Health & safety

In an increasingly litigious world, reflecting a society increasingly seeking to establish blame for any accident, it is essential that the organisers of any recreational activity understand their legal duties towards members, competitors and spectators, and carry full insurance cover to protect them from claims for damages.  The cost of successfully defending legal proceedings can cripple a club's finances, and with volunteer officers carrying potential personal liabilities it is important that the club's insurance arrangements cover them while working on club activities. This section covers the legal principles under which a club or its officers can be found liable for causing or contributing to a personal injury, including the varying levels of duty owed to novices or the more experienced, to children young people or adults, and to people with disabilities.  The requirements of the Health and Safety at Work legislation for clubs with paid employees, and for clubs with premises or equipment for the use of members, and the Food Safety legislation for clubs which provide food or drink to members or visitors are also considered.

If you require further assistance please do not hesitate to contact the Legal Team Tel: 023 8060 4223 - Email:  

Accident and Incident Reporting

Ideally the best way of preventing harm from occurring, is to introduce measures that prevent hazards and risks from occurring.  But as is made clear in the Safety Management Policy Statement, the RYA recognises that realistically, risk can never be eliminated completely without terminating the activities. However, the dominant root causes of most boating accidents are shortcomings in knowledge and human behaviour and these are therefore major factors in the control of risk.  Initiatives to share information are invaluable for imparting knowledge and influencing behaviour.

With this in mind the RYA Safety Management System includes procedures to ensure that non-conformities, accidents and hazardous situations are reported, analysed and shared with the objective of improving safety.  As a result the RYA has established a number of triggers for reporting and recording accidents and incidents which are mandatory in the case of RYA organised events.  However, the RYA is keen to hear from clubs and individuals as well using the guidance below.

Report an incident using the RYA Incident Reporting From

Risk Assessments

Between 2000 and 2003 the Government, through the DETR Ports Division, introduced a new set of controls on harbour authorities to improve the safety of harbour operations covering everything from pilotage to cargo handling to monitoring of vessel movements to reduce collisions.

Although the regulations are mainly targeted at the commercial sector, recreational use is also addressed, and in particular clubs organising events in such areas are now required not only to give prior notification of events to the Harbour Master (usually a local bye-law requirement in any event) but also to carry out a risk assessment, and inform the authority that this has been done.

To simplify the administrative burden on clubs, The RYA agreed with the DETR to provide standard Risk Assessment forms for all clubs. This work was completed in March 2002.  The RYA standard forms divide events into Major, Medium and Minor Impact events according to the size of the event and the likely impact it will have on harbour operations.  This encourages clubs to take a proportionate approach and will hopefully keep the paperwork involved to an acceptable level.

Safety on the Water

This guidance is specific to Sailability venues.  It offers guidance around safety practice where Affiliated clubs or Training Centres are part of the RYA Sailability Programme, or where disabled people and those with long term health conditions are taking part in activities.  The document includes information about RYA resources, procedures, preparation and checks, for people and equipment.

Sailability Safety Guidance Note

Accidents on Club Premises

Any club or association which owns, controls or occupies land or buildings has a wide range of obligations to guard against visitors from being injured. Some of these obligations also extend to trespassers who may be on the premises without permission.

The members of an unincorporated association do not have a general duty of care towards each other, so a member of an unincorporated association cannot claim against the other members unless it can be proved that an individual had a specific responsibility, for example keeping the premises in a fit state, or that an individual knew of a danger and failed to warn the other members. (see Prole -v- Allen [1950] 1 AER 476, and Robertson-v-Ridley [1989] 2 AER 474, and Milne v Duguid & Others [1999] SCLR 512).

The duty towards a visitor will vary according to the circumstances of each case, for example an injury to a visitor during a sporting event may not lead to liability if it can be shown that the visitor knew of the possible danger and sited himself at a certain vantage point despite that knowledge (see Wooldridge-v-Sumner [1962] 2 ALL ER 978).

However visitors coming into premises and injuring themselves because of a defect may well have a valid claim against the club (if incorporated) or representatives of the club members as a whole (if unincorporated), and this is one of many reasons why a club with premises should have a good insurance policy in place.

