The tragic death of a seven-year-old boy from Yorkshire in October 1999 highlighted a continual problem that exists with goal post safety. He was killed when an unsecured portable goal fell over and he was fatally struck on the head by the crossbar.
The issue of goal post safety is far from new, and as long ago as 1991 a BBC "That's Life" programme hosted by Esther Rantzen, highlighted this significant problem. Investigations into the case concluded that the goals used were of a home made construction and were not anchored at all.
Harrod UK Chairman Ron Harrod was involved on the making of that programme and after over a decade of campaigning and representing the UK on the European Standards Committee, is widely regarded as the UK expert in goal post safety.
" I am aware of nine youngsters have been killed throughout the UK in the last 13 years by portable goal posts falling on them. The tragedy is that all of these accidents were preventable".
Most readers facilities are multi-use and cater for a variety of games, and as such posts are required to be portable. Consequently there are thousands of portable goals in use in the UK that are erected and dismantled several times a day. The ease with which goals can be erected and dismantled is an important consideration when purchasing these items. There are, however important safety considerations connected with their specification and use. Not least is the requirement for them to be securely anchored while in use and when being stored.
Whilst most of the incidents have been connected with the use of soccer goals, the need to secure all types of freestanding goals for other sports such as basketball, handball, hockey, and netball should be remembered.
By the very nature of its popularity soccer goals present the greatest risks and a number of factors should be borne in mind.
- The game has a dedicated goal keeper who occupies the goal area throughout the game
- The goal is, even in five-a-side form, a large, heavy, awkward structure
- Kick-about games invariably occur in goal-mouths
- Goals are likely to be moved to provide the appropriate size of pitch for the number of players on each team
- The game is still supremely popular among youngsters who will often use unsuitable goals, such as home-made structures, which do not have in-built safety features; such goals have been the prime cause of fatal and serious accidents.
Abuse and misuse of goals must be discouraged, but in reality everyone has probably swung on a crossbar as a child thus the need for them to be securely anchored is self-evident. Both the Football Association and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued directives advising operators that all free-standing goals should be anchored at all times. There is now a British Standard (BS EN 748) for the full sized, fixed and socketed (7.32m x 2.44m) soccer goal, details of these standards are available from Harrod UK's website here.
The BSI, with the co-operation of the Football Association, HSE and manufacturers like Harrod UK, have recently introduced a Publicly Available Specification (PAS 36:2000) for small-sided soccer goals in both plastic and metal. This is intended as the first step to the publication of a full British Standard, to be issued as soon as the complete research has been done.
Securing a goal so that it meets the standard can be achieved by a variety of means. Ground anchors, attaching weights to the rear of the goal or securing the goals to a perimeter fence are all suitable methods. It is worthy to note that portable weights will invariably only aid stability as large numbers are required to ensure goals conform to the standard. Whichever method is used, care should be taken to ensure that in solving one problem another is not introduced, e.g. a trip hazard if the goal is secured to a perimeter fence.
When goals are not in use they should be secured so that they cannot topple over. If they have articulating backstays, these could be folded in and the goal laid flat on the ground. Alternatively goals may be secured to a perimeter fence or wall.
In deciding how best to deal with other goals, a full risk assessment should be conducted on their use and storage and, depending upon the outcome of this assessment, the necessary steps taken to manage the risk
The safe use and storage of game goals will naturally fall within the confines of good operational procedures for the facility where they are being used. This procedure will no doubt include:
- Regular maintenance on goals to ensure that they are fit for their purpose
- A risk assessment of their use and storage and a review of this assessment on a regular basis
- Purchasing goals from a reputable supplier (it is interesting to note that all fatalities have been caused by home-made or altered goals toppling over.)
- Only purchasing goals that conform to a British Standard (if applicable)
- Good signage in and around the facility indicating that goals must be secured before games commence.
- Inclusion on booking forms, league rules and confirmation of a requirement for users to check that games goals are secured before play.
- Staff training on the correct method of erection, dismantling and storage of these items.
- Training users to secure goals and the correct methods of storage once games have been completed.
- Staff must remain alert when goals are moved to different areas for use.
For further information visit the Harrod UK website here or contact their sales staff on 01502 583515 for an information pack.