Safe. Too Safe.

It’s a bit old news now, but last week a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) was saying that the current risk-averse “cotton wool” culture is counter-productive.

I’ve always had a bit of a downer on RoSPA, since they’ve always seemed to me to promote risk aversion – see, for example, their aggressive promotion of the myth that exceeding the speed limit causes puppy dogs to die – but they seem to have got this one right. Anyone who’s been to one of my hugely successful talks on Health + Safety for Charities and Community Organisations will know that I’ve been promoting this viewpoint for years – that excessive safety precautions are not only an unnecessary nuisance, they’re counter productive. We’re raising a generation that thinks their safety is someone else’s responsibility – that’s never had to consider risk, or work out a benefit/consequences balance. It’s bad enough that they’re going to be totally unprepared for standing on two legs and walking around town, but even more scary is the thought that this lot are going to be working on building sites and in factories. And no idea how to look after themselves.

If you’ve read Sally-J’s account of the Lake District Cachepedition, you’ll know that one afternoon we found ourselves coming down a fairly steep rocky path in what could have turned into a dodgy situation: What kept us alive – and what’s kept me alive in dozens of similar situations – is an understanding of, and healthy respect for, the risk involved, combined with a sensible approach to doing what has to be done. None of us thought consciously of what we did as risk assessment and development of a safe working method, but that’s exactly what it was.

I’ve seen the future – I’ve seen how this risk-unaware generation will approach such things. Years ago I was walking in Snowdonia, on a fairly good family-friendly path, when I saw a sandal-wearing family heading off down what I knew to be a climbers path towards some sheer cliffs. When I tried to warn them, the response was “Don’t be stupid – if it wasn’t safe it’d be fenced off”. I think that was the same holiday that I helped rescue a clueless numpty – and his Yorkshire Terrier – from the Crib Goch ridge.

I’ll stop moaning now.

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