Health and Safety: A Health Warning

17 Apr

In the third week of March 2013, health and safety experts banned triangular flapjacks at a school after a boy was hit in the eye by one of the offending snacks during a food fight.  However, they permitted square and rectangular flapjacks because “they were less dangerous”.  The mind boggles.  If anything, a triangular flapjack has three edges and three points against a rectangular or square one that has four of each so that the latter has a 33.3% greater chance of causing damage.

At any rate, should not a school outlaw food fights rather than ban food altogether.  Where is our moral compass?

In another case, Shaun Halfpenny, a former headteacher, found himself at the receiving end of a health and safety uproar at Cummersdale Primary School in Carlisle shortly before his retirement in 2005.

It began in 2004, when some pupils discovered horse chestnuts while on a school trip but were unsure about how to play conkers.   He offered to show them how provided that they wore goggles for health and safety purposes.   Many pupils produced goggles, though Halfpenny insisted that this advice/instruction was given as a joke.  A visitor to the school thought this was hilarious and offered to do a story for the local rag, the Carlisle Times and Star. Halfpenny had a good relationship with the paper, so did not demur.

However, following the publication of the story, Radio 4 called and asked if Halfpenny had seen The Sun which had a piece about pupils being asked to wear goggles before playing with conkers. Soon seven TV crews were parked outside the front playground and news reporters from other countries including New Zealand and Thailand.  What started as a joke to take the “mickey” out of health and safety issues, backfired and ended as a global news story that did not do Cummersdale Primary School any good.   However, it did give something to Halfpenny to reflect on during the first few years of retirement.

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