In our current society, people bring lawsuits for almost anything. If you own a home or drive a car, you may end up in one. In both those cases, you take reasonable precautions. You follow the rules of driving, and you have insurance to give you coverage. As an official you should have insurance as well. Membership in the Ohio or National Officials Association includes that coverage. Many officials also have personal “umbrella” liability policies that would include their work officiating (I do).
Officials are expected to follow the rules – and if you do so you are generally protecting yourself in the event of an accident. Accidents can happen, in any Track and Field activity. Generally, it’s when officials do NOT follow the rules that they became more liable for damages caused by athlete or spectator injury.
Following the rules gives you “coverage” – the rules determine what is safe and what is not. So if you are following the rules – you are being safe, and doing what you reasonably can do to keep the event safe.
So follow the rules.
In pole vault in Ohio – officials have the MOST liability for “facility” rules:
- is the pole vault pit of regulation size
- are the areas around the pit protected from “hard and unyielding” surfaces
- (or are those surfaces padded to protect them)
- are the standards and padding set up correctly
Officials DO have jurisdiction (and liability) over the event rules:
- Setting standards correctly
- Making sure that the pit – box collar – remain in safe and legal position
- Maintaining control of the vault area environment
Officials DO have some liability for the workers they station around the pole vault pit
- Officials should do all they can to reasonably protect them from injury from
- Falling crossbars and standards
- Pole Vault Poles (broken, falling, thrown or “sprung”)
- Errant vaulters
Officials are also liable FOR following “process” rules:
- Did coaches certify the weight of the vaulters and the “legality” of poles
- Did the official check to make sure the poles are “proper” for the vaulter (that means did the official match the pole weight to be greater than the coach certified vaulter weight)
Officials should do a “pole inspection” – but there’s a lot that you can’t tell. Again – follow the rules. Check the handhold tape, the pole weight marking – that’s as far as you can go. Other pole “alterations” are difficult to see, and become the coach’s responsibility.
Officials are NOT liable for coaches that certify but don’t tell the truth:
- Coaches that falsify the athlete’s weight
- Coaches that manipulate poles (change or alter labels, modify pole length)
Officials do NOT have jurisdiction over how vaulter’s vault
- As long as other rules are followed
- But – an official who feel a vaulter is “dangerous” could say something to the coach – that’s the extent of authority
OFFICIALS do not have the authority to determine that a vaulter is “too dangerous”. That’s completely on the athlete’s coach.
So – if an athlete vaults on a pole rated below their weight but checked in and signed for by the coach – that’s not “on” the official – it’s “on” the coach
If an athlete uses improper technique and gets injured – that’s on the coach
If an athlete falls off the side of the pit and hits a cinder block – that’s on the OFFICIAL
If an athlete falls between the “cracks” of a pole vault pit – that also could be on the OFFICIAL
If an athlete falls onto a worker that was sitting on the side of the pit – that could be on the OFFICIAL.
If an athlete breaks a pole and gets injured, and the Coach did not accurately certify the vaulter’s weight
- that’s on the Coach IF the Official properly asked and received certification
- On both if the Official didn’t require certification from the Coach