Are Conkers Really Bonkers
‘Conkers bonkers’ is a euphemism that in recent years has entered the language to demonstrate a common and cynical view that health and safety management is generally disproportionate to the risk factors that are presented by a given set of circumstances. At the same time, the Health and Safety Executive have moved to quash such ‘Myths’ in an effort to counter the Jeremy Clarkson School of Health and Safety Theory.
The clearing of ‘Murray Mount’ at Wimbledon because bad weather had caused a slippery surface is clear evidence of over-exuberant safety management and it was encouraging that Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive saw fit to complain about it to the Lawn Tennis Association.
The notion that children should wear protective goggles to prevent injury while playing conkers, or even that the game should be banned in playgrounds is nevertheless a vivid illustration of the Head Teacher’s dilemma, namely: ‘I think I know what I should be doing in terms of health and safety management, but how far should I go in terms of more trivial risk areas? How do I effectively communicate and transform a written risk assessment into tangible risk-reduction measures? How do I persuade my teacher colleagues that they should put aside teaching time to manage this minefield of red tape and bureaucracy? How am I best able to demonstrate to OFSTED that I have met stringent safeguarding requirements? Just how do I complete Health and Safety in schools when there is so much to do
As health and safety consultants, we are experienced in helping schools to meet such challenges. Many already work with the local Fire Authority to organise ‘Fire Days’ and the excitement of a fire engine parked in the playground undoubtedly enriches the learning experience, but why not extend this to other areas of risk management? Discussion in the classroom about what is and what is not an acceptable risk will exercise minds – young and old alike, and this question will arise throughout adult life, both personal and professional.
Teacher training seminars majoring on topics such as Manual Handling can be dramatically enhanced by encouraging lively, facilitated debate on health and safety ‘Culture’ and in turn can be used to get the whole team ‘on board’.