Attention has rightly been drawn to a recent British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court Judgment that, whilst not serving as precedent in other jurisdictions, is both interesting and useful. You can read the judgment here.
In brief, the civil law case – brought under British Columbia Occupiers Liability Act 1996 – focuses on a negligence claim against the District of Saanich by, at the time of the incident, an 11 year old child (represented by a litigation guardian) who was injured as the result of falling during a ‘tag’ game – known locally as ‘grounders’ – from one level of a play equipment’s platform to another. The incident occurred during a day camp taking place on a school playground, though not a school project. The day camp provision was supervised.
I recommend that those concerned with risk, liability, negligence and related issues in respect of play (and more widely, leisure and sports) read the judgment in its entirety. It is not a long document, and the court’s line of thinking that led it to dismiss the negligence claim is clearly spelled out. I was intrigued by one aspect of the judgment, and that’s what prompts me to write this piece. But more of that anon. Continue reading
Delhi – hot, colourful, polluted, noisy, crowded. Wonderful in it own particular way.
The roads, traffic seething: cars, three-wheeled autos, pedal rickshaws, buses – some new(ish), some distinctly rickety. Taxis, swarms of bicycles, motorbikes, some seemingly transporting entire families.
And people, all ages – that’s ‘all’ ages – crossing the turbulent traffic sea as the mood or need takes them with what appears to be suicidal intent; though, eventually, I, too, acquire novice suicidal status, willing oncoming traffic to avoid me as I hazard to cross to the other side of the road.
To cut to the chase: I hold that a society or culture entrapped by a perpetual need to achieve, to endlessly generate quantifiable outputs, to obsessively ‘progress’ – slippery term that – is a society most likely to exhaust and dispirit its members. For rather too long, that’s pretty much the position that has been reached.
The emblem and motif of such a society is the treadmill, and the force that drives it, fear. These afflictions affect adult and child alike, trapping both in a perpetual circle of unremitting striving. It continues without cease – no sooner has one goal or objective been achieved, than another looms into view demanding satisfaction. Performance is all. Repose is nowhere allowed. We are required to be strivers. Welcome to the club that should have no members.
The symptoms of this malady are everywhere about us: the child who from the earliest age must be made learning or school ‘ready’; the sales assistant – most likely on a low or minimum wage – as well as the classroom teacher, now both equally performance assessed; the parent frantic to get their child into a ‘good’ school, the better to ‘achieve’; the school shackled to anxiety about their place in the performance league tables; the voluntary organisation, now formally contracted to provide quantifiable outcomes that do not easily mesh with the substance and purpose of their undertaking; the business executive tethered to work 24/7 via mobile phone or tablet and driven by targets. And so on. The list is long. Continue reading
Preamble, 28 March 2014
This is a corrected version of the article first posted on the 9 February 2014. In that post I erroneously said that the HSE was the prosecuting authority in the York College nursery case. That was wrong, they were not. I apologise for my error, now corrected. However, the general points raised in the article seem to me to still hold. They therefore remain intact in the piece below.
Since the date of the initial post, there has been an interesting post from Robin Sutcliffe on New Zealand’s approach to compensation and litigation. I urge you to read it. The New Zealand approach is certainly one we should look into to see if it, or some variation of it, might be relevant in the UK.
The York College case
Some readers will be aware of the York College Nursery case in which, sadly and tragically, a three year old child died as a result of becoming entangled in a rope that was attached to the top of a slide.
Prosecutions were launched: the nursery worker was charged with manslaughter and also, under health and safety legislation, of failing to take ‘reasonable care’. She was cleared of all charges, which is a relief.
In addition, York College, owners of the nursery, were charged with failing to secure the health and safety of children. The college was found guilty and will be sentenced on February 2014. They are liable for unlimited fines. (Update: the fine was £175,000. Judge’s sentencing remarks here.)
I want to tread cautiously in commenting at this stage. I will not comment at this time on the findings against the college. Nevertheless some initial thoughts arising from the charge against the nursery worker and another case, can be shared. Continue reading
I thought I’d give this blog an American slant since I’m here in the San Francisco area talking about, well, risk, standards, parks, (over) anxious parents – that sort of thing.
I’m here courtesy of the efforts of Lisa Howard and Sharon Danks, both of Bay Tree Design and the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA), a grouping that is slowly extending its reach and gathering its strength. Long in the preparation, and cooked slow for added succulence, the developing international alliance draws on, and contributes to, the expanding knowledge-base – both theoretical and practical – of the benefits and challenges involved in greening school grounds. A key component of its belief system is that school grounds are for the community as a whole, and not to be treated as sequestered enclaves for school use alone. (PLAYLINK declares an interest here, it is one of the founder members, but credit for ISGA’s conception and its activities, belong elsewhere).
Public Playground Safety Handbook
In preparation for this trip, I took a look at the what appears to be the bible for American playgrounds, the ‘Public Playground Safety Handbook’, published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here in California it is effectively mandatory to adhere to its provisions for all projects involving public money – this effectively captures, for example, most schools, parks and public playgrounds.
Sophisticated readers, and adepts in the language of play and risk, will almost certainly have given an involuntary start on seeing the word ‘safety’ in the handbook’s title.
In this article Bernard Spiegal discusses the role, scope and authority of play equipment standards. The article is one of a number of papers, comments, blogs, presentations and articles being generated by members of The York Group.
The York Group, comprising Professor David Ball, Tim Gill, Harry Harbottle, Bernard Spiegal, has come together to contribute to thinking about risk and play equipment Standards. The York Group will also be publishing jointly authored papers.
Responsibility for the views expressed in this article is the author’s. The article does, however, introduce some key lines of argument for the group, to be explored further in both its individual and joint papers.
Standards: the strong distinction
The overarching purpose of this article is to initiate a process of emancipation. To liberate occupied territory – the too large terrain that play equipment standards occupy – thereby freeing play providers to make their own judgments about where, in their provision, the balance between risk and benefit lies.
In what follows I want first to establish what I shall call a ‘strong distinction’, one that marks clearly conceptual distinctions in respect of the role, scope and authority of play equipment standards. These distinctions have for too long been allowed to remain blurred and confused. Continue reading