For further information please see the follow link: Occupiers Liability.

RIDDOR Regulations

RIDDOR 2013 requires the reporting of work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences.  It applies to all work activities, but not to all incidents.

The full details of RIDDOR 2013 can be obtained from from the Health and Safety Executive website

A brief guide to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)

Carriage and Storage of Petrol and Diesel

The regulations governing the carriage and storage of diesel and petrol in the UK were last updated by the Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations 2014.

An RYA guidance note provides our interpretation of the legislation in force.  See the Carriage and Storage of Petrol and Diesel page for a copy of the guidance note.

Organising and Managing Events

This section of the site aims to assist clubs and associations in understanding their legal liabilities.

In this section of the site we aim to provide clubs and associations with guidance in relation to Race, Training and Event Management which is available as a download on our website or can be obtained by contacting the Legal Team.    

This publication provides advice to race committees and individuals within clubs and associations organising racing, cruising or training activities, under power and sail on inland and tidal waters.  The purpose of the advice is to ensure that those organising and managing events understand their potential legal liabilities. Insurance Certificates

We also provide information on the pitfalls involved with clubs inspecting participants insurance certificates.

Adventure Activities Licencing

This sections looks at the requirements for clubs and RYA training centres to hold a licence from the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority.

For further information please click on the following link:

Health, Safety, Food Hygiene and Equipment

Here we provide guidance to clubs on managing health, safety, food hygiene and equipment, all contained within the Guidance Notes available for download in the table below.

We also provide information on the new Food Information Regulations 2014 which came into effect 13th December 2014 under which clubs have a legal duty to provide correct allergen information about ingredients used in food they make or serve to customers.

Corporate Manslaughter & Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Clubs and Class Associations need to be aware of their responsibilities in relation a person's safety.

The Corporate Manslaughter & Corporate Homicide Act 2007 received Royal assent on 26th July 2007 and came into force in England, Wales and Scotland on 6th April 2008.

The Act creates an offence of 'corporate manslaughter' which may be committed where an organisation owes a duty to take reasonable care for a person's safety, but the way in which the activities have been managed or organised, by its senior management, amounts to a gross breach of that duty and causes death.

The prosecution will need to prove that the failures came substantially from 'senior management'.  This is defined, in the Act, as persons who play significant roles in the making of decisions about how the whole or a substantial part of the organisation's activities are managed or organised.

The penalty for this offence will be an unlimited fine for the company.  The Act does not provide for personal liability for individual directors and managers, however individuals may still be prosecuted under the existing law relating to manslaughter by gross negligence.

The Act extends to companies and partnerships. It does not apply to private members clubs which are unincorporated, although there is provision in the Act for it to be extended to further categories of organisation.

Organisations should ensure that they have in place health and safety management systems and corporate governance systems which reflect best practice as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive.

Remember that health and safety policies can quickly become inadequate or totally ineffective unless they are updated regularly and procedures tested and adjusted in response to identified weaknesses.

Organisations should re-assess the competency of 'senior management' and ensure that they understand their health and safety liabilities and responsibilities.

Compensation Act 2006

The Compensation Act 2006 was introduced by the Government in order to fulfil its commitment to bring forward appropriate legislation following the withdrawal of Julian Brazier MP s Private Members Bill in 2004, for the protection of volunteer sports organisers from legal action by participants injured in recreational activities.

The Act does not seek to change the law, it does however address the current disproportionate fear of litigation and consequent risk-averse behaviour by some sports organisers.  Section 1 entitles the court in a personal injury action to take into account whether a claim that a defendant should have taken particular steps to meet a standard of care might prevent a desirable activity from taking place, or might discourage persons from organising desirable activities.

A court is already entitled to take such considerations into account, but the Act may be useful in codifying this principle and reassuring volunteers that this may be a valid defence to a claim.  In reality not much will change in terms of the way Judges decide cases and clubs are still required to carry out their activities will all due diligence.

If you require further assistance on any of the topic areas listed above, please do not hesitate to contact the Legal Team Tel:023 8060 4223  Email: