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Risk management for outdoor sports facilities

Which risks for users must be prevented by the operator of sports facilities? Jutta Katthage, Martin Thieme-Hack


To date, for outdoor sports facilities no comprehensive inspections have been carried out with regard to user safety. Accordingly, in the case of accidents caused by, for example, falling goal posts, floodlight masts or faulty ball nets, compensation can be claimed according to German legislation § 823 BGB. Based on this, the Science to Business GmbH company of the University of Applied Sciences Osnabruck in cooperation with the Intergreen AG have developed a safety management concept which is state of the art and supports management and operators of outdoor sports facilities. In future, integral inspections to control user safety of outdoor sports facilities will be available.
The importance of risk management in fulfilling the obligation to ensure user safety
Risk management is a summary of all measures and activities undertaken to protect users and other third parties from danger. A risk management programme for outdoor sports facilities should be comparable with existing safety programmes for roadside trees, playgrounds and indoor sports halls and include an inspection and documentation. Indoor sports facilities which are used for school sport are subjected to regular inspections. Outdoor facilities, independent of the allocation of responsibility between community authorities and clubs, it would appear that the positions responsible are only now beginning to become aware of the dangers which are involved in typical risk situations. From a user safety point of view, there is practically no difference between an outdoor sports field, a sports hall or a roadside tree.
A person or persons which opens and operators an object, e.g. an outdoor sports facility, is obliged to take all necessary and reasonable precautions to prevent injury to others as far as possible. A manager or operator of a sports facility is responsible in the sense of a public welfare service, for ensuring that no foreseeable dangers and risks exist for users. Within the framework of maintenance work, regular controls must be carried out to maintain high levels of user safety.

The question of liability
Liability is also considered to be the responsibility for one's own behaviour or the behaviour of others. Operators of sports facilities, generally represented by members of a club committee, the major or a manager, assume the complete responsibility for the safety of facility users. If an infringement of user safety regulations can be determined in the case of an accident, it is possible that the people responsible may be held personally liable. For this reason, the possibility of delegating should be made use of.
An inspection of sports facilities is not only a legal requirement according to German legislation §§ 823 ff BGB. Further regulations are also given in GUV-V A1 "Accident prevention regulations – Basic principles of prevention" and GUV-SI 8044 "Safety in school sport – Sports facilities and equipment", parts 1 to 7 of DIN 18035 7 as well as further DIN standards applicable to sports field equipment (e.g. DIN EN 748 "Playing field equipment - Football goals - Functional and safety requirements, test methods") and regulations governing outdoor sports facilities such as the German regulations FLL 2014 issued by the German research institute for landscape development and construction (FLL, Forschungsgesellschaft for Landschaftsentwicklung und Landschaftsbau e.V.).

Inspections as maintenance work
The FLL "Recommendations for care and use of outdoor sports facilities", based on the standard DIN 31051 "Fundamentals of maintenance", includes advice on measures to maintainability / sustainability and recreation of the mandatory state / functionality. Inspections are carried out to achieve this.
An inspection always has the target of maintenance. Through the determination and evaluation of the actual state of a sports pitch, its technical equipment and the surrounding and supplementary areas, user safety is on the one hand checked, while on the other hand, the functionality and correct carrying out of care and maintenance work is also monitored. In this regard, the FLL recommends that inspections are carried out at regular intervals and with the required level of expertise. Defects and shortcomings which are determined should be corrected through care or maintenance work. An immediate reaction is required if any considerable risk of an accident occurring exists.

The risk management concept
The risk management concept developed supports the positions responsible in monitoring of user safety in outdoor sports facilities. Inspections include both general sports facility elements as well as constructional elements. These are required to be not only suitable to ensure user safety, but also to be maintained in a safe condition throughout their complete working life. Four different inspection modules are planned for each facility in order to ensure a balanced and regular inspection procedure for outdoor sports facilities.

1. Annual control
The annual inspection is a comprehensive inspection of an outdoor sports facility carried out by a qualified expert. As far as can be justified, annual inspections are carried out without using any test equipment to determine structural safety and strength, as an intensive visibility and functional test. The annual cycle is provided by documentation of user safety liability which states according to German § 11 GUV-V A1: "Regularly repeated examinations must be carried out at least once a year. Safety-related deficiencies must be rectified."

2. Inspection of sport equipment
Sport equipment must be inspected in a simple, expert examination using simple testing apparatus every three years, but not in that year when a 6-year examination takes place. In contrast to the annual control, during the inspection, simple testing apparatus is used to determinate structural safety and strength, e.g. the pull-out/pull-off strength of the equipment Foundations should be checked where necessary and in addition, all functioning parts and component fastenings should also be included in the inspection.

3. Engineering inspection
An engineering inspection is a detailed expert inspection using testing equipment. State of the art in this regard is non-destructive testing methods to test structural safety in the area of construction tests of floodlight masts. Typical weak points in the masts are found in the mast shoulders, door opening, soil surface area and foundations. During the tests, a force similar to wind pressure is exerted on the mast. The reaction of the mast to the loading is measured and presented graphically in a force-path-diagram. During the test, the loading and load release as well as the deflection of the mast is monitored so that weakness in the mast can be determined.

4. Training for sports facility inspection:
Visible and functional tests service to determine clear defects. It should be possible to determine and rectify damage from use, vandalism, weathering or wear in this way. These tests are generally carried out by locally active people such as groundsmen, sports teachers and trainers. To provide these people with the necessary competencies to carry out this independent visible and functional inspection work, they should receive special training. The Professional School of the University of Applied Sciences Osnabruck in Germany, offers qualified training courses which enable the people responsible to carry out weekly visibility and monthly functionality tests competently.

German Reference literature
DEUTSCHES INSTITUT FÜR NORMUNG (GERMAN STANDARDS INSTITUTE): DIN EN 748, "Playing field equipment - Football goals - Functional and safety requirements, test methods", Beuth Verlag, Berlin.
DEUTSCHES INSTITUT FÜR NORMUNG (GERMAN STANDARDS INSTITUTE): DIN 18035 in parts, Sports fields, Beuth Verlag, Berlin.
DEUTSCHES INSTITUT FÜR NORMUNG (GERMAN STANDARDS INSTITUTE): DIN 31051, Fundamentals of Maintenance, Beuth Verlag, Berlin.
FLL 2014 "Guidelines for care and use of outdoor sports facilities, planning principles", published by the German research institute for landscape development and construction in Bonn, Germany, (Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftsbau e.V., FLL),
GEMEINDE UNFALLVERSICHERUNG (COMMUNITY INSURANCE): GUV-SI 8044, Sports facilities and sport equipment. Notes on safety and inspections.
GEMEINDE UNFALLVERSICHERUNG (COMMUNITY INSURANCE): GUV V A 1, "Accident prevention regulations – Basic principles of prevention"


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