The Health and Safety Executive has warned schools that the cultivation of an excessive risk-averse culture could damage students’ ability to cope with real life situations and recognise genuine dangers. Dame Judith Hackitt, former chairperson of the HSE, believes that mollycoddling the next generation could lead them to become a “liability in the workplace.”
Dame Judith has lashed out at schools which have banned schoolyard games, activities and certain items of uniform in order to ‘protect’ their students from any danger. This has led to the concern that the next generation will never learn how to spot hazards and dangers for themselves, and will simply expect to be babysat beyond their school years, and into adult life.
In a speech to the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dame Judith explained: “We had one school who told kids they could not wear frilly socks for health and safety reasons – fearing they would trip over. People [now] expect to be looked after. We need to look out for ourselves and take responsibility for risk, not leave it to others.
“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. They will be a liability in any workplace if they do not have those basic skills, to exercise judgement.”
Just last month a school in Leeds was roundly criticised for banning the playground favourite, ‘tig’. The move drew criticism from parents and the media alike, who believed it removed a rite of passage for children and was overly-protective to the extreme.
The HSE has moved to confirm that they support Dame Judith’s position on the excessive risk-averse culture which has developed in schools. Whilst the HSE is primarily focussed on ensuring that all residents in the UK are allowed to work, learn and live in safe and secure environments; the governmental body also maintains the importance of allowing individuals to identify risks.
Much of the HSE’s work is based around training and hazard identification. Many of these skills should be learned early in life, and simply honed to a specific environment as adults enter the workplace. Without this early years’ education, it may be far harder for individuals to be able to make informed and beneficial decisions regarding their workplace safety, and the safety of others.
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