Risk Assessments for Martial Arts Training Centres
If you own a martial arts training centre, you’ve likely thought about the risk factors associated with training. Maybe you’ve experienced adverse health effects from your own martial arts training or you’ve seen people seriously injured and you’d like to eliminate hazards. Not only will conducting a risk assessment allow you to see areas where your occupational health and safety measures are lacking, but you can also mitigate the likelihood of any other serious injuries occurring.
Ultimately, your goal should be to create a safe place for martial artist to train. In order to do that, there are a few things that you need to consider:
- The hazards in your gym
- The controls you need to put in place to limit injury
- The person responsible for ensuring that controls are in place
- When you need to perform risk assessments and check controls
In this article, we will examine all the major things you should consider in the list above, as well as provide resources for you to check out to do a more of an in-depth study of risk assessment.
What is a risk assessment?
Risk assessments are important documents which track each hazard at an organisation, while also identifying ways to mitigate these hazards and protect both employees and clients.
Often, some employees and managers may see it as a simple “checking of the boxes”, a mandatory chore to be completed before every shift. But risk assessments are important because they act as a check in a balance. Risk assessments are used to limit harm by identifying unknown risks, and allow employers and managers to enact control measures to create a safer workplace.
Within the martial arts environment, there are a ton of different risks associated with operating a training centre, including everything from providing proper equipment for the athletes to limiting the spread of bacteria. For example, with so many athletes attending the programmes, the staff and trainers need to be diligent to check for athletes who are ill, in order to limit exposure to harmful bacteria which can cause an adverse health effect.
In addition, martial arts training centres, staff and workers should practise the safe use of equipment and stress the severity of using the equipment in ways that they weren’t designed for. Instructors should present strategies to train safely.
What should you include in a risk assessment?
Risk assessments are usually simple to fill out, but it must be stressed that it is important to fill out risk assessments either daily or weekly to limit exposure to hazards.
Here are the 4 things to include on a risk assessment:
- Control measures
- Risk factors
- Other control measures/ whose responsibility it is
If you’re interested in learning more about risk assessments, first, I would suggest checking out this article on the Health and Safety Executive website. You can glean a lot of great information from their site, including templates to use.
Related: How to Start a Judo Club
There are a wide variety of risks associated with martial arts training. From certain chemicals that you use for cleaning to the mats and protective equipment that you use, consider all risks associated with your training to not miss anything. Even something as simple as spilling water on the ground in a change room can create a massive risk to those in your training centre.
Consider these things when filling out your risk assessment:
- Do you use harmful cleaning products?
- If the training involves falls of critical heights over 1.5 m, do you have mats that can absorb and dissipate the force?
- Do you have enough sparring and training equipment for athletes to use?
- Do you have a first-aid kit handy and procedures in place to treat injured athletes?
- Have you identified what age groups are most at risk of these hazards?
Control measures are put in place to eliminate hazards or prevent people from being exposed to risks. There is a hierarchy for control measures, with the most important things you can do being eliminating hazards, followed by substituting and isolating hazards. At the bottom of the control measures hierarchy includes enacting engineering and administrative solutions to fix problems, and the lowest on the list is providing personal protective equipment.
According to the Scottish Academy of Chinese Martial Arts, one of the simplest control measures for any martial arts academy is to perform warm-up exercises to make sure that the athletes are ready for training. Warming up is the first defence against ligament and muscle strains.
In addition, you should also make it mandatory for athletes to train with personal protective equipment, including gloves, mouth guards, and, when sparring, sparring gear. This might be one of your best control measures.
Related: MMA Essential Training Equipment
Also, purchase mats that are suited to cushion a fall from critical heights of 1.5 m. At British Martial Arts Mats, our Judo Mats offer superior fall protection. Our 40 mm thick rollout mats also offer great protection from falls.
Risk factors are the severity of the risks that you’ve identified. You may choose to rate risks on a scale of low, medium, and high. Once you identify the hazards with a high risk, you can treat those hazards can first. By limiting all hazards with high-risk factors in your gym, you can sleep a little easier knowing that you’ve dealt with all the major ‘red flags’.
Below are some examples of risk factors, including each hazard’s ranking:
- Light/medium duty sparring (Medium Risk): Any form of sparring can lead to injuries, so you may wish to mitigate injury by using sparring equipment as a control measure.
- Competition sparring (Medium Risk): Competition sparring is a medium risk, as athletes can be injured from competing in such endeavours. Depending on the rules of the competition, you may wish to add all personal protective equipment that is allowed.
- Training throws, trips, and falls over 1.5 m (Medium/ High Risk): Depending on how you’ve outfitted your gym with gym mats, you may wish to buy crash mats, an open-celled foam which is great to use for cushioning falls. They’re the same material used by gymnasts to absorb the force from high falls. You may also want to purchase wall mats for your gym, just in case athletes are thrown into wall areas.
I have included a link to a template from the English Shotokan-Ryu Karate Kyokai International organisation. It offers some brilliant advice for anyone who is looking to create a risk assessment for a martial arts training centre. Obviously, each training assessment should be tailored to the needs of the specific organisation, but this is a great jumping off point.
Other control measures/whose responsibility it is
The last part of your risk assessment should be other control measures that need to be included, as well as whose responsibility it is. It might be important to brainstorm other ways to limit hazards, to isolate them from your athletes and trainers, and equipment that you can use to minimise injury. It’s important to be thorough when assessing other control measures, as you want to make sure that you have a safe training centre.
You should also identify whose responsibility it is to maintain and check that all the control measures are in place. Regular cleaning and maintenance may be performed by the owner of a training centre or staff, whilst identifying risk factors while training would fall on the responsibilities of coaches and trainers. If you do not make it explicit who’s doing what, things will slip through the cracks, and over time you’re going to be dealing with injuries which could have been easily prevented.
There is a tonne of responsibility involved in running and operating a martial arts training centre. Not only are you responsible for proper upkeep and maintenance of the facilities, but you also bear a certain degree of liability when it comes to the injuries that occur at your training centre. By creating a risk assessment which is tailored to the needs of your own gym, you can identify any of the issues before they arise, and eliminate or isolate any of the hazards at your gym. This article provided a lot of good information to help you, but if you’re looking for more help, contact the Health and Safety Executive to learn more about your responsibilities as a gym owner.
Author: David Van Kooten