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The most magnificent ways Hogwarts failed at health and safety

How on earth did the school manage to stay open year after year?

Dobby stands on Harry's hospital bed.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Witches and wizards have access to remedies that we can only dream of. When you can bounce back from almost any injury or illness (barring the odd magical ones, of course), all bets are off with regards to extra-curricular activities at school. But that doesn’t mean Hogwarts didn’t go a bit over the top sometimes...

Unusual detentions

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Some of the punishments meted out at Hogwarts weren’t that outlandish, only boring (remember the time Ron had to spend an evening cleaning trophies with Filch? Great times) – but others were downright dangerous. In Harry’s first year the teachers saw fit to send a group of 11-year-old children into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid, who already knew that it was home to centaurs, Thestrals and a family of giant man-eating spiders. And they were sent in there expressly to look for something that had been killing unicorns! What better way to investigate an anonymous murderous force than to send a bunch of kids, right?

Although this is all nothing compared to Harry’s fifth year, during which Professor Umbridge forced Harry to do lines with a magical quill that cut the words into his hands. Although Umbridge was an intense case, coming to Hogwarts at a time where the wizarding world was in disarray, scarring students should have been an instantly sackable offence.

The moving staircases

the moving stair
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Hogwarts has 142 staircases, which is quite a lot – not to mention the fact that some of them moved. That would be dangerous enough even without students like Neville Longbottom walking around with long robes and a tendency to trip over things. On top of that, a lot of the stairs did things like turn into stone slides, or have trick steps (one of which caught both Harry and Neville). Talk about dastardly.

Just imagine if you had this sort of thing going on at a Muggle school. The moving staircases would have to be clearly marked in hazard tape, and a siren would sound to make sure everyone knew the stairs were about to move. Maybe you’d even have an automated warning: ‘Caution: staircase is reversing!’ over and over again. For all the danger, though, we can’t help but wonder: where’s the fun in that?

The Whomping Willow

A hooded figure crosses the Hogwarts grounds
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

How many other schools would have not only allowed a tree that got angry and hit things as a defence mechanism, but put it in the grounds on purpose? The Whomping Willow was first planted as cover for Remus Lupin’s disappearances every full moon, allowing him to attend school safely despite being a werewolf, which is an admirable reason to install a violent tree. But why was it kept for years after Lupin had graduated? We can only imagine there was a very passionate conversation where Professor Sprout lobbied for its retention, pointing out that it was very rare and valuable.

Still, even if the Whomping Willow had to stay, the school could have done more to make it safe. Ron and Harry crashed into the truculent tree at the start of their second year, and nobody had ever warned them that there was a plant on the grounds that might punch them if they got too close. Dumbledore should have put up signs, at least.

Quidditch

Harry and Draco race to the snitch in a quidditch match
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

We might all wish Muggles could play Quidditch, but the school sport at Hogwarts was brutal. Think about it: Quidditch takes place at breakneck speed, and so high off the ground that Harry (who was only an innocent second-year at the time) broke his arm when he once fell off his broom.

Quidditch injuries were a regular occurrence, and even in the few years he was at Hogwarts Harry fell off his broom several times while playing, once breaking his arm. The fact that Quidditch features Bludgers, magical balls specifically bewitched to try and knock students off their brooms, should have been a clue that maybe the sport needed more regulation. The fact that there are 700 types of Quidditch foul is also a tiny indicator that this sport isn’t quite the equivalent of a friendly kickabout in the park.

The Triwizard Tournament

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This centuries-old inter-school competition was held every five years between Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, but, as Dumbledore himself said, ‘the death toll mounted so high that the Tournament was discontinued’. So, naturally, the competition was started up again many centuries later.

The Tournament that Harry entered in his fourth year ended in tragedy, but even if Voldemort and his Death Eaters hadn’t been working behind the scenes, it could have been a disaster anyway. Despite the extra precautions that were put in place there were several near-drownings, and Cedric got a nasty burn during his bout with a dragon. Yes, because the Hogwarts staff, in conjunction with government officials, decided that making four teenagers go one on one against a dragon was a perfectly fine idea.

Never change, Hogwarts. Never change.