OK, Now: When Is BOWLING Perfectly Safe? (Hint: Never.)

Yes, Readers: That was the conclusion over in less-than-jolly, indeed, downright macabre England. According to this article, a  group of safety experts was assigned to assess the sport’s dangers:

After two years and £250,000, they found that ten-pin bowling alleys up and down the country could be a ‘very dangerous’ environment for families.

They concluded that it was too easy for children or teenagers to run down lanes and get trapped in machinery that sets up the pins – even though there was no record of any such accident having happened.

I love this study,  not just for its conclusion, but for its classic “what if?” reasoning. And by the way, “what if?” kids playing jacks start eating them? And “what if” kids playing baseball start hitting each other over the head with the bats? And “what if” all the runners in a race decide to tie their shoelaces together at the starting line? They’ll fall down and possibly suffer life-threatening brain injuries!

Start thinking “what if?” and absolutely no activity is safe — not even blogging! Because “what if,” using my chin, I slam this laptop shut on my wrists? Yikes! I’m signing off — Lenore

43 Responses

  1. Of course using this logic: kids shouldn’t use pencils cause a really sharp one could poke their eyes out.

    Or: kids shouldn’t go to school because thanks to the pollution outside they could develop ashtma.

    Or: they shouldn’t run because one day they might get older and then take up training for a marathon and drink too much water and develop hyponatremia and die.

    Thank goodness I have stopped watching the news daily. It’s all about scaring people, not helping. (Oh wait, let’s remove NY1 from that equation, they are actually pretty decent.)

  2. Children (teenagers?) running down the lanes?!? I’m at bowling alleys pretty often, and I’ve NEVER seen this happen. Not even with toddlers. And if anyone did try to run down the lane, the biggest danger would be falling flat on your back. Perhaps they don’t polish the lanes in England; every one I’ve been to has been extremely slippery. My kids made the mistake of walking on to the slippery part about once each, resulting in a minor boo-boo. Hardly the wildly imaginative dangerous environment from the article!

  3. I’m willing to bet someone had government grant money to do this study.

  4. Some people just have NOTHING better to do. Between the Astroturf Christmas Tree and the Bowling stories, I’ve but to roll my eyes and take a nap. Ughf.

  5. Actually, this is hilarious considering that this is about the least dangerous part of bowling. You have to slip and slide all the way down the lane first before reaching the “dangerous” equipment.

    When you really think about it, the more likely bowling accident is either getting a ball dropped onto you or getting your fingers nabbed in the ball return chute.

    In fact, I’ll bet you could easily show that the parking lot of the bowling alley is more dangerous than the alley itself. At least around here you could.

  6. When, oh when will we legislate against household stairs… they are way more dangerous than bowling.

    We should all have elevators, with emergency backup generators. But, they can’t go too fast or kids might suffer whiplash.

    This just makes me groan.

  7. Anything can be dangerous… my groaning and shaking my head in dismay is generally safe, but I could also slam my head into the keyboard or something.

    No matter how idiot proof you make anything, the universe will always build a better idiot…

  8. Man oh man. I wish my dad, the former pin-boy was still alive. He set pins to earn a living as a depression-era teenager. He said the other kids would aim at the pin setters. It was all a matter of fun. He would scoff at the protectionism these days.

  9. On this type of story the Daily Mail should be considered an unreliable narrator. The actual report from the Healthy and Safety Executive can be found at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacs/47-20.htm

    It’s kind of dry and I haven’t read it all, but it’s focused on protecting workers at bowling centers not the public. It does not appear to mention teenagers or children at all (at least according to my browser find function).

  10. Good thing I didn’t bowl over Thanksgiving. Instead my boys played with Nerf swords and learned one-two combinations from their uncles. Not even so much as a scrape!

  11. Ha! My Dad used to take us bowling when I was a kid. The biggest danger to me was when I would finally throw myself down in frustration and tears at getting another gutter ball!

  12. The most dangerous part of bowling is when old guys like me throw out their backs.

    Danger is an important part of childhood play. It focuses attention. We’re going to be using hammers, saws and drills all week — in a preschool. They will get hurt walking across a flat floor, but perfectly safe using the tools.

  13. Many what if scenarios regarding safety could be from a Bugs Bunny cartoon or a Three Stooges short. The what ifs regarding security or crime (shoe bombs, liquid explosives) sound like bad plots from the 1960’s Batman TV show.

  14. I just asked my 11 year old son if he’d ever had the urge to run down the lanes towards the pins while bowling and he just stared at me blankly like I was an idiot.

  15. Haha, all the more reason not to go to bowling alleys – let them climb a tree instead:)

  16. You hit it right on again. What if? Think of the money that was spent on this research. Is there no one with common sense out there?

  17. I concur with Helen. the Daily Fail is NEVER a reliable source of information. That said, it’s totally the sort of thing our government would try and do. There’s chatter about them sending health and safety inspectors into private homes -eyeroll-

  18. This is too funny! They ought be pretty close to running out of things to worry about in England by now, wouldn’t you think?

