On day two of The Masters at Augusta that annoying little word of ‘freak’ raised its head, when a reported ‘freak accident’ involved a security guard slipping on a drenched fairway and tripping up eventual tournament winner, Tiger Woods, who then thankfully hobbled away and managed to complete a birdie putt. But was that a ‘freak’ accident, or one that should have been predicted, in so far as people can easily slip on wet grass if they are rushing and allowed to proceed without any cautions or warnings?

Health and safety around golf courses is very much cause and effect.  Wet ground may well lead to greenkeepers falling from ladders or slipping into bunkers.  Members may more easily overturn a buggy on a damp slope.  Wet conditions may cause a club to fly out of a player’s hand whilst driving their ball to the tee.  It’s what happens when things are wet and slippery.

The use of the word ‘freak’ implies it was so extraordinary that nobody could have predicted it, but most health and safety scenarios emanate from predictable and preventable situations. Golf course negligence, such as not keeping players away from slippery areas, not repairing worn and moss-attracting wooden steps, or leaving areas where puddles frequently form on the course unmanaged, can all lead to compensation claims being lodged, if accidents occur.

If parts of the course where players could be struck by a ball are not controlled, or if there are no policies governing player and maintenance crew interactions, this is also tantamount to negligence.  It is hardly a freak accident if a player mishits a ball that flies on to another fairway and strikes someone.  That could be predicted, as few amateurs are perfect golfers.

Gauntlet Golf Risk Management believes it time to stop talking about freak accidents and the tendency to almost blame the fates for various incidents.  Clubs should use ‘what if?’ thinking to develop worst-case scenario planning.  Using e-learning modules such as these https://www.gauntlethealthandsafety.com/e-learning to spark thoughts about course and clubhouse hazards is easy-to-do.  Checking insurance covers too, particularly public and employer liability protection, is vital. 

‘Freak’ accidents can be costly. A severe back injury incurred by an ill-trained employee could quite easily lead to a compensation claim of between £34,000 and £140,000.  For a severe brain injury, this could rise to over £350,000.   Ensure these compensation claims are not made against your club, or even against you personally as a director or officer of the club, by banning the word ‘freak ‘from your health and safety vocabulary and taking control as from today.

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