Hard hat warning for golf club employees

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 8, 2012 10:31

Greenkeepers at a golf club have been told by their local council that they should wear hard hats in what could become a new health and safety issue for clubs.

The unnamed golf club has revealed to Brian Butler, health and safety adviser to the Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA), that it has received an unannounced visit from its local council’s senior environmental health officer, who raised the issue of ‘the need for greens’ staff to wear hard hats’ to protect them from flying golf balls.

The greenkeepers have stated that they are not enthusiastic about wearing the hats and the club has even tried sourcing headgear that looks like baseball caps but contain protective materials.

The news comes in the wake of the golfer who last year sued both Niddry Castle Golf Club in Scotland and a fellow golfer, after he lost an eye when a ball struck him in the face.

Mr Butler warned that clubs need to learn the lessons from that case and carry out risk assessments on their golf courses, even though this may result in greenkeepers being told to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

“In some clubs greenkeepers already wear hard hats because there are areas of the course where the likelihood of being hit by golf balls is high,” he said. “Where these situations exist they should be recorded in a risk assessment. The use of PPE following a situation identified in a risk assessment becomes a mandatory safety precaution for all greenkeepers.

“If a greenkeeper was to have a serious accident there is no doubt that an environmental health officer could prosecute the club if the risk assessment was not suitable and sufficient.

“Just as the Niddry Castle case turned on the absence of a course risk assessment, so would a risk assessment be a central issue in a civil case. In that case there was a criticism of the club for not having a system of near-miss reporting. All committee members of all clubs should know whether the risk of greenkeepers being hit by golf balls is increasing or not.

“Most greenkeepers would say that they are at risk because there is often a minority of golfers who do not respect their safety.

“If this is the case the club has an obligation to address this situation as a priority.”

Mr Butler added that a risk assessment, such as the GCMA / BIGGA Safety Management System, which he helped devise, would help the club identify control measures on the course, which may involve something potentially more effective than the need for greenkeepers to wear hard hats.

“A risk assessment that collected near-miss information from greenkeepers and identified a number of control measures is more likely to meet the legal standard of suitable and sufficient than one that merely imposes a requirement to wear a hard hat at all times,” he said.

“Other actions could include restricting the number of tees that golfers can start playing in the morning so that greenkeepers can work in advance of any danger of flying golf balls and giving greenkeepers right of way.”

Staff at a number of UK golf clubs, including Downpatrick and Castlerock, both in Northern Ireland, already wear hard hats on a regular basis.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 8, 2012 10:31
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5 Comments

  1. Dukyhasagolfball November 3, 17:30

    Yes all Golfers to wear Hard Hats (Very dangerous!!!) I live right near a golf club and have seen a few golfers get hit by balls and have been slammed to the ground with the force!!! They should be made to adhere as in this society like everybody else the rules especially where Health & Safety is concerned!!!!!!

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  2. Brian Butler March 18, 15:13

    The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and current health and safety regulations place obligations on employers to protect employees and workers at work. The law also places obligations on employers to ensure the health and safety of people who are not employees but who may be affected by the undertaking of the employer. For this reason the wearing of personal protective equipment such as hard hats applies to workers and not to golfers.

    The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989 requires that suitable head protection, normally safety helmets, should be provided and worn whenever there is a risk of injury.

    Unless there is no foreseeable risk of injury, employees must be provided with hard hats and the employer must decide when, where and how they should be worn. There is no equivalent regulation relating to golf clubs.

    Nevertheless, golf clubs have an obligation to ensure the safety of greenkeepers who are exposed daily to flying golf balls. The question that arises is whether hard hats are an effective way to give greenkeepers the protection they deserve.

    Many in the industry feel the design of the hard hat has not improved much over the last century, especially when compared to other safety wear, such as cycle helmets, which seem to have become much lighter and harder.
    Both industry best practice and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) say that where possible, other measures should be taken first, to reduce or control the risks of construction site injuries.

    The HSE has always maintained that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be the last resort when risk control measures are decided.

    HSE guidance states ‘because PPE is the last resort after other methods of protection have been considered, it is important that users wear it all the time they are exposed to the risk. Never allow exemptions for those jobs which take just a few minutes’.

    The way forward for golf clubs is to address the question under what kind of situations the greenkeepers are exposed to the risk of flying golf balls. Most greenkeepers would say that they are most at risk because there is often a minority of golfers who do not respect their safety.

    If this is the case the club has an obligation to address this situation as a priority.

    This can be done by collecting near miss information from greenkeepers and making all golfers aware whether the trend of near misses are increasing or not. If the trend is increasing, a number of actions can be taken. These can include:
    • restricting the number of tees that golfers can start playing in the morning so that greenkeepers can work in advance of any danger of flying golf balls, and
    • giving greenkeepers right of way and enforcing the rules of etiquette and the club’s disciplinary procedure.

    Hard hats are part of geenkeepers’ PPE when they use chainsaws and strimmers. In some clubs, greenkeepers themselves wear hard hats because there are areas of the course where the likelihood of being hit by golf balls is high.
    Where these situations exist they should be recorded in a risk assessment. The use of PPE following a situation identified in a risk assessment becomes a mandatory safety precaution for all greenkeepers.

    What can never be justified is the mere provision of PPE which is then a matter of choice whether individual greenkeepers use what is provided.

    My advice to golf clubs is to carry out risk assessment using the GCMA / BIGGA Safety Management System with the active involvement of greenkeepers. They have a well developed sense of self-preservation and will identify when hard hats must always be used and help the club to identify other effective control measures that would reduce the risk.

    If a greenkeeper was to have a serious accident there is no doubt that an environmental health officer could prosecute the club if the risk assessment was not suitable and sufficient.

    A risk assessment that identified a number of control measures in addition to wearing a hard hat is more likely to meet the legal standard of suitable and sufficient than one that merely imposes a requirement to wear a hard hat at all times.

    The accident would also result in a civil action as occurred in Niddry Castle Golf Club in Scotland. The compensation would depend on whether the golfer and / or the golf club were negligent.

    Just as the case in Scotland turned on the absence of a course risk assessment, so would a risk assessment be a central issue in a civil case. It would be in the interest of a club in such a situation to be able to show a wide ranging number of control measures to reduce the risk than to rely solely on PPE.

    In the Scotland case there was a criticism of the club for not having a system of near-miss reporting. All committee members of all clubs should know whether the risk of greenkeepers and golfers being hit by golf balls is increasing or not.

    What the management committees of all clubs need to avoid is the criticism in the Niddry Castle case where the judge said ‘Such discussion appears however to have been of a relatively informal nature’. I believe that the risk of being hit by flying golf balls is so serious it should be on the agenda of all safety meetings and management committee meetings.

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  3. JAWBusinessSolutions (@jawbusiness) March 13, 12:14

    » Hard hat warning for golf club employees http://t.co/8tPNKrck

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  4. (@MyGolfTweet) (@MyGolfTweet) March 9, 10:32

    Un club de golf y un jugador, demandados por un greenkeeper al perder un ojo. Los trabajadores del campo, con casco. http://t.co/96RuCCBA

    Reply to this comment
  5. (@golfinfrancecom) (@golfinfrancecom) March 8, 15:35

    Hard hat warning for golf club employees >>> http://t.co/MLf5gxAZ

    Reply to this comment
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