Editorial: Life a risky business

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2014

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OPINION: It must be a nightmare to organise a school trip these days.

Parental permission for this and that, a register of every child's medical and personal issues, getting in the money, sorting the transport (driving licences and vehicles in order, a seatbelt for each pupil) and getting enough helpers.

The temptation must be not to bother.

So well done Waimataitai School last week in taking five classes to visit seven or eight farms.

Farms are full of dangers.

But one the supervisors of the trips might not have anticipated was being offered raw milk to drink, which, of course, most kids would be keen to try. Especially if the cream had had time to float to the top.

But given the publicity about the dangers of drinking unpasteurised milk in recent weeks you might have thought some warning bells might have gone off, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

But alarm bells didn't go off, and according to medical authorities two children ended up in hospital.

It's interesting to consider then how far this permission aspect should go.

If it had been sought for drinking raw milk, some parents might still have agreed. Yes there is a risk but unpasteurised milk is not automatically contaminated.

Also, the farmer would not knowingly offer crook milk. What if the farmer had offered a carrot? A different risk level sure, but how far do you go?

What if the farmer offered kids a ride on the back of a tractor? I put this question to a couple of mothers of school-aged children in the office.

In my eyes, what fun for the kids. In theirs, what if someone fell off.

If such activities were being offered, they said, parents should know the detail and be able to tick yes or no. The words "duty of care" were mentioned more than once.

And I understand all that, and acknowledge there would be an inquisition if someone fell off and was badly hurt or worse, killed. And, actually, maybe farmers are so health and safety conscious these days they wouldn't take the risk of offering kids a ride on a tractor.

But I also recall my childhood days when there wasn't such a focus and everyone relied on what was then called "common sense". I recall having a lot of fun. I can't recall any disasters.

Life is a risky business, and one of the dangers in fact is if we take all risk out of it. Then, kids wouldn't leave the school grounds.

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- The Timaru Herald

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