Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

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Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
Rospa logo.png
RoSPA Logo
Formation 1917 (1917)
Type Registered charity
Purpose Promotion of safety and the prevention of accidents
Headquarters Edgbaston
Region served
United Kingdom
Chief Executive
Tom Mullarkey, MBE

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is a British charity which aims to promote safety. It is particularly known for its vocal campaigns on issues of road safety, including Tufty the road crossing squirrel, the Cycling Proficiency Test and the Green Cross Code, as well as on issues of occupational health and safety.

History and development[edit]

The origins of RoSPA date to the First World War when, in response to the 'alarming increase in road accidents' during the blackouts, the London 'Safety First' Council was established on 1 Dec 1916. In 1917, accident data were collected, there was a call to license all drivers, three children's safety competitions were run (involving 57,000 pupils) and a railway safety committee was established. A campaign to change the pedestrian rule so that walkers face oncoming traffic was so successful that fatal accidents caused by pedestrians stepping into the path of vehicles fell by 70 per cent in 12 months.[1]

Also in 1917 a separate body, the Industrial "Safety First" Committee was established, and as a result in 1918 the British Industrial "Safety First" Association (BISFA) was formed to tackle workplace safety on a national scale.

In 1920, HRH the Duke of York became President of the London "Safety First" Council, when his presidency ended in 1923 he became Patron. Also in 1923 The National "Safety First" Association was formed with the London "Safety First" Council and BISFA affiliated to it. The Duke of York became Patron of The National "Safety First" Association in 1926.[2]

In 1932 the National "Safety First" Association extended its activities to Home Safety, and Caroline Haslett, director of the Electrical Association for Women, was appointed as chair of Home Safety Committee, a post she held until 1936, becoming the first woman vice president in 1937.[3]

In 1936 the Duke of York became King George VI and continued as Patron of the Association. In 1941, with the agreement of the King, the Association changed its name to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents - as it is known today.

RoSPA's work concerns safety on the road (the organisation estimates that 550,000 people have died on Britain's roads since Bridget Driscoll's death in 1896.[4]), at work, in the home, at leisure, on and in the water as well as safety education for the young, with its mantra being 'prevention in proportion' and 'sensible safety'. The charity has always advocated that activities should be as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible - enabling people to take part in activities and manage their own risks.

RoSPA's income is derived largely from subscriptions, the sale of products and the provision of services - notably consultancy and training. The British Government also makes grants towards specific areas of RoSPA's activities.

RoSPA is governed by an executive committee and board of Trustees. The organisation employs approximately 120 staff, located in the head office in Birmingham and at regional offices in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. The Society's patron is Her Majesty the Queen; Lord Jordan of Bournville became RoSPA's president in 2008.

RoSPA as well as a number of Health & Safety professional bodies (including the Health and Safety Executive) in 2011 developed the Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR),[5] a register of UK and Ireland health and safety consultants devised to assist employers and businesses to find approved safety consultants more easily.

Cycling Proficiency[edit]

The Cycling Proficiency Test was created by RoSPA in 1947 as a minimum recommended standard for cycling on British roads.[6] The National Cycling Proficiency Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1958, with statutory responsibility for road safety being given to local authorities in 1974, including the provision of child cyclist training but the scheme continued to be associated with RoSPA. The scheme was superseded by the National Standards for Cycle Training, branded Bikeability in England.[7]


RoSPA has been accused of being professional killjoys or busybodies,[citation needed] having an unduly risk-averse approach and taking a bureaucratic and inflexible approach to interpreting health and safety legislation. However, in response to this, the charity has started advocating allowing a degree of risk-taking in children's play.[8]

In this vein, RoSPA has established the Child Safety Education Coalition (CSEC), an organisation that aims to allow children to experience risks and learn from them. It encourages children to take part in all activities they wish to, whilst providing them with enough information to manage their own safety.

The 'professional killjoy' label has been difficult to shake off - perhaps unfairly, as RoSPA's mantra is 'sensible safety', trying to strike a balance between encouraging people to live their lives to the full, whilst educating the public in mitigating risks and carrying out activities safely. It has always advocated that activities inside and outside the workplace should be as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible.


  1. ^ "RoSPA History : The Early Years". RoSPA. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "RoSPA in the Twenties". RoSPA. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Messenger, Rosalind (1967), The Doors of Opportunity, A Biography of Dame Caroline Haslett DBE Companion IEE, London: Femina Books, pp. 76–77 
  4. ^ "How the UK's first fatal car accident unfolded". BBC News. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2010. 
  5. ^ The Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register. OSHCR.
  6. ^ The Effectiveness of Cyclist Training, RoSPA
  7. ^ Bikeability, official website - DfT
  8. ^ Child Safety. "RoSPA Annual Review 2010-2011 | The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents". Retrieved 2011-11-13. 

External links[edit]