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Response to Sir Digby Jones's comments to the School Heads' conference

The Editor,
The Times,
1 Pennington Street,
London
E98 1TA

Dear Sir,

It is right that children need to be exposed to risks in a managed and controlled way in order to learn how to deal with the modern world.

But Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI, is creating a straw man to attack perfectly reasonable rules which have helped to reduce the toll of death and injury at work (Children must learn to embrace risk, heads are told, 3rd May).

School trips and activity holidays are vital to children’s development, and it was a wrong-headed head teacher, not an enforcement officer from the Health and Safety Executive or a professional safety adviser, who instigated goggles for conkers.

Good health and safety is linked unequivocally with good, profitable and competitive businesses. The CBI should be just as vocal about companies whose inability to properly address health and safety prejudices their survival - rail accidents led to the infrastructure being wrested from one company, and a second being driven almost to the point of insolvency. A civilised society does not allow anarchy within the workplace, but nor do they stifle creativity and entrepreneurial flair.

Crazy decisions made in the name of health and safety are often nothing to do with those who train and study to practice this profession.

Managing risk in complex environments, and supporting businesses in making finely balanced decisions that affect the welfare of those at work requires skill, experience and judgment. Increasing and maintaining the competence of those who make these complex decisions is something IOSH is passionate about - which is why we have made professional development mandatory for all Members, and will introduce the first Chartered Safety and Health Practitioners later this year.

Health and safety advice increasingly requires highly trained people, it's no longer a field for well-meaning amateurs. But don't allow bad health and safety to become an excuse for lessening the protection of people who deserve to return from their place of work in one piece at the end of each day.

Lawrence Waterman
President
IOSH (The Institution of Occupational Safety & Health)
The Grange
Highfield Drive
Wigston
Leics.
LE18 1NN

Updated 2010-02-11