Golf Course Risk Assessment
As employee's, golfers and other parties can be affected by the activities that take place on the course it is important that a thorough and robust golf course risk assessment is in place. Due to the fact that the golf course is both a field of play and also a workplace it is recommended the course risk assessment covers both:
- The Golf Course Playing Aspect.
- The Golf Course Greenkeeping Aspect (for more information on these activities please see Working in the Field of Play Section).
This is important as the controls for this area need to consider that it is not just the golfing activity that takes place on the course but also the Greenkeeping activities and that both need to have suitable and sufficient controls put in place to ensure that the activities on the course are carried out in as a safe a manner as possible.
A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm, as with any risk assessment in order to properly assess the course first you will need to identify the hazards that are present on your specific course, the following hazards should be held within any course risk assessment:
- Blind holes
- Rivers or streams
- Ponds or watercourses
- Road crossings
- Railway lines
- Adjacent properties
- Overhead power lines
- Elevated tees
- Other slopes or banks
- Steep terrain
- Adverse weather
These hazards should be identified on a hole by hole basis (where possible) so that when staff are briefed on the risk assessment or hazard information required to be given to golfers, visitors or other third parties, it can be specific to each area of the golf course.
Persons Exposed to Hazards
When the hazards have been identified, it is appropriate to determine who could be affected by each of these hazards. The common persons that need to be considered are as follows:
- Greenkeeping staff
- Experienced golfers (both Members and Visitors)
- Inexperienced golfers (both Members and Visitors)
- Disabled golfers
- Third parties (generally walkers and others with public access onto parts of the course)
- Persons neighbouring the golf course (that are in range from certain holes or areas of the course, this could include both homeowners and persons on adjacent roads or in neighbouring businesses)
Depending on who is exposed to the hazards will determine the assessment of risk and also the control measures that are required. It is also important to consider any foreseeable events (including those that may be perceived as being rare but still occur) that could expose a person to a hazard to ensure that these persons are considered in the risk assessment and suitable controls are implemented when necessary.
Assessment of Risk
In order to assess the risk of the hazards that have been identified it is important to look at:
- The severity of the injury or loss that could occur if the hazard were to cause harm.
- The likelihood that the hazard could cause harm.
Both of these items should be scored based on a scoring matrix for example:
These scores need to take into account of the changing seasons and potential weather in the future, as this is likely to affect the likelihood of the harm occurring. Once they have been scored, any hazards that have not been deemed to be already low risk (Trivial or Tolerable in the table above) should have controls implemented in order to bring the risk level identified to as low a level as reasonably practicable.
As you would imagine depending on the hazards that have been identified, the persons that are exposed to this hazard and the risk level that has been calculated for these hazards dictate where control need to be implemented and also to what extent they need to be implemented. Control Measures should follow a hierarchy of controls that go in the following order:
- Engineering Controls
- Administration Controls
- Personal Protective Equipment
Generally speaking if a hazard can be eliminate this is the best course of action but in most cases this is not possible and particularly on the golf course the controls are likely to be a mixture of Engineering, Administrative and PPE (Greenkeeping) Controls.
Based on the identified hazards the following typical control should be in place:
Paths, Steps, Stiles, Bridges and Gates
Paths, steps, stiles and bridges have the potential of creating slips, trips and fall hazards.
All such areas should be subject to periodic inspection to detect early deterioration in their condition and initiate early repair and/or refurbishment.
In addition to periodic maintenance, they may require cleaning in the autumn or winter period to remove any algae that may cause a slip hazard. This may require pressure washing to remove the algae and may include treatment with an algaecide to prevent and minimise further build up.
Where possible paths, steps, stiles and bridges should not be overshadowed by vegetation. Allowing vegetation to overgrow will block out the light reducing vision and will encourage algae growth. Additionally, falling leaves will decompose creating a slipping hazard.
Slipping hazards can be overcome by a variety of means for example:
- Use of grooved decking.
- Using battens, made from thin board, to provide extra purchase on the decking surface.
- Use of hobnails or galvanised and welded wire mesh (25 x 25 mm mesh is recommended). The use of chicken wire is not recommended.
- Covering the surface with non-slip paint.
- Use of cold tar with chippings or similar resin, aggregate compound.
Consideration will also need to be given as to whether hand rails should be provided on steps, stiles and bridges where there is a risk of a fall from height or falls into water.
Weather conditions should be taken into consideration regarding bridges, steps and elevated parts of the course. Some parts of the course may require to be taken out of play if there is an increased chance of slips and falls due to weather conditions such as ice, snow and wind.
Finally, dependent on the lie of the land, it may be necessary:
- On occasions to post warning notices about slippery conditions on any steep paths that exist.
- To advise members and guests of alternate routes to be followed.
- Falls of pedestrians and vehicles are the most significant hazard associated with bridges. Bridges should have handrails fitted to help prevent falls. Low level parapets in a contrasting colour can be retrofitted onto existing structures which will aid in reducing the risk of pedestrians, golf buggies and other vehicles going over the edge.
Gates should be regularly inspected and maintained. Latches should not be difficult to use, and hinges should be regularly greased. Posts should be secure and checked to ensure there is no rot which could potentially render them unsafe or dangerous.
Golfers and other pedestrians who are in range and out of site are at risk of being struck by a golf ball played by other course users.
Holes on the golf course with blind shots should be equipped with a proven mechanism to signal that the area is clear and it is safe for others to proceed e.g. 'all clear' bell, signal flag, etc.
