Misguided "jobsworths" are preventing children from enjoying traditional playground games through the over-zealous application of health and safety laws, says the watchdog for the legislation.

Judith Hackitt, head of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), accused councils of using health and safety rules to avoid providing activities that might cost money or expose them to being sued.

She said children's play and education had been damaged, with some playgrounds becoming joyless no-go areas, while science lessons had been hampered by bans on practical experiments.

Hackitt warned the HSE would challenge bureaucrats who attribute "daft decisions" to ban innocuous activities to safety rules.

Warning that "the gloves are off", she said the rules were wrongly blamed for decisions to make children wear goggles when playing conkers and ban running at a pancake race.

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