Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The (UK) Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is sometimes discussed in the "injuries" part of courses in GCSE PE in the context of sports injury prevention. Safety is important when participating in physical activities as well as in other aspects of life such as in the home, while travelling, and in science laboratories. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a law that applies to workplaces of many different types including schools, leisure centres and sports facilities of various types - as well as offices, factories, research environments and other types of work places.

It is not necessary to remember detailed information about the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in order to achieve a good grade for GCSE PE.

The key points are:

Workplaces including schools, colleges, leisure centres, sports centres and sports stadia e.g. football stadia have a legal duty of care to sports performers i.e. people who are using the facilities to participate in sporting activities.

They also have a duty of care to other people on the premises, incl. e.g. coaches, trainers, spectators and other visitors.


Seven features of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974:

The 7 aspects of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 listed below indicate the steps that organizers of sporting events (of all types - from school PE lessons to the London Olympics 2012) should follow in the interests of the safety of sports performers in the UK.


1.

Ensure that all equipment is safe for use.

For example, athletics events may involve use of hurdles that should not fall over too easily (e.g. in a light breeze) but should (for safety reasons) fall over if hit with sufficient force by a runner / competitor. Considerations for safe use of hurdles include ensuring that the hurdle top bar is secure, the hurdles are placed correctly for the age and gender of the runners with counter-balance weights also correctly positioned and that all the hurdles are facing in the correct direction because they should not be crossed from the wrong (landing) direction.

2.

 

Ensure that the size of the group is appropriate for the activity.

For example, many thousands of people participate in the London Marathon (36,549 participants completed it in 2010) but it may be dangerous to allow more than 2 boxers to compete in a single ring at any one time. Synchronised swimming usually involves a small group of swimmers as there is not enough space for too many people in the pool. Swimming alone might also be deemed unsafe in case of an accident.

3.

Ensure that the ability of the group is appropriate to the standard of the event.

For example, equine sporting events such as showjumping and eventing above novice standard often require qualification for participation. This may be obtained by success at other specific (approved) events, success at which demonstrates the ability of competitors.

4.

Ensure that activities and training sessions are properly planned and controlled.

For example, when organizing an after-school gymnastics club it is not sufficient or appropriate to just reserve use of the school gym for the club members then allow a large group of students to all do whatever they choose using the equipment of their choice. Planning and control is essential for the safety of everyone involved.

5.

Ensure that appropriate safety equipment is available and in good working condition.

 

The safety equipment necessary for novices to enjoy physical activities safely depends on the particular sport or activity they are participating in. Some sports require the use of shin-pads, some require the use of hard hats or helmets, others harnesses and ropes. Whatever safety equipment is appropriate for the activity should be available and well-maintained e.g. ropes checked to ensure they have not frayed and so on.

6.

Ensure that First Aid is available.

In schools and colleges this often means that teachers, supervisors and coaches have sufficient First Aid training to cope with minor incidents together with knowledge about when it is appropriate to call for medical assistance. In some cases there may also be a nurse, other first aider(s), lifeguards (in the case of water sports) or even paramedics on-site. Large events often have a dedicated first aid team available in a room or tent at a convenient location on the premises or field.

7.

Ensure that procedures for calling the emergency services are in place.

In the UK the emergency services are the police, fire brigade, ambulance and coastguard. All of these can be reached by telephoning 999. It is important that this is possible and that event organizers and their teams/staff know when and how to do so.


More information about the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is actually called the "Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974" and is sometimes referred to as HASAW or HSW. It is the main law (which is sometimes referred to as a "piece of legislation") stipulating the minimum occupational health and safety considerations and requirements in the United Kingdom (UK).

All employees working in the UK have the right to do their jobs in places where risks to their health and safety are considered and managed appropriately. The purpose of health and safety rules is to try to prevent people from getting hurt at work or becoming ill as a result of their work, e.g. due to the long-term effects of the tasks they perform or the substances they are required to work with. Employers are responsible for health and safety but employees are also expected to contribute to safety in the workplace by following certain rules (which depend on the particular working environment) and by respecting and using correctly all safety equipment provided.

Information about Health and Safety Law is displayed in UK workplaces. This is often provided in the form posters with lists of "What employers must do" and "What employees must do" together with references to sources of further information.

Details of the Health and Safety at Work Act are available at:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37/contents (link correct last time we checked).

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