Local rules should include a requirement for players to give the all clear signal e.g. ring a bell once they are clear of any danger from following players playing their shots.
If there is any doubt, players waiting to play blind shots from either tee or fairway should attempt to check that the fairway (or green) ahead is clear before proceeding.
For blind holes with rights of way across them, it is recommended:
- That the entry points from the rights of way be equipped with notices posted warning walkers of the hazards from golf balls in flight.
- Signage stating ' When hearing the shout of FORE, crouch down and cover your head with your hands and arms until the golf ball in flight has passed'.
- Requesting persons using the right of way to ensure that it is safe to do so before proceeding across the fairway.
Rivers, Streams and Watercourses
Areas such as ponds, streams, burns and rivers can pose dangers of drowning and disease. Clubs have a duty to their members and visitors to control these risks.
Ponds and lakes are attractive areas of play for young people. They need to be assessed for the potential of drowning. Rescue equipment such as throw lines and life belts may be necessary in the event of an emergency. Dependant of the water area, signage warning of 'Danger Deep Water' may be required to raise awareness.
Many golf clubs have public roads running through the golf course. These can present hazards to golfers from vehicular traffic.
A clearly defined crossing area should be created for players. Pedestrian crossing areas should be kept away from bends in the road and anything which obscures both player and road users' vision, e.g. vegetation, should be removed and kept clear at all times.
Golfers should take care when crossing public roads to gain access to more remote parts of the course.
The club should consider:
- Informing golfers of the hazard.
- Erecting bridges.
- Installing appropriate signs, e.g. Beware of Traffic.
- Approaching local authorities to install road signs warning of golfers crossing or pedestrian controlled crossings.
- Separating pedestrian crossing and golf buggy crossings.
Residents of adjacent houses and users of adjacent roads are at risk of being struck by wayward golf balls. Where this is a likely outcome, then reasonable control actions need to be put in place to reduce the likelihood of the event.
Ideally small changes to the course to direct players away from these areas should be considered primarily to eliminate these issues but if this is not possible screening of the area with netting or, in the longer term, vegetation may be required.
Steep Terrain, Banks, Edges of Bunkers and Watercourses
Golf buggies can overturn when being driven on slopes, bunker edges, uneven ground or adjacent to ditches.
Overturning can be caused by:
- Incorrect loading.
- Turning on slopes.
- Uneven ground.
- General conditions - wet, snow, ice.
- Excessive speed.
- A combination of these.
Unsafe driving practices will increase the risk of overturning. The equipment manufacturer will stipulate the degree of slope that their machine can be safely used on.
Clubs should map their course for areas where buggies cannot be safely used. The information should be supplied to buggy users via either signs on the course or as a supplied map.
Travel on wet grass, uneven ground, slopes and icy ground require particular care as they present an increased risk of incidents occurring.
Buggies should not be used within two metres of ponds, lakes and rivers.
Clubs should have a buggy policy procedure in place that details how buggy users are instructed on the buggy controls prior to using the equipment and areas of the course where they may be used.
Defined buggy routes around the course are the best way of ensuring buggy users adhere to the safe routes. Deviation from these traffic routes should be prohibited.
Measures should be implemented to minimise risks to golfers from adverse weather. For golfers this should include any suspension of play during periods of thunder and lightning or fog. The signal for suspension and resumption of play should be made known to golfers prior to starting play on the course.
Players should be aware of the additional risks from poor visibility on the course. The course should be closed where poor visibility makes it unsafe for play. The Club committee will determine the visibility distance when the course will be closed. An agreed signal will be sounded to warn golfers that they should cease play.
Play on the golf course should cease when lightning is imminent and players should be advised to take shelter indoors where possible until the resume play signal is given or until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
Players should advised to keep away from tall objects such as trees, masts, elevated stiles, high ground etc. If on the course they should shelter in low lying areas such as bunkers.
The Club should have a procedure for advising players when lightning is in the vicinity, including a signal to advise those out on the course when to cease and resume play. Members and visitors should be made aware of the signal which will be used to warn of lightning. They should be instructed to cease play immediately the signal is given and vacate the course. Play should not recommence until the 'resume play' signal is given.
Access on the Course
These aspects are covered in the following guidance sections:
- Third Party access on the course (Course Safety Section)
- Universal access on the course (Course Safety Section)
Communication of the Hazards to Golfers
The communication of the hazards found at the golf club should be made to golfers and should be designed so that both members and visitors to the course are aware of them. This can be carried out through a combination of the following:
- Hazard signage on the course at each affected hole;
- A large notice at the entrance to the course describing course hazards;
- Hole by hole hazard information on scorecards.
Any communication of the hazards present at the golf club need to be done on the basis that anyone playing the course will clearly be able to understand the information and the hazard present.
Documenting and Reviewing Risk Assessment
As with any risk assessment the significant findings should be documented and this assessment should be reviewed and updated on any of the following conditions:
- Change to layout of the course;
- New persons exposed to hazards;
- Accidents or incidents occurring on the course;
- A new activity being carried out by the greenkeeping team;
- A new piece of work equipment being used on the course;
- Prior to competitions or events on the course;
- On a periodic basis.
The reviews should be dated on the risk assessment and any changes to the risk assessment or additional controls needed should be communicated to all affected parties.
The above guidance provides an introduction on the main requirements needed to adequately manage this health and safety topic. If you require further guidance, risk assessments or template documentation on this subject please consult your relevant full guidance health and safety website (BIGGA, England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf). If you do not hold the log in details for this website, for your club, please speak to your golf club management team to identify who the account administrator is and request the details.