Friday, 19 June 2009

Cotton Wool Society The Gullibility Of Health and Safety Regulations

As we approach the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on the 20th July it brings home the fact that a significant number of human achievements have been achieved at great risk. Would the moon landings in 1969 have been achieved in a health and safety culture? Would the risks of the Apollo programme have been undertaken in a cotton wool society? What has also come to light is a previously unknown snippet of Apollo 11 radio traffic reveals that Buzz Aldrin's initial words to Neil Armstrong were 'Mind The Step'

We now know that these words of caution inspired the burgeoning Health and Safety industry so that today we have an invisible hordes of bureaucrats and hand wringing worriers increasing the burden of Health and Safety legislation in our schools.

The arguments that explain the socially debilitating impact of 'cotton wool rules makers' are well known. What a job that must be! Presumably these people have been carefully selected for their positions by psycho metrically testing for neurotic predispositions and an overly fertile imaginations that are capable of imagining every possible negative consequence of every possible positive action.

Who is holding these people to account for the destructive educative consequences of their actions? Someone should be pointing out the 'risks' to individuals and society of their rule making and suing them accordingly!The 'Worry Culture' is endemic.

On my commute to work yesterday I had to listen to a woman bragging, yes bragging! to her friend that she 'was that obsessive parent', so obsessively concerned about her child's safety that 30 minutes after taking her daughter to her friends house to play she drove back 'just to check she was alright'

Any educator will explain the value of Experiential Learning. This is how we learn! This is how we develop social relationships. Now, how about this for a thought...what if aspects of youth on youth violence are nothing to do with economics and popular culture? What if the increased violence in our society is actually driven by a need to experience risk? What if our molly coddled society is actually breeding the violent and high risk situations it seeks to prevent! Do you agree?

On a more mundane level the same applies to business. How many people work in organisations where exciting new ideas are crushed because somebody has 'seen' (for that read imagined) a host of potential pitfalls. These are the businesses that don't learn how to productively manage the experience of risk because risk never happens.

Imagine...35 years ago, NASA development meeting.

Person A "I think we should go for Moon landing"

Person B "Don't you realise there's a chance that the lunar module might crash or not be able to take off from the moon and the astronauts will die"

Person A "Oh I'd not thought of that, we'd better no do it"

Person B "Great! what do you reckon to my design for my new paper aeroplane?"

Person A "Make sure we have our safety goggles on before you chuck that thing around the office"

Person B "Don't worry I'll be posting paper plane evasive manoeuvre procedures on the notice board in advance for you all to read. Be careful though, don't get too close to the notice board in case you strain your eyes, or get really close and bump your nose"

Person A "I need to check with Health and Safety that the publication of Health and Safety notices isn't damaging our Health and Safety by increasing stress levels, so just hold back on the whole paper plane thing until we're sure its safe to proceed"

Person B "OK"

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