Health and Safety Legislation
Community rugby clubs can and occasionally do become the focus of attention for health and safety inspectors from their local authority and some have found this an extremely daunting experience.
For example, volunteer administrators dealing with the trauma of a tragic accident at their club need to know that if the health and safety officials come to call they have done everything possible comply with current legislation.
It is important to realise that health and safety legislation applies to all sports clubs which have employees, whether run as private clubs or limited companies. It places duties on employers and premises holders towards employees, club members, members of the public and anyone on site.
If your club has employees, regardless of whether your club is unincorporated, incorporated as a company or is an industrial and provident society, it is bound by health and safety legislation. It is also required to comply with regulations such as Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
In addition, any club which owns, controls or occupies land or buildings has a wide range of legal obligations to guard against visitors being injured. Some of these even extend to trespassers. A club’s duty depends on individual circumstance. An injury to a spectator during a match will not necessarily lead to a liability if it can be shown that the visitor deliberately stood at a certain vantage point regardless of the known risk.
If your club is unincorporated a member can only claim against the other members – including club officials – if it can be proved that an individual had a specific responsibility, such as maintaining the premises, or that an individual knew of a danger and failed to warn other members.
Your Club and the Health & Safety at Work Act
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires you to protect the health safety and welfare of people at work and those affected by work activities. It also covers all accidents which occur at work involving employees and others affected by the work activity or undertaking of the club.
If your club is an employer it has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all your employees, for example your bar or kitchen staff and others like those using the bar.
The HSWA will also apply even when the club is not an employer if the club is made available to people as a place of work or people may use plant or equipment provided there (for example, a fireworks party or other social function).
Are you an employer?
This is the key question. Whether or not you are seen as an employer under the legislation doesn’t just depend on whether a contract of employment exists. It is determined by the nature of the relationship.
The test often applied is: do you have control of how the work should be done and the way it should be done. Other key questions include whether you are responsible for tax and national insurance. If you are then you are likely to be an employer.
Even if you have only one paid employee you are an employer under the HSWA.
Who are your employees?
Company director/office holder – whether an office holder and agent of company is an employee will depend on the circumstances such as whether there is a contract of employment and whether they are paid for their role. Directors and office holders may be employees, self employed or neither. If there is a contract or they are paid they are likely to be employees.
Casual workers – there is no formal definition in the HSWA but guidance from the Health and Safety Executive states that casual workers are those who undertake short periods of work, like helping behind the club bar, with periods in between where no work is offered or done.
If the worker chooses whether to come to work and is only paid for the hours worked an employer/employee relationship is unlikely to exist because there is no mutual obligation to offer or accept work. However, where casual work is taken for a short period as in holiday work and the hours and conditions are stipulated by the employer this is normally seen as a contract of employment.
Volunteers – they will not necessarily be considered employees. However, under the HSWA if the club is an employer then the club will owe duties to the volunteers anyway.
Players – whether they are employees depends on the nature of the arrangement with the club. A fixed contract where a player is paid to play and prevented from playing for another club may be considered a contract of employment.
When is someone at work?
An individual is at work when working during the course of his employment. This definition applies to employees and self employed individuals.
What is my undertaking?
Under the HSWA an employer’s duty extends to others not in their employment but who are affected by the club’s undertaking, such as a club member or member of the public using the club bar.
What a club’s undertaking is will be a question of fact in each case. Typical undertakings of a rugby club will be promoting or playing rugby, the provision of bar/catering facilities, fundraising for the club and maintenance of the club's premises.
Clubs which are incorporated as limited companies have memorandum and articles of association which state the company's objectives. These and the club’s rules and regulations will be a starting point when considering the scope of the club's undertaking.
Do You Need a Health and Safety Policy?
If you have five or more employees you should have a written health and safety policy and it must be on display or a copy provided to every employee.
Other obligations on clubs who are employers include:
- recording significant findings in writing when there are five or more employees;
- putting a 5 stage formal health and safety procedure in place which identifies hazards, considers who might be harmed, whether the risk is adequately controlled, what further action is necessary and is regularly reviewed; and
- assessing the risks to employees and anyone else (including volunteers, spectators etc) who may be affected by work activities. The health and safety standards applied to visitors, volunteers and other non employees should be the same as those applied to employees exposed to the same risks. However, if these individuals are exposed to different risks, risk assessments should specifically address this
Clubs who are employers or in control of work premises also have reporting obligations. The key reporting obligations are:
- to notify and report certain work related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences to their local authority’s Environmental Health Department; and
- to report a death, major injury or injuries to members of the public or people not at work when they are taken from the scene of an accident to hospital. You must report an injury to an employee caused by violence but an injury on the field of play does not have to be reported as it is not considered an “accident” under the legislation.
Reports can be made by telephone or online using the Health and Safety Executive website.
Health & Safety Enforcement
Guidance for private clubs is given by the Health and Safety Executive This can be found on the Health and Safety Executive's website. Individuals are free voluntarily to take risks outside their working environment and, if players are not employees, health and safety officials should not intervene in a private club’s sporting or other activities unless a complaint is made regarding a serious incident.
If a club has employees, plans for inspections should be based only on the risks arising from the employment activities (e.g. the restaurant/bar) and not risks of other activities which members may undertake.
However, every club must ensure that members of the public are not put at risk by their activities. Clubs with catering and bar facilities may be inspected by the local authority checking on food safety and hygiene.
Any club who is an employer must have employer’s liability insurance and the certificate should be displayed on the premises. All clubs should also have public liability insurance, which is arranged for Level 3 clubs and below by the RFU.
If your club needs legal assistance on health and safety issues then please call the Legal Helpline on 0870 060 3437.