Common Sense Common Safety

Lord Young of Grantham’s report to the Prime Minister – Common Sense, Common Safety – has just been published. It contains important recommendations across the board in respect of health and safety practice.

The report’s analysis and resulting recommendations respond positively to many of the concerns many of us have been voicing for some years.

The extracts below have been circulated by PLAYLINK and will be of particular interest to the play, leisure and recreation sectors, education including outdoor activities, and the voluntary sector.

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PLAYLINK has circulated this information to alert practitioners to the report and to offer a taste of its findings.

‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ is well worth reading in full. It can be found at:

From PLAYLINK’s perspective, we want to draw particular attention to the significance accorded to:

  • Taking a ‘common sense’ approach to health and safety. As many readers will know, PLAYLINK, with others, has promoted the inestimable value of deploying common sense to inform judgment.
  • Shifting ‘from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk-benefit assessment’ (context for this quote appears in full below).
  • Considering reviewing the Health and Safety at Work etc Act ‘to separate out play and leisure from workplace contexts’.

Please circulate this eNewsletter to others who may be interested. Do contact us if you want to discuss the report and its potential implications. If you are not already subscribed to the PLAYLINK eNewsletter you may care to do so now.

Common Sense, Common Safety: extracts

From the Prime Minister’s foreword to the report:

We simply cannot go on like this. That’s why I asked Lord Young to do this review and put some common sense back into health and safety. And that’s exactly what he has done.

I hope this review can be a turning point. Lord Young has come forward with a wide range of far reaching proposals which this Government fully supports. We’re going to curtail the promotional activities of claims management companies and the compensation culture they help perpetuate. We’re going to end the unnecessary bureaucracy that drains creativity and innovation from our businesses.

And we’re going to put a stop to the senseless rules that get in the way of volunteering, stop adults from helping out with other people’s children and penalise our police and fire services for acts of bravery.

Instead, we’re going to focus regulations where they are most needed; with a new system that is proportionate, not bureaucratic; that treats adults like adults and reinstates some common sense and trust.

Extract from the Executive Summary

My report highlights the role that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities have in promoting a common sense approach to health and safety. Their role is pivotal in ensuring that businesses, schools and voluntary organisations can operate in a way where health and safety is applied in a proportionate manner.
Extract from section on Local authorities

There is some inconsistency across local authorities, and the rules on health and safety are not always applied with a view to a proper risk management approach. In some instances it is clear that officials are giving poor advice to organisations and individuals, who are in turn prevented from running an event (for example a school fete) when there is no legitimate reason not to on health and safety grounds. However, there is no requirement to put these reasons in writing and the specific grounds for the decision are often not made transparent.

There is also currently no system for appeal or redress when an event is banned or curtailed ‘for health and safety reasons’. They are simply required to accept the decision and not go ahead with the event as planned. They could also be discouraged from even planning such an event for fear or expectation that a local authority official will not allow it.

I would like to see the Government put a system in place whereby individuals have the right to ask local authority officials who ban events on health and safety grounds to put their reasons in writing.

Extract from section on Adventure training

I would recommend that we abolish the licensing of adventurous activities through the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and instead introduce a code of practice that the HSE will oversee and monitor. The HSE should also ensure that those planning trips can feel confident that a provider is compliant with the code. Since this is a devolved issue, I will work with the devolved administrations on taking forward this initiative in Scotland and Wales.Extract from section on Educational visits

There have been a number of cases where schools have prevented pupils from taking part in educational visits citing health and safety as the reason for non-participation.

The process for taking children on educational visits involves a huge amount of form-filling – ranging from consent forms to risk assessments… This process can involve excessive bureaucracy that is not proportionate to the role it plays in reducing the risk of accidents. It merely serves as a deterrent and an excuse to ‘do nothing’.

As a consequence, children are potentially missing out on vital education because schools just do not have the time and resource to carry out the process and, if they do, they are too concerned about the threat of legal action should an accident happen.

We should simplify the process that schools and similar organisations undertake before taking children on trips. We should introduce a single consent form, signed by a parent or guardian, which covers all activities a child may undertake during their time at a school, enabling parents to opt out of any specific activities. Consent is already not required for activities which take place during the school day and in order to reduce the amount of bureaucracy around school trips we should underline this message to schools and local authorities.

Finally, we should introduce a simplified risk assessment for classrooms which could be made available on the HSE website. The website could also provide checklists for areas in which a fuller risk assessment is required, such as sports facilities, laboratories and workshops.

Extract from section on Children’s play areas

A further area of concern is the impact of health and safety on children’s play areas. In legal terms, play provision is guided by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. There is a widely held belief within the play sector that misinterpretations of the Act are leading to the creation of uninspiring play spaces that do not enable children to experience risk. Such play is vital for a child’s development and should not be sacrificed to the cause of overzealous and disproportionate risk assessments.

This is a further example of how legislation primarily conceived to be applied in a hazardous environment is being brought into an environment for which it is unsuited with damaging consequences.

I believe that with regard to children’s play we should shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment, where potential positive impacts are weighed against potential risk. These ideas inform the play programme developed by the Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media and Sport and I would like to see them developed more widely. Furthermore we should consider reviewing the Health and Safety at Work etc Act to separate out play and leisure from workplace contexts.

Risk-benefit links


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