Institute of Expert Witnesses

Providing specialist advice and support in accident cases

The Institute of Expert Witnesses offers professional impartial and independent advice and provides qualified expert opinions to support the legal process of resolving cases of accidents and injury.


SELF ASSESSMENT or ABILITY


Self-assessing situations in physical activities for sport parks, schools, sport clubs, fitness centres, team-building or taster sessions may require an individual to make a personal decision on what they are capable of doing safely and without risk to themselves or others

In the most straightforward of factors there is a clear expectation that those persons with a diagnosed ongoing health issue (e.g. heart), or who are under investigation or treatment or medication, would understand this and accept that they would need to acknowledge it and would need a medical confirmation of suitability to take part

More difficult is the self-assessment of fitness to participate through weight management, lifestyle or mental health issues or age-related matters. Descriptive measurements such as “does climbing a single flight of steps leave you short of breath?” can be helpful but there may be the tendency to underestimate physical inability to be able to join in with friends.   

The most difficult category in self health assessment is the determination of “LEVEL OF EXPERIENCE or SKILL ABILITY”

The expectation that a “DISCLAIMER” is a quickie get out clause for service/activity providers demands asking why these forms are necessary at all. 

There will always be a Duty of Care when providing services. Risk and consequence do not vanish with a signature. Health care assessment whether by expert classification or by “informed” self-opinion must have a degree of accuracy to be viable. The difficulty that lies with self- assessment lies in clearly establishing what the levels of activity with the corresponding risks and defining in clear layman terminology what both the skills and the risks are. 

AGAINST WHAT DO WE MEASURE SKILL AND ABILITY?

1. PAST EXPERIENCE. For example,

Have you been on a unicycle before? 
When were you last on a Unicycle? 
Have you ever been instructed taught or coached on using a Unicycle?

2.SKILL LEVEL. For example:

Have you ever turned a somersault, completed a flip, or rotated head over heels?
Have you ever jumped unaided from a height of more than 1 metre and landed safely?
When did you last stand unaided and without a safety barrier or harness at a height of more than 2 metres?
Do you have any certificates, badges or awards in this activity?

CAN SELF HEALTH ASSESSMENT EVER BE REALISTIC?
Therein lies the dilemma for the venue owner, activity manager and the client. 

If an activity requires a level of fitness or competence, then there must be:
  • an identification of ALL the potential injury outcomes of the activity.
  • an identification of potential failings of performance.
  • an identification of third-party interaction during uncontrolled or failed performance, apparatus use or behaviour. 
  • a common-sense approach, “is this a good idea?”
  • a mutual respect for being in a safe environment. 

The discussion on DISCLAIMERS and WARNINGS or SAFETY BRIEFINGS will be yet another complex mix of responsibilities. 

IEW is well placed to advise and guide venue managers and those who share the activity in reaching a mutual understanding of what is reasonable to assume or expect. 

If you have any questions regarding self health assessment or if you need expert witness advice on a case, please do not hesitate to contact our Expert Witnesses on 0117 986 2194 or at enquiries@iew.org.uk.


An article signed by our IEW President, Trevor Low BA, Dip AD & ATD.

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