Safety Measures in Athletics

These recommendations should be regarded as guide lines for teachers, coaches, and participants. they should be implemented or amended to suit local conditions, the aim being to ensure safety at all times.

However, all teachers, coaches and participants should adhere to the Athletics Safety measures contained in the the latest version of the Association for Physical Education's publication 'Safe Practice in PE and School Sport' previously published by BAALPE. This reference book may already be available in secondary schools or can be purchased through the association's website www.afpe.org.uk.

It is recommended that athletics be regarded as a sport for all ages.

There is wide participation by young children and it should be the aim of all teachers and coaches to hold this interest throughout the school and club career up to adult age through the organisation of competition and training which permits wide participation by competitors of different abilities.

Responsibility

Athletics is a sport in which a variety of running, jumping and throwing activities may be taking place at the same time. Very often in training and competition athletes are acting under considerable stress. it is essential, therefore, to maintain a constant awareness of the inherent dangers, and to plan facilities and practices with this in mind.

The responsibility for safety rests with everyone concerned in the development of sport: the officials who plan the initial layout of facilities; the owners and groundsmen responsible for maintaining these efficiently; the teacher and club coach responsible for the supervision of training; and the officials responsible for the organisation of competitions at all levels. Finally, the athletes themselves are equally responsible.

Preparation and progression of training

The teacher or coach should ensure that each new activity and each stage of a new activity is carefully introduced so that the young athlete is made aware of the potential dangers involved, of the necessary safety procedures to be observed and of the rules which must be obeyed. A special obligation rests on the teacher, coach and participant to see that these precautions are carried out during training. It is unwise to hurry these preliminary stages. Sufficient time should be given to the early stages of training so that safe habits are formed from the outset.

Control

In the teaching of athletics much depends on the teacher-pupil relationship and the development of self discipline in all members of the class, club or group. It is only when the teacher or coach has established such trust that activities with an element of danger may be attempted.

Extra vigilance at training sessions or during competition is required where the teacher, coach or pupils are assisting in the recording of standards (judging, measuring, timekeeping, photographing etc). Spectators should remain behind the barrier or watch from a safe distance. There should never be a crowd around the track or field event areas.

Field Events

Although Field events, especially throwing events, can be dangerous unless they are conducted and supervised with care, their suitability as a worthwhile athletic activity for young people is borne out by they hundreds of thousands of throws and jumps that are made each year without mishap.

Throwing

  • General
    1. Equipment should be kept in good repair and stored in a safe place.
    2. Throwing implements should at all times be treated with respect. They should not be played about with or mishandled, especially when being carried from the pavilion or school to the playing field or track.
    3. There should be adequate supervision at distribution and the apparatus should be transported in a safe manner. Nets or baskets can be of help when apparatus is carried in bulk. Helpers should be advised of the correct way to lift heavy items, and care should be taken to ensure that no person attempts to carry more weight or bulk than is appropriate for their size.
    4. Initially training shall be undertaken under the control of the teacher or coach. they, through experience and good judgement, will decide if and when athletes are capable of assuming responsibility themselves and can be permitted to undertake practices on their own.
    5. All throwers should stand well behind the appropriate circle of scratch line and remain there until the appropriate time to make a throw.
    6. The thrower him/herself should make sure that there is no one in the landing area, approaching the landing area, or possible line of flight of the implement before the throw is made. It is very important that this responsibility should rest with the thrower as well as the teacher or coach or official.
    7. After throwing, the thrower should remain behind the circle or scratch line and must not immediately retrieve the implement. It should be retrieved only on instruction when all members of the group have thrown. Under no circumstances should a javelin, discus, or hammer be thrown back to the scratch line or circle.
    8. Wet implements increase the chance of accidents and extra vigilance should be exercised in such conditions taking particular care to allow for implements sliding after landing.
    9. In wet conditions, grass and some artificial surfaces can prove slippery and dangerous. Particular care should be exercised to ensure that runways and take-off areas are suitable for use.
  • Javelin
    1. Both ends of javelins are dangerous. Special care should therefore be taken in controlling their use.
    2. They should never be permitted to remain stuck in the ground at an angle.
    3. Special care should be taken to establish a safe and controlled procedure for retrieving the javelins. Retrievers should not be permitted to run towards them, particularly in wet conditions.
  • Discus
    1. Being a rotational event greater space is required between participants in class or group practices. The area of greatest danger are to the right of a right handed thrower and to the left of a left handed thrower.
  • Hammer
    1. The hammer event should only be conducted in a strictly controlled situation.
    2. Since it is difficult to predict the probable direction of flight, great care should be taken in the siting of practice venues and in coaching.
    3. Cages are strongly recommended for hammer throwing in competition. They are essential when other events are taking place within throwing range and are mandatory where events are held under British Athletics rules.
    4. Wherever possible, cages should also be provided for practice and coaching. However, where conditions and facilities are favourable, it is possible for experienced and well qualified coaches to undertake training in open spaces under controlled conditions, provided that a safe area of the playing field or training area can be specially set apart.
    5. The coach and any other members of the group should stand well back to the side of the circle where the path of the hammer is at its lowest point. They should always watch the implement when a throw is actually being made.

Jumps

  • General
    1. Wood or concrete edges to the pits should be flush with the surrounding ground.
    2. Any hard surfaces should be protected to ensure soft landings.
    3. The sand used in all pits should be sharp sand and deep enough to prevent jarring on landing.
    4. Pits should be dug before use and also at frequent intervals during use.
    5. Pits should be carefully examined for hidden sharp objects, broken glass etc. before use.
    6. It is important to ensure that all run up areas are well maintained, especially at take off points.
    7. Athletes, teachers, coaches and officials should take particular care to ensure that no jump is made while the pit is being dug or raked, and that spades, forks and rakes are not left where they can cause injury.
  • Vertical Jumps
    1. For younger pupils, beginners and preliminary practices, well dug sand pit landing areas for high jumpers can be used quite safely for training purposes at low heights. In those styles of jumping in which the jumper normally lands on his feet (ie Scissors, Western Roll and Cut off styles of High Jumping and Pole Vaulting preliminary practices), well dug sand provides a safe and acceptable landing medium.
    2. For those styles of jumping in which it is normal for the jumper to land on his back (Fosbury flop, and Straddle style of High Jumping and Pole Vaulting) appropriate manufactured landing areas are recommended (foam, air etc).
    3. Minimum recommended sizes for competition are;
      • Pole Vault - 5m x 5m square excluding front protection pads
      • High Jump - 5m x 4m (in Schools' competition a suitable size is 5m x 2.5m).
    4. Larger landing areas for vertical jumps provide safer conditions.
    5. Smaller landing areas for High Jump are acceptable for training purposes where the take off point can be established with reasonable certainty and the teacher or coach is qualified and experienced in the event.
    6. Individual units should be fastened together to reduce the risk of athletes going through joins between two sections.
    7. All foam landing areas should be capable of preventing the athlete from bottoming. Good manufacturers will give guarantees in this respect.
    8. Soft landing areas deteriorate. They should be regularly inspected and maintained.
  • High Jump
    1. Unless spikes are worn, grass and some artificial surfaces are not very suitable for take off areas.
    2. Only bars of circular cross section should be used when jumping onto a mat of any kind. Triangular bars should be discarded.
  • Horizontal Jumps
    1. Take off boards should be firmly fixed flush with the surface of the runway and so positioned that there is no chance of a jumper landing on the pit surrounds.
    2. Where possible, it is advantageous to provide separate facilities for Long Jump and Triple Jump.
    3. Where it is possible to provide only a single landing area, it is better to make this wider than usual so that adjacent runways can be provided.