Golf club death provides stark reminder about the need for proper Risk Management

A recent law suit against Hinckley Golf Club after the death of one of their employees, shows that risk management has to be much more than a box-ticking exercise.

In fact, the incident proves that thorough checks, adequate operator training, risk assessment, planning and implementation of suitable controls are the key to ensuring employee safety, legal compliance and risk mitigation.

The golf club has been fined £75,000 and order to pay the same amount again in costs after one of their employees was killed whilst cutting a branch from a tree. The fine was issued despite the fact the employee was not following proper safety procedure.

He was using a chainsaw to remove the branch when it fell and hit him on the head causing a fatal brain injury. His body was found the next morning.

Aside from the upsetting manner of the man’s death, the most notable thing about the entire incident was the obvious lack of due diligence from the golf club.

Firstly, the club didn’t check his employment references, where he had claimed he was qualified to use the chainsaw. Therefore they essentially had no idea whether he was competent to undertake the task in a safe manner.

Secondly, they failed to carry out a detailed risk assessment. It was established that not enough detail was included in their assessment to ensure safe practices.

Thirdly, they neglected their responsibility to implement a safe system of work in relation to arboriculture tasks. The branch that hit Johnstone has been damaged in a storm, but question marks remain over whether a proper safety assessment would have a) ensured the trees didn’t grow large enough to necessitate the employee’s actions or b) put in place procedures where the cutting down of branches would always be carried out by a competent person i.e. trained, knowledgeable and experienced.

Lastly, and perhaps most critically for golf clubs reading this article, the club failed to provide proper and up to date training in the use of chainsaws. The employee  could well have used the chainsaw and caused the accident even if he had had the training, as the court found that he had been over zealous and undertook the task without due care in his own actions. But without record of training, this can’t be proved.

The main learning from this tragic event for other golf clubs and any other employer that undertakes such work is simple and clear: successful risk management should include the following controls as a minimum:

  • Thorough review of significant risks
  • Development of suitable risk assessments and safe systems of work
  • Implementation and supervision of control measures.
  • Ensuring competence of employees and others
  • Continual improvement of health and safety arrangements

Hinckley Golf Club were found guilty because they had failed in their legal and moral responsibilities. It is up to the employer to implement suitable safe systems of work that can’t be ignored or misused. The safety of your employees, or volunteers is your responsibility and employers/individuals can be held responsible when accidents occur.

If you would like to discuss how Club Insure can provide professional Risk Management assistance with your existing safety arrangements to ensure legal compliance please contact us on 0344 488 9204 or e-mail us at info@club-insure.co.uk