Health And Safety Laws 'Robbing Kids Of Fun'

Ruth Barnett, political reporter

"Daft" health and safety decisions risk harming children's education because bureaucrats fear being sued, the head of a watchdog has said.

Judith Hackitt, the chairman of the independent Health and Safety Executive, said the "gloves are off" and pledged to fight jobsworths who are over-zealous.

She said banning children from running in a pancake race and making them wear goggles to play conkers could take the joy out of playing.

"Children today are denied - often on spurious health and safety grounds - many of the formative experiences that shaped by generation," she told the Daily Telegraph.

"Playgrounds have become joyless, for fear of a few cuts and bruises. Science in the classroom is becoming sterile and uninspiring."

Ms Hackitt said she was concerned by employers and organisations "cynically" using health and safety rules to cover up real motives which include cost-cutting and fears of being sued for personal injury.

Her intervention comes as the Department for Education publishes a slimmed-down version of the guidance offered teachers and schools.

Slashed from more than 100 pages to just eight, the document seeks to clarify existing laws.

This backs up Ms Hackitt's suggestion that often it is the interpretation of the law, rather than the rules themselves, that causes problems.

A year ago, the Government backed a report which called for an overhaul of health and safety laws and compensation culture. Its author, Lord Young, said current rules were "stupid".

Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken out about the issue which suggests he feels siding with frustrated parents and small business owners bogged down in red tape could be a vote winner.

The Department for Work and Pensions recently published a progress report on how many of the reforms had been implemented.

Ministers want to slash the number of rules governing "low risk" workplaces, allay fears about the number of rules governing school trips and reassure people that they won't be held liable for consequences arising from "well-intentioned voluntary acts" such as clearing snow from streets.

But while some of these measures are underway, those who feel they were promised significant changes to the law may fear that one year on from Lord Young's report, some of the biggest promises made are yet to be fully implemented.