Risk and safety in places where children play “do not let compensation culture deter you from helping”
The fear of claims often deters individuals from becoming involved in groups which offer challenges to children that can involve an element of risk. According to Play England taking risk is at the heart of children’s play and through taking risk children build their capabilities, explore their emotions and expand their horizons and test the boundaries. Play England have worked with the Health and Safety Executive to publish a statement on a balanced approach to managing the risks associated with play activities which provided useful guidance to those who run groups that provide activities for children.
There is a duty of care owed by those that provide activities to organise the activity so that a balance is struck between the risks and the benefits of offering children challenging play opportunities.
Certainly effective risk management is the job of play providers and managers to judge what is safe and unsafe about the activity they are providing.
Play England advocate a risk benefit assessment that addresses two goals. Firstly the goal of protecting children from avoiding serious harm and secondly the goal of providing them with stimulating adventurous play opportunities. It is important to manage the risk throughout the activity as risk of harm can develop during an activity and cannot always be planned for. There is often a perceived compensation culture that does not in fact exist. In certain walks of life the instances of injuries are actually falling. The Health and Safety Executive have published a statement that work place major injuries have hit an all time low for 2012/13.
If as you should be you are not deterred to become involved in providing activities that involve an element of risk then this should always be undertaken through a recognised group and guidance should be sought from the management of that group as to the risk management of any activity before the activity is undertaken. The group should ensure they have adequate insurance. If you are an individual such as a coach or umpire you should ensure that you are insured and have the appropriate qualifications to undertake the activity.
In my experience personal injury Claims arising from children at play are incredibly rare, but claims for breach of duty can arise where there is inadequate risk assessment.
Matthew Winder solicitor and senior litigator member of APIL
11th of November 2013.