What is meant by the term safe?

Posted by Trevor Wagland on 24 April 2013 | 0 Comments

What is ‘Safe’?

Published by Trevor Wagland 24th April 2013

Ask yourself this, do you want your child or children to be safe?

I’m assuming that you immediately responded with a ‘Yes’.

However, what does the word ‘safe’ actually mean? According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word ‘safe’ has the following definition:


  • 1 [predic.] protected from or not exposed to danger or risk.

So again I’ll ask you, do you want your child or children to be safe?

Have you ever allowed or even encouraged your child or children to climb a tree or play on a climbing frame? Are they ‘safe’, according to that definition, during this activity?

When they are climbing there is the ever present risk of being injured from a fall so they are not actually safe during this activity. This same point can be applied to a multitude of activities and experiences that a child goes through as they are growing up and this is an essential part of their development. The benefits are various:

·        Dynamic risk assessment

·        Development of strength, fitness and balance

·        Independence

·        Self-confidence

·        Confidence

·        FUN!

Once in a while a child dies from falling from a climbing frame or tree and many will be injured. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/16/boy-dies-falling-climbing-frame

 Therefore, what does this say about our attitudes to child safety if we allow and even encourage them to undertake activities that we know to be unsafe?

The benefits to society from active, independent and well developed youngsters outweigh the small percentage of injuries and rare but unfortunate deaths that can occur from these activities. We could say that these injuries and deaths are a tolerable outcome in view of the benefits.

However, would the parents of the injured or deceased children agree?

Transferring this idea to the workplace, are we looking to create a ‘safe’ working environment? Should we remove risk as far as possible from people in the workplace and reduce their ability to develop their ability to act safely from their own judgement? What is the balance?

The ability to learn from exposure to risk is essential to build what people label as ‘common sense. The focus on risk removal as a main aim in health and safety could well end up having the opposite effect in the long run.