The recent statement by Master of The Rolls, Lord Phillips, that many councils are no longer providing everyday leisure activities because of the fear they will be sued if people hurt themselves, presents a big question about the future of municipal sports provision. He said that Councils were effectively ‘blackmailed‘ into paying compensation because it was cheaper than fighting false claims.
Lord Phillips did warn, however, that it would become harder for people to sue councils successfully if they were hurt pursuing a risky leisure activity. He said, “What’s called for is for the population as a whole to have a reasonably balanced approach to indulging in these pastimes. They should not expect if they have an accident, which is always liable to happen, that there must automatically be somebody else who carries the can.”
“If you are too obsessed about the risk of getting sued,” he continued, “you can take steps which stop people enjoying the kind of pastimes that people always have in this country.”
In the ‘Best Value‘ analysis demanded of local authorities, the future of local sports provision is bound to be affected by the consequences of accidents, as Councils decide whether to retain or dispose of the facilities they provide. Too often they cannot afford to fight claims and it is cheaper for them to settle. With more proprietary pay and play golf courses and driving ranges, they ask themselves, is it right and proper to continue to own and operate our own golf courses and driving ranges.
PGA Design Consulting Ltd, the technical design and consultancy advisors to the PGA and the golf world, frequently act as Expert Witness. Bob Hunt, managing director said “Recently, we have seen a considerable growth in accidents at golf courses and ranges and even greater increases in the level of claim settlements being awarded by the courts. These accidents do not restrict themselves to municipal courses and ranges but are experienced at all types of facility including members‘ clubs and proprietary golf facilities.”
Some years ago the PGA and South Cambridgeshire District Council responded to the number of accidents occurring on driving ranges, caused so often by badly designed bays and play areas. This resulted in the publication of the first guide about the design of golf driving ranges.
Fresh editions have been issued and the latest publication, ‘Golf Ranges – A Design Guide‘ is now available having been published in co-operation with the Organisation of Golf Range Owners (OGRO). This recognises the ever-improving technology of golf clubs and balls. It sits alongside another recent publication about golf courses themselves, ‘Golf Course Design Safety Guidelines‘. This guides developers and clubs considering new or refurbished golf courses with standards appropriate for the design of safer golf.
PGADC fears that too many golf clubs and proprietors are unaware of their obligations in regard to Health & Safety, Risk Assessment and recording of management and maintenance. The syndrome that ‘It will never happen to me‘ is too easy – but it is no defence to say, “I did not know..”
Some clubs are now commissioning facility and course audits, allowing advice to be given by experts to the owners or operators of the business on how to regularise the position and operate safely and within the law.
Bob Hunt said, “Having seen the photographs and medical evidence of injuries on golf facilities, we would prefer to deal with the problems before the accidents happen rather than be called as an Expert Witness after the accident. Apart from horrific injuries, operators often have no idea of the potential cost to the club in time, legal costs, claims settlement and poor PR.”
For more information contact Bob Hunt, managing director PGA Design Consulting Ltd,
Phone: +44 (0)117 952 7585 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organisation of Golf Range Owners www.ogro.org
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