judith Hackitt claims “non-sensical” health and safety rules in schools are damaging for children

The head of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has criticised the “excessive risk-averse” culture which dominates health and safety rules in schools and which could be harmful to children later in life.

Dame Judith Hackitt, who has been the chair of the HSE for the last eight years, has warned schools against exercising “nonsensical” health and safety rules in the school place, as it prevents children from preparing for the “real world” and damages the serious work being done by the HSE.

The comments were made by Dame Judith during a speech she gave at the Royal Academy of Engineering, where she told the audience a story about a school which banned pupils from wearing frilly socks because they could cause trips and falls.

Dame Judith said that raising children with this type of “bureaucratic” behaviour would create adults who will become “a liability in any workplace”. She further added that children’s education should involve learning how to deal with danger and risk.

According to a study carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, one in four schools across the UK have banned such time-honoured playground games like British bulldogs and “tig” over health and safety concerns.

“Overprotective parents and risk-averse teachers who do not enable children to learn to handle risk will lead to young adults who are poorly equipped to deal with the realities of the world… unable to discern real risk from trivia, not knowing who they can trust or believe.” said Dame Judith.

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