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Top 5 risks in leisure trusts

Top 5 risks in leisure trusts

There are many areas under the risk management umbrella, where leisure trusts can be exposed.

Our senior Risk Management Consultant, Scott Crichton, shares top 5 risks that leisure trusts need to pay attention to, and manage.

All organisations have a legal duty of care {Section 3, of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974} to not only their employees, but also to those who use or interact with their service, such as members of the public, visitors or contractors. Therefore, it is imperative that leisure trusts, ensure any risks to people other than those employed, are sufficiently managed.

1. Drowning

Actual harm doesn’t have to happen for an organisation to be prosecuted. Prosecutions can and do occur where an organisation could potentially of caused harm and so are in breach of the various legislation.

David Lloyd Leisure was fined £350,000 when a 5-year-old boy nearly drowned. The child, who could not swim, took part in a swimming activity without wearing arm bands, which was against the rules of the centre. For the duration of the swimming session, the child was not supervised by staff and subsequently lost his ability to stay afloat.

Key learning point/how could this have been avoided: had the organisation listened to the child when he informed staff he could not swim and ensured that arm bands where worn and continuous supervision was in place, this incident could have been entirely avoided. The centre did not provide or sell arm bands and a breakdown in communication, led staff to failing to ensure that the child was safe.

Another example is the trustees of a Scottish leisure trust who have been fined £10,000. A young girl nearly drowned in July 2019 after becoming unconscious in a pool after sliding down an inflatable. The young girl was rescued by another young child who alerted lifeguards.

Key learning point/how could this have been avoided: the trust hadn’t undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment (which is required in law), for inflatables during swimming sessions and had failed to undertake a visibility test for lifeguards.

2. Legionella

It’s over 20 years since the Barrow incident, that saw 7 members of the public die and 180 people suffer ill-health after an outbreak of legionella within a leisure centre in Barrow-in-Furness. But management of legionella has never been more important.

Tendring District Council were fined £27,000 after a member of the public became seriously unwell from legionnaires disease, resulting in an 18-day admission to hospital.

Key learning point/how could this have been avoided: all organisations are legally required to have a suitable and sufficient legionella risk assessment in place and to ensure they undertake the actions, some of which may be regular maintenance tasks to prevent ill health and potential death. Running unused showers, cleaning shower heads, and maintaining water temperatures above and below 20-45⸰C are longstanding control measures to prevent incidents such as this. This case serves as an example to other organisations, that where costs are reviewed and services brought in house, the necessary competence must be established to prevent an organisation being exposed to risks. This was not the case here. Staff were not suitably trained in basic legionella awareness and control measures.

Leisure trusts must ensure that:

  • Swimming pools and associated areas are included within premises legionella assessments.
  • Actions from legionella risk assessments are actioned and continuous management controls are ongoing.
  • Where temperature monitoring is undertaken in house, temperature probes are simply calibrated using boiling and freezing water (+1/-1⸰C) prior to testing.
  • Staff document, report and act on temperatures that are out with the growth range noted above.
  • Staff have suitable legionella training relevant to their role within the management of this risk.
  • Particularly during periods when pools are closed for significant periods such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, leisure trusts follow all reasonable control measures set out by advisory bodies and groups.

3. Slips, trips and falls

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported in their annual statistics, that non-fatal injuries to employees were the most common kind of accident in 2021/22. As the highest non-fatal injuries to employees (at 30%), slips, trips and falls are not to be overlooked.

Our Senior Risk Management Consultant, Scott, advises that all swimming pools should have a slip resistance test which should take place on a regular basis. Pendulum testing is a recognised way of identifying whether a floor is deemed to be suitable or slippery and establishes whether an organisation requires to take further steps to reduce slippery floors.

Leisure trusts must ensure that standing water in areas such as gymnasiums are cleared away. This can be a particular issue around water machines. A man successfully won his personal injury claim against Hull City Council for a similar incident and was awarded £8000 in damages.

Key learning point/how could this have been avoided: leisure trusts, should be able to successfully defend such claims if they have robust systems in place to prevent pooling water (such as flooring or matting to absorb spills, regular documented checks of areas and cleaning).

4. Chlorine release

Over the last eighteen months, there have been several incidents involving unexpected chlorine release.

In March 2023, a woman in Leighton Buzzard was taken to hospital after three fire crews attended an incident that resulted in the leisure centre being closed for most of the day. This incident came in the same month where 160 people were evacuated from a leisure centre in London due to the incorrect mixing of chemicals.

