Banning boy from running barefoot was 'knee-jerk reaction'

Wellesley College student Henry Patterson, 10, was disqualified from a Lower Hutt athletics race for running in bare feet.
ATHLETICS WELLINGTON/JO MURRAY

Wellesley College student Henry Patterson, 10, was disqualified from a Lower Hutt athletics race for running in bare feet.

Banning a 10-year-old boy from running a race barefoot was a knee-jerk reaction caused by paranoia over new health and safety rules, according to a law expert.

Wellesley College Year five student Henry Patterson was disqualified from competing in the final of the 80-metre sprint at an inter-zone primary school in November. 

The Lower Hutt Primary School Sports Association said the rule protected childrens' feet from spiked shoes because young runners at times struggled to stick to their lanes.

Brian Nathan, employment law partner at Duncan Cotterill, said the decision to pull Patterson from the race was 'a knee ...
supplied

Brian Nathan, employment law partner at Duncan Cotterill, said the decision to pull Patterson from the race was 'a knee jerk reaction'.

But Brian Nathan, a civil litigation lawyer with Wellington-based firm Duncan Cotterrill, said the decision may have been because of "paranoia" around new health and safety rules.

READ MORE: 
Lower Hutt boy disqualified from sprint competition for running barefoot
The pros and cons of running barefoot

"It's sad that people have this type of knee jerk, adverse reaction where it probably wasn't needed."

Wellesley College Year five student Henry Patterson was disqualified from competing in the final of the 80-metre sprint at an inter-zone primary school competition held by the Lower Hutt Primary School Sports Association (LHPSSA) earlier this month. 

But the primary school sports association spokesman, Neil Sargisson, said the rule about shoes was instigated by the organisers of Wellingotn regional athletics events, based on safety aspects of running in bare feet on synthetic tracks. 

"There have been incidents of children running in bare feet on synthetic tracks in summer where the track temperature was in the mid-high 40s and they have finished with blisters and burns on their feet," he said.

"As the organisers of the Lower Hutt inter-school athletics event that feeds into the Wellington regional sports, the LHPSSA followed the rules of the Wellington regional event, so that there was consistency for the students going from our event to the regional event.

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"While there is no risk of blistering or burning feet on a grass track, there are other potential hazards where students feet could get hurt or cut by objects, such as stones, sticks, and glass on the grass." 

But Nathan said that the rules were excessive. 

"Worksafe have continued to say they don't want to stop children from climbing trees or running barefoot," he said. 

"It's a real shame there's this paranoia around the way the legislation might apply and I wouldn't have thought it needed to apply in these circumstances.

Under the Health and Safety Act, organisations that work purely with volunteers don't have to abide by health and safety rules. But if a volunteer organisation works with sport or schools outside of school grounds, health and safety laws do apply.

The student was allowed to compete in a race earlier in the day, but was only prevented from competing in the final. 

 - Stuff

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