    I did quite a bit of bowling as a kid. Once my foot slid into the lane and I nearly fell. From then on, I was afraid that I would slide all the way down the lane and into the machinery. What can I say? My mother was a wee bit neurotic! Of course, I’m okay now … thanks to years of therapy!

  19. What we need to do is put one of those safety gates at the end of the lane so kids can’t get in there. ….. Bowling ball can’t get in either but our kids will be safe.

  20. And I thought the “safe” Christmas tree was bad. It’s never happened, but we have to regulate it as if it may happen! OMG!

    A small meteorite might fly down from the sky and kill a child, let’s make EVERYONE in the world wear meteorite-proof helmets 24 hours a day.

    Wow.

  21. I’ve seen many a toddler escape toward the bowling pins right down the lanes in my time. Mom, dad, big brother or sister all chasing them down in embarrassed horror. The primary safety issue I’ve seen there is whether toddler will cross lane and get bowled into from an adjoining lane because frankly enough people have their eyes on the lanes (for the purpose of bowling) that an escapee is quickly noticed. Happily, I can report that despite seeing this over a dozen times (I tend to bowl when lots of big families and craziness is there), NOT ONE toddler has gotten so much as a boo boo.

    The most dangerous activity at our group bowling is that the teens want to use “code names” so figuring out how many games each family has played can be a bit ummm headache producing. (Whose kid was named Pookie? Scooby Doo anyone? Bob????)

  22. Well, I did get hit in the head with a plastic bowling pin when I was five. So, clearly, bowling is very dangerous. *wink*

  23. “4.5 While the machine operatives are the most at risk, particularly during the various interventions they undertake, access into the machine from “front-of-house” also presents a risk and this may involve members of the public. Anecdotally HSE has been told of various public miss-uses from balls being thrown down the lane at operatives undertaking maintenance work in the machine to unorthodox and potentially very dangerous techniques for striking the pins. Although the front-of-house staff can and do monitor public behaviour, in a busy centre there are limitations on what can be achieved by supervision alone and centres need to consider and manage these kinds of risks in addition to those solely from the machine itself.”

    That’s the extent of the public hazard regarding the lanes themselves. The only other mention I found about a public safety issue is the obvious entrapment hazard of the ball return. Even in the context above, the public hazard is only a secondary mention and the primary concern is for the workers.

    It does mention about installing sensors somewhere on the lanes that I assume would provide a kill command to the lane if someone (anyone) passed through it, but again, the primary focus is the safety of the workers, not “some kid/teenager running down the lane at the pins.”

    Granted, I didn’t read through all the annexes, so I may have missed something, but the main report has no indication of what the Daily Mail claims it has.

  24. Well, there’s little doubt that the UK is much farther down the path to being totally drowned in bureaucratic nonsense, but the the USA is rapidly following.

    For an ongoing look at the follies of UK style nannyism, see http://nannyknowsbest.blogspot.com/

    You will see there the depths to which bureaucrats will descend if unchecked, and I see little sign of any effective resistance. However, like in the US, the same forces driving nannyism to new heights are also rapidly bankrupting the nation, so perhaps if we (and they) grow a new spine and take back our respective governments there may be a little hope.

  25. At the end of the article is this:

    “The HSE inquiry was begun after a technician was crushed to death in 2006 in Barking, East London, when a pin-setting machine was mistakenly left plugged in.”

    Wouldn’t you know it – the person killed was a technician who should have been aware of the hazards.

  26. My grandparents took me bowling for the first time when I was 4. I don’t recall having the urge to follow the ball.

  27. @Steve You probably didn’t meant it that way, but your remark comes one a little like “He should have known better”, which has been used to deny workers even basic safety installments in the workplace ever since the industrial revolution whenever shops could get away with it.

  28. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work for Wikipedia, since it was very small, before most people ever knew what a wiki was. A question that has been asked a lot is “Isn’t it dangerous, to allow just ANYBODY to edit your website?” My favorite answer has always been this analogy: “Putting an ‘edit’ button on every page of your website is as dangerous as putting a knife on every table in a restaurant. Sure, someone *could* pick it up and use it to do something evil, but it doesn’t stop us from providing knives, and it doesn’t make us put diners in individual cages to keep them from hurting each other. Sometimes you just have to have faith in people, and deal with individual problems as they arise, with kindness and common sense.”

  29. …“what if” all the runners in a race decide to tie their shoelaces together at the starting line? They’ll fall down and possibly suffer life-threatening brain injuries!

    At least they’ll still be able to get jobs as safety “experts”.

  30. “At least they’ll still be able to get jobs as safety “experts”.”

    Or more likely, as reporters. The Health and Safety Executive (staffed by engineers) does not seem to have made the claims Lenore is repeating – it’s mainly the newspaper that’s making up ridiculous scenarios.

  31. I really should have slowed down and read the article first. Didn’t realise it was from the *ugh* Daily Mail.

    Lenore, could you please not use any more stories from The Daily Mail? They have a long and colourful history of simply Making Sh*t Up.

