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Health and Safety lessons from Wimbledon
Posted by David Cant on July 9, 2015

Health and Safety lessons from Wimbledon

Health and Safety at WimbledonForever associated with rain, Cliff Richard, strawberries and cream and British underachievement (up until last year anyway), the Wimbledon tennis championships seems an unlikely source for health and safety lessons. But a number of stories have surfaced this year which have implications for employers working across any industry.

The question of heat

Unusually the first week of Wimbledon was accompanied by blazing sunshine and higher (than most people expected) temperatures. As the first round of singles matches took place in temperatures nearing 36º Celsius, a row erupted around a discrepancy between the rules governing men’s and women’s matches.

A 1992 rule introduced by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) allows for an additional 10-minute break to be taken between the second and third sets when the ‘heat stress index’ exceeds 30.1ºC. The index takes into account factors like air temperature, humidity and the temperature of the court to decide whether conditions are potentially harmful to players.

The men’s game makes no such provision, meaning that they must play on as normal, regardless of the conditions.

What does this mean for businesses?

Excessive heat poses a significant risk for employees – as recognised by the WTA. Following their example, employers would do well to provide employees with additional breaks in hot weather and ensuring they drink plenty of liquids. Should there be a prolonged hot spell, they may even consider adjusting working periods, starting earlier or finishing later so that an extended break can be taken during the hottest part of the day.

The public as a danger to themselves

Tennis “bad boy” Nick Kyrgios hit the headlines after apparently ‘tanking’ (failing to play to the best of his ability) against Richard Gasquet. However he had already been in trouble with Wimbledon officials earlier in the tournament after he was caught climbing a fence to watch fellow Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Thanasi Kokkinakis playing a doubles match.

Venue rules ban people, including players, from peering over fences to prevent players being distracted and to reduce the risk of accident and injury. Unsurprisingly Kyrgios was asked to climb down by stewards; however he quickly returned to the top of the fence once the officials had disappeared.

What does this mean for businesses?

As Kyrgios is not technically an employee of the All England Tennis Club (who run the Wimbledon site), taking disciplinary action could be difficult. The Club has clearly discharged its duty of care to the public, making players and spectators aware of the rules regarding climbing fences. And the use of officials to spot infringements and warn spectators to follow the rules means that the Club is enforcing health and safety guidelines to protect the public.

In the event that Kyrgios did fall and hurt himself (or someone else), it would be hard for him to argue that the fault was anyone’s but his own. The Club could consider putting other measures in place to prevent fence climbing, but current provisions are more than adequate. By following the same pattern – publicised rules, enforced by officials – businesses can fulfil their duty to public safety.

So over to you – have you seen any other health and safety lessons at this years Wimbledon Championships?


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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