Umpires Duty of Care

These notes are based on a talk given to the committee by A.J. Smart of Redland Ladies HC. AJ is a Director of Smart Advice Health & Safety Ltd which is based in Long Ashton.

These notes are not intended to be exhaustive or to apportion responsibility to AJ.

They are the committee’s interpretation of what was said.

Umpires have a ‘duty of care’ to those taking part in a game. If someone is harmed, legal action may be taken if that person decides to make a claim.

Netball umpires, for example, are being asked to check that:

  • finger nails are short and smooth
  • no jewellery is being worn
  • the court is safe
  • the posts are in the correct position

Certainly the last three of these could be applied to hockey.

This duty of care rests upon an individual or organisation to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the safety of any person involved in an activity for which they are responsible. This may involve both players and spectators.

A claimant would have to show that a breach of duty of care had caused them personal injury, damage or loss of some kind

Umpires must show that the standard of care they have shown is the standard of a ‘reasonable person’.

There are several possible defences:

  if the event could have happened anyway

  • there is no evidence of the cause of the event
  • contributory negligence. e.g. if a player plays aggressively and is hurt as a result of the way they play
  • some injuries may be ‘occupational hazards’

How to avoid litigation

Demonstrate a good standard of care, by, for example, inspecting the pitch with the other umpire and stopping dangerous play immediately

Risk assessment.

Involve both captains if a decision is required on the safety of a pitch (e.g. frozen).

If a player expresses concern over the safety, then involve his or her captain in coming to a conclusion.

General enforcement of the rules.

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