  32. Lenore, I think this is one of your best posts in a while. You have a knack for showing the absurdity of things, with your great examples such as the baseball and running hazards.

    I think it’s great to read some of the comments that suggest that the original report was not so inflammatory. But the fact that the newspaper spun it into something inflammatory is still fair game: in fact, it’s central to the point you’ve always made about the role of the media.

  33. Kenny – there’s a big difference between challenging hype and promoting it uncritically.

  34. I knew before I clicked on the link that it was from The Daily Fail and so I am not really taking any part of it seriously…

  35. This is ridiculous and hilarious, and this is coming from someone who actually did get hurt in a bowling alley once, but in a different time (mid-80’s). I was at a 6th grade bowling party, and a couple of us were vying for the lightest ball. Every time the ball came back up the shoot, we would huddle around the opening and try to box each other out. Every the clever child, I decided that if I stuck my hand just a little ways into the opening, I would have the advantage. This worked once or twice, until the ball came up and trapped my finger. I looked down and suddenly realized I was stuck. And proceeded to scream in pain. They turned off the ball mechanism but they couldn’t get me out. They ended up calling the police, the fire department, and then finally they used a whole tub of oil to slide my finger out. Luckily, it was bruised and not broken.

    Of course, this was totally my fault, and I was really embarrassed. No one made a safety issue out of it, my parents didn’t get furious at the parents of the girl whose party it was, everyone agreed that the police and fire fighters were overkill but had a good laugh, and to this day I have a good story!

  36. I do love reading the comments under the article, though.
    This one is one that FRK could adopt:

    “There’s a term for this sort of obsessive reasoning: Compulsive Risk Assessment Psychosis. (It makes for an interesting acronym.) “

  37. Hey –
    I feel better knowing that the money spent showed “The two-year investigation also concluded that staff must wear earmuffs to mask the noise of balls hitting pins. ”

    I will rest better knowing no person wiil become deaf while workin’ the lane!

    I agree with Suzie:
    Susie Squire, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘The HSE has overreacted to a one-off tragedy by wasting a fortune of taxpayers’ money producing a pointless, naval-gazing report.’

  38. Lenore one night my dad got drunk and went for a drive. (Because that’s what you do when bored and drunk, you gt in the groovy van you bought – also while drunk and you go cruising)

    He ended up in a small town in the St Lawrence Seaway and noticed the local bowling alley was for sale. So he bought it. Then he made my brother stay home from school to run the bowling alley, because now he had an hour and 15 minute commute to work as well as a bowling alley to run.

    I have to agree, bowling alleys are terribly dangerous and a threat to family welfare..

  39. @Steve:

    Saying ‘Wouldn’t you know it – the person killed was a technician who should have been aware of the hazards’ is a nonsense. Businesses in the UK (and in most other civilised countries but apparently not in the States?) are required to provide adequate safety protection for their workers to try to ensure they don’t go home in a coffin.

    Do you think this person’s family think he ‘should have been aware of the hazards’ or do you think the fact that the HSE found breaches of the safety code in every single bowling alley it visited might actually be a sign that owners of these businesses weren’t taking worker safety seriously?

    The Daily Mail is a joke and has a proud tradition of trying to manipulate public opinion against government bodies. Unfortunately you’ve all fallen for their lies without doing any simple research of your own.

  40. Some of you are missing the bigger point of this. Even if the article exagerated the study, or even what the study was actually studying, the point is that that’s the news they think will sell. There are thousands of studies done daily that aren’t being reported on because they have no interest to the public. The fact that this one would IS the point that Lenore is making. We have an unlimited bucket of “worries” that we seem to need to fill. And there ARE people who will take this seriously.

  41. Robin – It made the news because the Daily Mail can make out the government is wasting money. Next year is an election year and the incumbents are not popular with the Daily Mail (or many people come to that).

    This sort of anti-nanny-state rhetoric has been a mainstay of the Daily Mail for decades. It’s no turning of the tide. They also, from time to time, feature glossy articles on how to buy lots of things to baby-proof your house or the best way to get your kids into the very best state school.

  42. I gotta say if I was over there I would be supremely pissed at this ridiculous use of taxpayers dollars. And I thought our government threw money away on dumb shit. Good lord.

  43. I currently run the front desk of a bowling alley, and in my opinon, bowling can be perfectly safe for children. But it depends on how well the parents discipline their children. Kids have to know how to follow the rules and how to listen. On top of that parents have to be mature and know how to do so themselves. I’ve seen many cases where the kids roll the ball and want to go after it, understanding. But after that the parents should do whatever it takes to keep there kids off the lanes. If it even means they have to sit out the rest of the game. Many machines have sensors at the end of the lane that pulls the sweep down when the ball goes through, however it doesn’t know the difference between a ball or person. The sensor just knows that something crossed the beam. Its not the fact that kids get on the lane or they they only made it a half way down, its the fact that they could have made it further, and we don’t need any more repeats.

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