In industrial society, hazards always exist

In the wake of every tragic event, there is always an examination- often by the media or lawmakers – into whether some preventative measure should have or could have been employed. While such a look back can make sense, it should not avoid common sense.

Last month in St. Paul, a 9-year-old boy had his feet severed when he tried to climb onto a slow-moving train about a block from his home. He fell and the train ran over him. A report out Thursday says the train tracks were not guarded by a fence, as required by state law. The law has been on the books for about a century, but no government agency enforces it. The state has 4,400 miles of freight railroad lines. It’s difficult to imagine railroads constructing that much fencing or there being a regulator to monitor it all.

And there is this question: Would fencing really make any difference? Can’t a curious young boy interested in climbing aboard a train clear a fence pretty easily?

In an industrial society, there are hazards that are sometimes difficult to mitigate, such as railroads, road traffic, household cleaners, electricity and other things. That is why there are educational programs in schools and elsewhere to let children know about the dangers. Children have to listen and get reinforcement from their parents. And parents must do what they can to keep kids away from nearby dangers. Even then, it may not be possible to prevent every accident. Meanwhile, it is true that these rare incidents do offer a dose of reality for other youngsters.