Thursday, December 25, 2008

Duty of Care

A comment on the uniform discussion attracted my notice, and think this needs to be brought out as a separate issue --- and that's the Duty of Care the band has to its members.

The wording in question is "9. Sunglasses- this should really be looked at as a band. Cannot understand why not allowed to wear. I struggle in direct sunlight. I am told prescription glasses only. "

I hope that this is simply a misunderstanding and that we don't have anyone in the band who would be archaic enough in their thinking to instruct someone not to wear sunglasses, since this is a very simple safety issue and the current OH&S legislation means that we need to take our Duty of Care to all members seriously (ie anyone saying 'no sunglasses' would be opening themselves and the band to legal action).

The official message can be found on the cancer council Australia web page, but the important parts are that the cancer council says we all should

  1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing – that covers as much skin as possible
  2. Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen. Put it on 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be used to extend the time you spend in the sun.
  3. Slap on a hat – that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  4. Seek shade
  5. Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards
And then they go on with more detail on sunglasses to speak about not using the fashion glasses (they provide no protection) but to make sure sun glasses meet the Australian Standards 1067:2003 with at least category 2, and preferably 3 protection. Clearly to ignore this advice is to put people at risk. And to add a private note to this ---- at a recent visit to the opticians I was told I have bad sunburn damage to the top of my eyes from ground reflected sunlight and told to wear sunglasses when driving or if outside for more than a few minutes. I fully intend to follow this advice from now on.

Having said all that ... there in one exception that I would ask. About once a year we take a formal group photo, and really would ask everyone to remove sunglasses for that photo so we can see all the faces!

Also you may have noticed that I wear a broadbrimmed hat when not playing, that there is always sunscreen for general use in the back of my car ... and that I stick to the shade in warm weather. These are simple matters, but would recommend all to follow the guidance as much as possible.


On a related issue there is the question of playing in hot weather. The official stance is from Sports Medicine Australia and the important table is

Temperature Risk of Heat illness Recommended management
15 - 20 Low Heat illness can occur in running. Caution over-motivation
21 - 25 Low - moderate Increase vigilance. Caution over-motivation
26 - 30 Moderate - high Moderate early pre-season training
Reduce intensity and duration of play/training
Take more breaks
31 - 35 High - very high Uncomfortable for most people
Limit intensity, take more breaks
Limit duration to less than 60 minutes
36 + Extreme Very stressful for most people
Postpone to cooler conditions /cooler part of the day/cancel

Now these are general guidance for adult males, and they say children, woman, folk over 65, or folks with certain complaints such as asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, overweight etc are even worse effected by the heat. Also they say that the guidelines are general (for amateur sport), and of course don't deal with the specifics of a Pipe Band (they recommend getting a specialist to provide an analysis for each specific sport/ activity).
So what do we do? Well the carrying of water is essential (they say need to drink 500mm per hour) and over the last couple of years I've used as my guage the TOTAL TIME we can tune up and play in a day is determined by the temperature. Below about 30C the real issue is simply the fitness of our players ---- but there is no duty of care issue other than looking for any signs of stress on the players. At 31-35C the sports medicine folk suggest it's an hour for fit men but given we have some members in the higher risk groups I try to keep this to 45 minutes. At above 35 the best advice is to cancel, but this isn't always possible ... so within the band will try to keep below 30 minutes total, and below 15 minutes total for a temperate at 40C. I believe that these rules of thumb should be enough to meet our duty of care.

Now I am aware that in the past this band (in common with most organisations) didn't worry about these things and has done some strange things --- eg we used to have our sleeves rolled up in hot weather, which is totally against modern thinking due to our understanding of the skin cancer risk. We clearly can't undo the errors on the past, but we do need to abide with the rules and guidance available for the future.

Any comments?



Anonymous said...

These are very important points and must make sure we do look after our members properly.

But part of this neans we must look at the type of hat we wear. The words above clearly says we need a hat that "protects your face, head, neck and ears" On the skin cancer site its says you can get sun burn in 15 minutes, and as such the times suggested for playing can be far too long.

We need to ask whether a traditional hat of the safety of our members is more important!!!!!

In reality we all know this means we need to find better hats in the near future.

angus said...

I have recently found that some stronger guidelines exist that I believe we need to conform to -- ie an official basis for playing pipes in the summer.

First of all the SA branch of the sports medicine Australia has given a check list of when to cancel events, and when to withdraw all youngsters and us oldies (ie anyone over 40), which effectively means the band should pull out.

This is available at

Also Defence has re-issued its safety guidance on heat, and that provides us with additional information (eg effect of clothing, and meaning of light/moderate/heavy exercise etc) and that helps me understand the terms.

On the basis if these new, stronger guidelines I would like to rethink some of the words in this blog entry --- so I will add an update over the next day or two on a suggested 'hot weather policy' for the band to consider.


This link allows us to