New guidance covers risks in outdoor play

Melanie Defries
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New guidance on outdoor play aims to dispel some popular myths about health and safety and risk.

It identifies a number of common misconceptions about outdoor play, including worries over whether insurers will cover activities with an element of risk and a perceived need to undertake regular and lengthy risk assessments for outdoor activities.

The guidance, Go outdoors!, is published by the Scottish Institute for Residential Childcare and aimed at the carers of looked-after children. But it argues that it is vital that all children are given the chance to take risks as part of learning how to be safe.

It points out that the latest strategy document published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that leaders of organisations need to promote a 'common-sense, practical approach to health and safety,' and that the HSE does not require risk assessment forms to be completed for children and young people with regard to everyday outdoor activities.

In response to fears over insurance for outdoor and risky play activities, the guidance advises organisations to explain the processes they have in place to assess and cope with the identified risks when purchasing the policy, and to keep insurers up to date with any new activities that are introduced and which were not mentioned to the insurer or broker at the outset.

It says, 'Insurers neither have to be constantly informed, nor require forms to be filled out for parental consent on behalf of the children and young people who will be taking part in the activities.'

The guidance identifies risk assessment procedures as the main block to spontaneity and normality in activities for children and young people in care. It says that often, risk assessments are seen as a way for practitioners to 'cover their backs' in case something goes wrong, which it attributes to a blame culture within certain organisations.

It says that the real purpose of risk assessment is to facilitate safe outdoor play but that it has become a significant factor in preventing children and young people from undertaking many activities.

Tom Bailie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, said, 'Children can't be protected from every risk associated with play and recreation, nor should they be, for a key part of growing up is learning how to avoid or minimise hurts and accidents.'

 

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