From New Zealand comes what appears to be a case of safety protection run amok. Apparently, the legislature passed a health and safety reform bill, dubbed the “Working Safer: a Blueprint for Health and Safety at Work” framework. The overall goal is to reduce the workplace injury and death rate in New Zealand by 25 per cent by 2020.
According to an article in the local newspaper for the town of Hawkes Bay, the bill has schools scrambling to injury-proof their playgrounds. What has them so scared is a provision that says “those with significant management influence in a workplace may be subject to prosecution and a fine of up to $600,000 and five years in jail if they fail to meet the duty of due diligence.”
The principals looked at the law, looked at their schools and realized that they could be the ones who go to jail. At least one of the schools has banned kids from climbing trees as a result. Maintenance crews are apparently using scissor-lifts instead of ladders to clean gutters.
As a guy who’s childhood monkey bars were made of un-padded metal pipes which loomed over a pad of solid cement, I am pretty sure having the chance to break your neck is an important learning experience for a kid. On the other hand, the chance to play on a scissor-lift when no one was looking WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME!
The article also points out that this may all be an over-reaction, perhaps stirred up by those dreaded consultants. According to one principal, “”Consultants are certainly queuing up to offer their services but I think the most important thing for boards of trustees and principals is not to be caught up in scaremongering and myths which can distract from the realities of [the Act] and the constructive ways that people can improve health and safety at work.”
Glad to know consultants work the same way in New Zealand that they do here in the States.