Understanding Duty Of Care

Avatar for Hadyn Luke Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 14th of November 2023 Hadyn Luke 14/11/2023


Understanding Duty Of Care

Duty of Care means that you must take reasonable care to avoid actions, which are likely to cause injury, or ensure that you have done everything in your power to prevent injury to any person directly affected by your actions.

The law is not very clear when defining duty of care, however the following factors should be taken into account:

  • The actual risk: how likely it is than an accident could occur.
  • Age of the persons concerned: there is a greater duty of care with certain age groups such as children and vulnerable older adults.
  • The ability in terms of fitness and skill of the persons concerned: this means you have a greater duty of care with persons who are new to exercise.
  • The degree of danger involved in the activity: the higher it is the greater the duty of care is.
  • If something has happened before, then you should anticipate that it might happen again and take the necessary precautions.
  • The suitability of the environment: Is it large enough to accommodate the activity without compromising anyone? Are there any obstacles to consider which could affect the activity?
  • Condition of the equipment: Ensure the equipment is in good working order (you should make regular checks) used according to the manufacturers instructions, and stored appropriately.

Therefore it is your duty by law to show a reasonable level of care to ensure that anyone participating in any activity is kept safe.

This includes what you do with them, the content of the session, where you do it, the environment and what you use during the session.

The responsibility of ensuring that all these things are considered remains with you, the instructor.

Liability cannot be excluded for injury resulting from negligence, therefore notices and disclaimers, which ask the person to participate at their own risk do not exclude your from your duty of care and liability.

If there is a breach of the duty of care, the person held responsible will be liable, therefore, all instructors need to be insured.

The following regulations have been highlighted as being of primary importance to fitness instructors.

Risk Assessment

You are required to assess the risks to your clients and to take preventative and protective measures to avoid or reduce the risks.

‘Screening’ your clients is a way of gathering information relating to the health/fitness status of each individual and identify any contraindications (reasons to not participate) to exercise. It enables you to assess risk and implement protective measures such as giving alternatives and adaptations.

Screening forms should be designed to elicit information regarding the following:

  • Individuals’ goals – what they want to achieve.
  • Injuries or medical conditions that may be affected by exercise or affect exercise performance.
  • Exercise history- past and present.

When information is received about injuries or medical conditions that are out of the instructors scope of competence, it is always good practice to refer that person to their doctor.

Therefore it is useful to include a section where this can be recorded.

Procedures for serious and imminent danger

You are required to know and be able to carry out emergency procedures.

This means that wherever you work, you should know certain information about the venue and form an emergency plan that should include the following information:

  • The location of emergency exits and assembly points.
  • The location of the first aid box.
  • Who the qualified first aiders are and how you would contact them.
  • The location of the nearest telephone and the procedure for contacting the emergency services.
  • The procedure for reporting and recording incidents/accidents.

You are encouraged to become qualified to administer CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation).

Better still, become a qualified first aider.

Information for clients/participants

You are required to provide your clients with information about the risks; preventative and protective measures and emergency procedures.

The use of an ‘Informed Consent’ form, which the participants read and sign is a good vehicle for meeting these requirements.

The following information should be included:

  • The purpose of the activity.
  • Outline of the potential risks and benefits.
  • An opportunity to ask questions.
  • Recognition that participation is voluntary.
  • Assurance of confidentiality.
  • A signature and a date.

Clients must be given information on emergency procedures.

Capabilities and Training

You are required to ensure that the demands of the job do not exceed the participant’s ability and does not pose a risk to themselves or others.

This means that you have a responsibility to ensure that the content and intensity of your session is at the right level for your client. This is achieved by ensuring that the content of your session is safe and effective in accordance with the national standards – be clear about what you want your client to do, how you want them to do it, reminding them throughout, observing, checking, and giving alternatives and adaptations, where required.

Client’s Duties

Clients have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health & safety and that of others.

This means that your client has a responsibility to adhere to health and safety guidelines set down, however it is your responsibility to provide those guidelines.

Some examples are:

  • Giving teaching points for individual exercises.
  • Advice on how to lift correctly.
  • Advice on how to use equipment safely.
  • Giving information on how hard they should work and what they should be feeling.
  • Reinforcing all these points at regular intervals.

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