Act is being misapplied

As you will be aware, at last someone (Health and Safety Executive chairman Judith Hackett) in government circles is speaking sense on the issue of health and safety.

The Act has been a refuge behind which local authorities all over the country have made petty rules banning all jumping and diving from the poolside where there is a depth of less than two metres.

It is claimed that these activities carry a risk of injury to the performer and to other swimmers.

The Act applies only to conditions and practices at work, hence it is being misapplied.

Evidence from a survey of teenage boys made it clear that large numbers have turned away from swimming as a recreation because it is ‘no longer fun’. It is hedged around with restrictions which effectively compel them to climb slowly down steps or ladders, and then simply swim around in circles like so many fish in a shoal, at the speed of the slowest.

Fun, and an element of risk-taking, are part of the process of learning.

This has been taken away from swimming by the ban on jumping and diving from the poolside. Many adult swimmers also dislike the rule.

To ban swimmers whose aim is to make a long, shallow, almost horizontal entry (technically a ‘plunge’) from the poolside is caution carried to excess. Before the Act came into being, almost every bather at local or private pools, who could swim, dived to get into the water. Or they jumped in, which is also forbidden. They jumped or plunged or ‘dived in’, quite freely.

Was it safe? Well, thousands of swimmers made tens of thousands of such entries throughout each of the years prior to the Act being applied so inflexibly.

Risk of injury? Yes, there were a few injuries, some of which were very serious, or indeed fatal, but the percentage of injuries nationally was microscopically small.

This degree of risk does not justify the ban on a very popular practice.

The same councils rightly provide, and encourage young people to use, skateboard ramps and slides.

These cater for the thrills and skills which young people enjoy and therefore use actively.

However, the facilities carry with them severe risk of serious injury – potentially even death – but no total ban is imposed, unlike at swimming pools, where banning is imposed.

Skateboarders are expected to use their own common sense. This should be the rule at all public facilities.

It is excessively cautious to apply a blanket ban based on legislation designed for totally different circumstances. It is rank misapplication of the Act.

It is time to win back young people to all forms of physical activity.

If they do not enjoy swimming (and its related skill of competitive diving) they will look elsewhere for leisure pursuits, possibly to less desirable ones.

Where will our future Tom Daleys come from?

How can the present policy be justified in view of the national need to combat obesity through active exercise?

Let swimmers jump or dive in from the side without restriction. If they ‘bomb’ someone who is not part of the game, and who objects, the offender should be expelled for anti-social behaviour, not for ‘breach of a rule.’

K.A Miller

Former President of the DASA

Canterbury Terrace