2 min read

6 tips for organising safe recreational activities

By Michael Selinger

Social activities organised by your business, such as sporting matches and other friendly competitions, can be a great way to help your workers bond outside of work.

However, if you have organised an activity for your workers, the duty of care you owe your workers under health and safety legislation will extend to these work-related activities.

The key test of whether the function or activity is work-related is whether a reasonable person would consider that the business has endorsed or supported the activity.

Different activities carry different levels of risk and you need to be aware of any potential hazards and take steps to minimise the risks before the activity takes place.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid organising social activities for your workers.

6 tips for organising safe social activities

Here are some tips for organising work-related activities:

  • identify potential hazards associated with the activity;
  • assess the risks posed by those hazards;
  • implement control measures to reduce or eliminate the risks;
  • ask workers to disclose any injuries or medical conditions that might make them unfit to participate;
  • have workers sign a waiver form prior to participating saying that you will not be held liable for any injuries they suffer as a result of the activity; and
  • if the activity is taking place outdoors, encourage your workers to be sun smart and to keep hydrated. You should also ensure your workers have access to shelter in case of bad weather.

Never pressure workers to participate in a work-related activity. Make it clear that participation is voluntary.

Case Study: Personal injury claim for a work-related sporting activity

A recent personal injury claim in Victoria raises the issue of an employer’s duty of care when it comes to social activities undertaken by its workers.

An employee at the State Emergency Service (SES) broke his collarbone while taking part in a friendly game of cricket organised by his employer. The game was being held in a Melbourne City Council park and the employee sustained his injury when he stumbled over a park bench while attempting to catch the ball.

The injured worker has brought negligence proceedings against his employer, alleging that the SES should have done a risk assessment of the park and drawn up a work safety plan before putting on the friendly match. He also alleged that the SES should not have allowed the game to be played on that particular council reserve because the ground is uneven and the park is bounded by a busy highway. The case has not yet been finalised.

Although this case involves a claim for personal injury damages, it raises the issue of the steps required by a business to ensure work-related sporting or social activities are safe in order to fulfil their duty of care under health and safety laws.

The sporting activity was an event arranged by the SES for its employees, and was held at a location chosen by the business. Therefore, under health and safety legislation, the business had an obligation to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that both the location and the activities organised for the day were safe.

Some steps that the SES might have considered taking before allowing its employees to play at the park include:

  • reviewing the hazards posed by the park benches with a view to instructing its workers to only play within a confined area which the SES deemed to be safe; and
  • implementing a level of supervision to ensure that any ball game was only conducted within that safely deemed area.

If the worker in question ran outside of that safe area and put himself at risk, the business may have been able to rely on the reasonable steps that were taken as a defence to any investigation or prosecution.

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