Almost exactly a year earlier,a major emergency service response was prompted at a swimming pool in Stockport amid concerns over a suspected chlorine leak. Earlier in that year, over 200 people evacuated from the Aquatics Centre in London’s Olympic Park where a total of 48 people were assessed and triaged by London Ambulance Service and 29 people were taken onwards to hospital after a chlorine leak. It is believed the leak occurred during a delivery of pool chemicals.

Whilst none of the above incidents, have resulted in fines or prosecutions from breaches of health and safety legislation. These incidents may have impacted the organisations with:

  • Poor customer experience from closures, potentially resulting in loss of custom.
  • Damaged reputation due to unwarranted media exposure.
  • Knock on affect to emergency services from attending.
  • Disruption to neighbouring properties (with road closures, diversions, keeping windows and doors closed).

Key learning point/how could this have been avoided: Both the HSE and the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) advocate for automatic alarms that shut down in the event of increased ozone gas levels. The pools emergency action plan must cover releases of chlorine gas. Furthermore, leisure trusts need to consider the spillage of chemicals resulting in injuries, as can be seen from the prosecution of Sheffield City Trust, where 8 children and 2 teachers were taken to hospital. The delivery of chemicals should be undertaken in accordance with a risk assessment and safe system of work.

The regulations covering chemicals require for safer substances to be used where reasonably practicable. Where this is not reasonable practicable, the substances should be risk assessed with suitable control measures such as training and safe systems of work – including how to use the substance and by whom.

5. Control of contractors

Leisure trusts, like all employers, have a duty of care towards the health and safety of contractors who are commissioned to perform facilities management proactive and reactive tasks within a premises. A recent incident involved a visually impaired man who fell down one floor through an open lift shaft at Perdiswell Leisure Centre in Worcester. Leisure trusts must ensure that lifts are maintained at least annually and that thorough examinations are undertaken at least every six months for passenger lifts. If lifts are being worked upon, leisure centres must ensure that engineers have suitable measures such as landing barriers in place to prevent falls down lift shafts.

Another area for leisure centres to manage is working at height, in particular roof works. As can be seen in this case, whilst the leisure centre was not directly prosecuted over a man falling from height, poor reputation can be experienced from being connected to an incident at your location. Therefore, leisure centres, must ensure that contractors take all reasonable practicable control measures to prevent those working at height, from falling any sort of distance liable to cause injury or a fatality.

Other areas to consider for leisure trusts:

Turnover of staff

Due to the large turnover of staff within the leisure and hospitality sector, employers must ensure that succession planning is in place to provide continuity of safety management systems from departing staff to new employees. Leisure centres should carefully consider the needs of young persons undertaking work experience and those who are over 18 years of age of whom are still understanding full time employment and are potentially less experienced when it comes to the management of risks. Good quality induction training and supervision can assist new and inexperienced staff members.

Lone usage

In some leisure facilities, patrons can and do use fitness equipment alone. In any instances where this applies to your leisure facilities, you must ensure that suitable systems are in place to raise the alarm should a person get into difficulty and require medical intervention.

Gym inductions

Inductions provide a sensible and suitable means in which to control some of the above risks. Inductions do not have to take long or be repeated. But they do need to take place and be documented.

Endsleigh is here to support you

Endsleigh believes in the practical management of risk. We can help you and your leisure trust to avoid the above risks. Our risk management consultant can work with you and your staff to ensure suitable strategies are in place to manage risks. We can help you in multiple ways:

H&S Audit – our audit covers over 30+ pieces of legislation. We will tell you what you must, should and could do to manage risk. We tell you what you do and don’t need to do, why (whether it’s legislative or best practice), how to achieve safety and compliance and we will provide you with supportive solutions. You can avoid the above incidents within your leisure trust, by having our specialists to review your risk management systems.

Fire Risk Assessment – our fire risk assessor is experienced in undertaking assessments in leisure trusts. On your instruction, we will help you meet your legal duties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Security – we can support your organisation(s) with review of security measures in place and whether further controls should be introduced.

Consultancy Time – we offer time in which our consultant can visit you, to work on enhancing your risk management practices and strategies. This can include, reviews of policies, risk assessments, safe systems of work, reviewing of specific practices and training.

Training for your trustees – an area often overlooked by employers is health and safety awareness training for trustees. We can provide your board of trustees with sufficient information to make informed decisions with risk management in mind. Our risk management solutions will give you confidence that you are managing your risk effectively and fulfilling your legal duty of care to your employees, members of the public, visitors and members of the public.

Get in touch

Call us today on 0333 234 1146, email us at riskmanagement@endsleigh.co.uk or visit our web page.

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