Graham Higgins Illustration - Literate Graffiti Dept.


April 9, 2011

9-4-11 H&S cross’d buns

9-4-11 H&S cross’d buns


It’s a Health and Safety issue. In the old days we might have called it a concern or a topic, a question or a matter. Now we have issues, which we address. Oh issue, what shall be our resolution?

You might be forgiven for thinking that H&S is shorthand for Health And Safety Gone Mad; the phrases are pretty much interchangeable. I’ve been asked, for instance, to furnish a Health And Safety Risk Assessment for a library drawing session. I acknowledged that a sharpened pencil could present a risk of accidental impalement or indeed be converted by the malicious into an offensive weapon, though I noted that in my experience this had never occurred. The erasers supplied by the library could present a choking-risk. A sufficiently motivated child might unscrew the blade in a pencil-sharpener, presenting a whole range of possible unfortunate consequences. Paper-cuts could not be ruled out, though again this has never happened… so far.

Rather like the sin-assessment required in preparation for confession, a thorough survey of possible risk reveals another terra nova in Health And Safety: the minefield. It’s a Health And Safety Minefield, quite unsettling enough to provoke the disorder known in the field as the Health And Safety Nightmare.

The nightmare is that an accident might happen. In the enquiry that must happen in that event, there are two possible outcomes: (a) the risk has been overlooked (‘with cavalier disregard’) or (b) it has been noted, and is thus ‘an accident waiting to happen’, another way of saying that it didn’t happen until it did, in which case those responsible must claim that they will learn from the incident, while injured parties and their advocates are given the opportunity to observe that this is ‘too little, too late.’ Lessons must be learned, steps taken, measures put in place.

This week I discovered that there are are issues around hot-cross buns. Not issues around the strict accuracy of the trade description ‘hot’; I will assume that a good lawyer would defend the nomenclature as a simple generic classification observed by the baked confectionary industry and allied trades. No, no, this is a Health And Safety issue.

In the week before the Easter holidays, R.E. naturally turns to The Easter Story and associated customs and traditions. I’d thought that it might be worth bringing cross-buns in as a ‘multi-sensory resource’ [tick relevant box] in a brief history of the seasonal bakeware.

There was a worksheet based on a related comprehension-text, outlining linked superstitions: buns baked on Good Friday will not ‘go off’ during the subsequent year (I thought this made it sound like a suspect device); buns baked on this day are said to help people recover from illness ‘if they eat them’; if taken on a ship, they’re thought to prevent shipwreck; buns hung in the kitchen ensure that all bread baked will turn out perfectly; anyone sharing a bun will have friendship for the following year (End Of Ecclesiastical Year Notice: Failure to supply and share buns on the date specified may result in a Billy No-Mates Order).

The name ‘hot-cross buns’ was first recorded in 1773 – though sliced bread supplanted buns as the measure of excellence against which all human ingenuity is measured around 1928.

It’s thought that buns with a cross on them were eaten in Saxon times, when the cross represented the quarters of the moon and honoured the goddess Eostre, from which we get the name Easter, an early example of theological imperialism, though one I might not have raised with Year 5.

So I mentioned this to another teacher, who looked suddenly guarded when I had the foresight to ask to ask whether there were any children with notified allergies. Procedure advises that the staff member with responsibility for keeping the special dietary needs register must be consulted, but she was not in school. I asked at the office, who directed me to the Deputy Head. She welcomed the Incoming Bun warning, told me to hold fire and said that parents would be texted as a precaution; a useful exercise since the database may need to be updated.

Thursday’s R.E. was displaced by an extended games session, making use of a fine day. By the time the children were back in class and changed out of games kit there was time to show a couple of short vids outlining the Easter Story. Friday, there was no official R.E. window, and since the timetable was filled with end-of-term activities there was no time to introduce and divide the buns I’d kept in my briefcase overnight. In retrospect, had any child keeled over as a result of reckless unauthorised distribution of the contentious bakeware, an expired sell-by date would be clear evidence of culpable negligence.

I learn lessons from this and will put measures in place to prevent this simple error in future. Classes will not be exposed to the risk of buns, crossed or otherwise, not on my watch.

The community can sleep that much more soundly, safe in the knowledge that we are taking steps to eradicate the possibility of all accidents in compliance with initiatives to raise awareness of the dangerous environment we monitor on a day-to-day basis.


  1. Food for thought there. Seems a shame not to be able to share treats occasionally, doesn’t it? I hope the buns didn’t go to waste?

    Comment by Sue Jones — April 9, 2011 @ 9:13 pm
  2. This morning I told my son, now 31 and about to qualify as a teacher himself, and he recalled kids in his class bringing in containers of home-made cakes and samosas to mark birthdays and assorted community celebrations. I don’t recall any dire consequences. A lot of they fancy allergies hadn’t been invented then. We wuz poor but we wuz healthy.

    Comment by admin — April 10, 2011 @ 3:09 pm
  3. Well, I was a somewhat sickly child among other somewhat sickly children at my junior school – maybe some of those children were suffering from undiscovered food allergies rather than perpetual sniffles, bilious attacks or whatever they were supposed to be suffering from?

    At any rate, we do now have to take any known allergies into consideration along with various medical and cultural dietary restrictions. Looking back at your piece, it seems to me that the school had carefully ticked the appropriate H&S box by having a member of staff responsible for recording these things, but totally failed on the think-through. Surely, the only purpose of having such a list is that it should be on site, accessible and visible, where anyone who needs to know can find it and check it, not locked away in someone’s desk or briefcase.

    And that is a fine example of the way that the cult of H&S tends to make things worse not better. Those who are confident that they have followed official procedure are often less alert to real-world dangers than those who just do their best to muddle through without the help of forms and tick-boxes. So the boxes become more numerous and round and round we go. Hey ho!

    Comment by Sue Jones — April 10, 2011 @ 3:54 pm
  4. Another example, then: a colleague at another school told me about an instance of a friend of hers who’d slipped on some concrete stairs at *her* school. She’d advised her friend to put in a claim against the school because this could have resulted in more serious injury (or might develop into one) and long-term absence.
    OK, if these stairs were a known hazard, there may be a case for putting on some pressure to remedy the risk. Maybe registering the incident would help if it turned out to be the first of a series.
    The significant feature to me was the assumption that accidents don’t happen in public places; someone else must be responsible. I could understand this if the rule was that no-one injured themselves in their own homes or indeed if domestic injuries were followed by some official enquiry into the safety measures put in place by the householder to minimise the risk to him/herself.
    Take reasonable precautions? Good, sensible idea. Cultivate the climate in which any physical injury, offence or, god forbid, loss of self-esteem, is grounds enough for compensation (it’s not the money, of course; it’s a given that ‘no amount of money can replace…’ whatever it might be)? Hmm, we-ell… you set yourself the Herculean task of caretaker in the Augean Stables of human fallibility.

    Comment by admin — April 11, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

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