Top ten tips for risk management for officials

Judo in action
Author:  Australian Sports Commission
Issue: Volume 2 Number 2

Reproduced from Advanced Legal Responsibilities and Risk Management for Sports Officials: resource manual, Australian Sports Commission, Canberra, 2000

The goal of each sports official should be to recognise and remove every hazard, that is reasonably within their control. Sports officials should take the initiative and implement safe practices and risk-management strategies.  Not only will this provide a safe environment for your sport but also it will reduce the risk of liability for sporting injuries.

Risk management is a tool that sports officials can use to meet their duties and thus minimise their liability.  It is a proactive system that attempts to address potential problem areas before they lead to reactive defending of legal proceedings.

The responsibility of specific sports officials may vary depending on the circumstances, however the official can substantially reduce the risk of injury to the participants and legal action by following the top ten tips for risk management.

  1. Make the first priority the care and safety of the participants.
  2. Duty to enforce rules - Sports officials have a duty to enforce the rules of the sport and to prevent illegal holds or actions.
  3. Duty to protect participants - Sport officials are under a duty to exercise reasonable care in all the circumstances to prevent injury. Officials should be able to provide first aid if required and to deal with potential and actual injuries. Officials should warn players of any risk of which they are aware.
  4. Duty to anticipate reasonably foreseeable dangers - It is the responsibility of sports officials to determine that the playing conditions are safe. This might entail ensuring that the equipment conforms to appropriate specifications and standards, that the physical layout of the area is appropriate, and that the surface is playable and remains safe throughout the game.
  5. Duty to control and supervise the game - It is the duty of the sports official to detect and control the use of illegal and dangerous manoeuvres.
  6. Take all reasonable steps to keep spectators off the playing arena.
  7. Ensure you always have appropriate insurance - Officials should check with their national sporting organisations to see what type of coverage they may have as an official.
  8. Get accredited by completing an accredited officiating course through the National Officiating Accreditation Scheme.
  9. Abide by the Official’s Code of Ethics.
  10. Know and follow your sport's risk management plan and procedures.

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