Required vs. Highly Recommended

November 21, 2011

Use of Safety Googles in Racket Sports

Roger Heimerman
Operations/Facility Manager
Campus Recreation
University of Massachusetts – Amherst

The establishment and review of protocol and verbiage is an integral part of the recreational sports professional’s responsibilities. Administration must ensure their facility and program policies are enforceable, reflect an emphasis on participant safety, protect the facility surfaces and equipment, and minimize legal liability.

Commonly used verbiage includes the following: not permitted, not allowed, prohibited, not responsible for, expected to, may not, required, and highly recommended. It is suggested to use these terms to best reflect the intent of the policy, promote a safe and customer friendly atmosphere and to transfer legal responsibility when applicable.

In developing policy, ‘Required’ vs. ‘Highly Recommended’ policies must be determined with care and based on the following considerations:

  •   # of staff
  •   Location of staff
  •   Staff supervision patterns
  •   Location of activity area
  •   Size of activity area
  •   Follow-through ability of staff in enforcement of selected policy
  •   Facilities vs. Programs
  •   Proper signage and/or written materials

Requirement raises the bar considerably and may make it difficult if not impossible to enforce on a consistent basis. Often, ‘required’ versus ‘highly recommended’ is considered in the following policy discussions:

  •  Jewelry worn in gymnasium

Is an appropriate number of staff present in relation to size of area and/or number of courts to enforce the policy of no jewelry in the gymnasium? Will staff be present during all hours of operation? Will staff enforce the policy consistently and/or be able to spot jewelry (ear rings, necklaces, rings)? If more than one staff member is assigned to the gymnasium, are they all together or are they spread out amongst the courts? Are wedding bands and religious jewelry to be enforced according to policy? Is there visible and properly stated signage in the gymnasium?

During open recreation, it may be impossible to ensure consistent enforcement of ‘no jewelry’ in the gymnasium. During intramural basketball and other organized activities, this risk can be transferred to the captain(s) of teams with a simple question: “Are all players properly and legally equipped?” and proper literature in written materials prior to all players playing in an organized structure. In addition, there is often more direct supervision during intramural activities to ensure adequate enforcement.

  • Protective Eyewear during Racquetball/Squash

The key consideration to this policy is whether staff are constantly monitoring the participants on the racquetball courts. What are the consequences if participants are not wearing protective eyewear? Are they immediately asked to leave the courts and blocked from participation on the courts for a limited amount of time if found in violation of the policy? Is there proper signage at the court area? Is protective eyewear available at the equipment issue area? Is there an appropriate number of staff enforcing this policy per number of courts?
Again, there are many factors present to consider when making your policy decision.

  •  Use of collars on barbells when using free-weights

If the use of collars is required, administrators must ensure that fitness staff are constantly supervising
the area of the benches and barbells, and focused on enforcing the policy. Plans must be
in place for staff to assist each other during times of required breaks and trips to use the restroom.
In addition, Administration must have plans in place to prohibit staff from migrating to other areas of the facility, and to not allow studying during their shift.

It is the duty of the recreational sports administrator to inform participants of highly recommended practices to reduce injury. Policies communicated through properly placed signage and written documents (policy manuals and the Campus Recreation website, and the availability of equipment (protective eyewear and collars) is essential. Administration must ensure that policies contained in written manuals and signage are consistent and relay the same message.

A ‘Requirement’ policy dramatically raises the bar. If an administrator cannot ensure consistency at all times in enforcement of a ‘required’ policy, then it is best to go with ‘highly recommended’. It only takes one incident to expose a weakness in the protocol and to be potentially placed in a very litigious situation. To ensure that your policies are not ‘hanging out there’, appropriate advice and support should be sought. Hence it is ‘highly recommended’ that administrators contact legal counsel to confirm their position on the issue(s)!

Editor’s Note:
While going the ‘Highly Recommended’ route is likely favored by the majority of campuses, you must verify the direction your institution wants to take on this. So check with Legal and/or Risk Management before you get rolling.

For more information on our Online Courses,
contact us now!