Sports and Fitness Professionals – What is Your Duty of Care?

We talk a lot about the “Duty of Care” in First Aid. This is something that is particularly pertinent and often confusing for those involved in sports and fitness clubs.

In this blog, we discuss what duty of care is, and what that means for you.

Definition of Duty of Care

In everyday life, one does not have a dutyto care for another individual. They may choose to do so, but there is currently no legal obligation to do so in the UK.

In the workplace however, it is an employer’s duty to:

“Protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business.”

This usually means caring for anyone who works for an organisation, as well as anyone who is visiting that organisation’s premises. These may be employees, clients, suppliers, contractors, or other visitors. This forms part of Health and Safety Law and is the basis for a duty of care in a sports or fitness context too.

However, the law does recognize that some activities are risky – and that accidents can happen. In the unpredictable world of sports, it is not possible to predict every eventuality. Should an incident occur, liability for the legal duty of care would only arise if it can be demonstrated that the risk was foreseeable, but no action had been taken to avoid it.

Duty of Care for Sports Clubs

A duty of care in this context means that a sports club needs to take such measures as are reasonable in the circumstances. To ensure that individuals will be safe to participate in an activity to which they are invited.

The concept of a club implies a formal structure – where some form of organised activities occurs under the club’s name. This, in turn, indicates a formal relationship, between a coach and player, or the club and club member.

Personal versus Organised: Example of Duty of Care

If I were to go for a run with a friend after work one evening (in an informal way) neither of us would have a duty to care for the other. If my friend fell and hurt himself, I might choose to help him as a friend. But I wouldn’t be legally obliged to.

However, if I were to invite one or more runners to a weekly Monday evening running session that I organised on Facebook. I would have a duty of care for all those who came along. And anyone else affected by our activities.

What About Young People?

When children and young people are involved in organised sports activities and are to any extent under the care and/or control of one or more adults, the adult(s) have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure their safety and welfare.

Child Protection in Sport Unit Report – December 2014

Even greater consideration should be given to children who are known to have learning difficulties or a medical condition which may make them more vulnerable than the average child to a foreseeable risk of harm.

If you are responsible for the management or supervision of children and young people in any club setting, you should consider what steps you need to take in order to demonstrate a reasonable standard of care.

How to Demonstrate a Reasonable Level of Care in a Sports Club Setting

  • Keep up to date registers of attendance
  • Keep up to date records of contact details
  • Maintain appropriate supervision ratios (National Governing Bodies can advise on this).
  • Maintain up to date information on specific medical conditions, e.g. allergies, asthma, epilepsy.
  • Ensure that first aid provision is available in the club
  • Ensure those responsible for supervising the children and young people have been subject to appropriate recruitment and selection processes.
  • Undertake an appropriate risk assessment for the activities to be undertaken.

These steps are consistent with good practice for managing a sports club with any age group.

A good way of thinking about your duty of care, is to imagine the worst case scenario for your organisation. What reasonable steps could you take to prevent that from happening. And what would you do about it if it did happen?

From there, you can follow a similar process for all other hazards you’ve identified in your risk assessment.

Part of your Duty of Care as an organisation is to have appropriate first aid cover in place. One of our First Aid for Sports Clubs and Exercise Professionals courses is a great place to start!