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UK Councils Sink Common Sense Pool Safety

UK Councils Sink Common Sense Pool Safety

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Personal safety devices violates health and safety laws in England.

The Wokingham Borough Council in Southeast England recently banned all personal flotation devices from their swimming pools because they pose a threat to health and safety.

You read that right: a device that's supposed to keep you safe violates health and safety laws.

Harpers, a private company that runs swimming pools and sports centers around southeast England, banned the floating devices after a child nearly choked on one. So they implemented a policy to only allow the floating devices during supervised swimming lessons. But they never made the policy public, and from all accounts, would not have told people about it if they didn't have to.

The fact that you're reading it here pretty much tells you how that plan worked out.

Sarah Swain, 31, was swimming at the pool in Wokingham, when she decided she wanted to use a floating board. She took lessons last year, but was still a little shaky in the water. So she went to retrieve a board from a cupboard where they were stacked up.

"Being a non-swimmer, the first thing I did was look for a float," Swain told The London Daily Telegraph. "I was surprised to see none in the water or around the edge of the pool.

Swain said when she tried to retrieve one, a lifeguard stopped her, and said she couldn't have one for health and safety reasons.

"When I asked him why he said the company had banned them from handing them out because a small child almost choked on one," said Swain. "I said 'I am hardly a small child. am I?' but he said they were the rules."

A spokesman for Harpers told The Times, "At Loddon Valley, we do not generally distribute floats or swimming aids during public swimming sessions as we would prefer those less confident in the water do not go into the deeper water."

In other words, rather than telling people not to let their children chew the floats, they want to put people at risk of drowning by not letting them use safety devices. Rather than create a policy to prevent the first-ever instance in history of a child choking on a kick board, why not work to prevent the more likely event of people drowning because they didn't have a flotation device?

But this isn't the only instance of British councils creating life-threatening rules under the guise of health and safety.

Three years ago, a three-year-old girl was not allowed to use a board, because she might get injured using it. Never mind that she could die if she didn't use it, they just didn't want her to get smacked in the face. A lifeguard there said he was not allowed to lend out floats, unless it was at a supervised session, because they didn't want someone to get injured and sue them.

I'm more concerned that you actually have unsupervised swimming sessions than rogue kick boards.

But it doesn't stop there. Two years ago, staff at a pool in Northumberland refused to give a five-year-old swimmer a board, because they were worried that water aids and water wings might pass on infections.

Here's a hint: if your safety devices can't get sanitized in a chlorinated pool, then your pool isn't very clean either. Either that, or you do a sucky job at cleaning and sterilizing your equipment. Rather than banning the devices, why don't you just do a better-than-mediocre job of cleaning them?

The United Kingdom may just take the cake when it comes to helicopter parenting. It's one thing that in the United States, parents make their three-year-olds wear crash helmets and knee pads when they're riding their tricycles. That may be overprotective and dorky. But UK officials love sticking their noses in other people's businesses.

If you're worried that kids are getting fat and inactive, it's not because of video games and junk food. We've had video games for 30 years, and junk food ever since our mothers said eating the skin of a mastodon that was bad for us.

Our kids are getting fat because there are people who are so worried about someone getting a small boo-boo that they're regulating kids right out of the activities that are supposed to keep them active and healthy.

The councils in England have some of the worst reputations for coming up with some of the stupidest rules in the entire Western hemisphere. If people were smart, they would come up with a way to ban the town councils and let common sense rein.

But common sense was banned in 2003, because they were worried it might allow people to have fun.

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