Today, we received some good news at the Vanguard Centre. Our landlord, Network Rail, had sent out a premises inspection team to make sure we are looking after the venue and have the necessary health and safety policies and fire precautions in place, and we passed our inspection with flying colours. The inspector even remarked that he was impressed with us and that none of the other properties he had inspected recently came close to us in terms of preparation and readiness for a visit on short notice.
Obviously, we are happy to have passed the inspection, and it is always nice to hear when people think we are doing a good job. However, it got me thinking about the duty of care that businesses have towards their staff and customers, and that martial arts clubs have towards their instructors and students.
There are both legal and moral obligations, as far as I am concerned. In some ways, the legal requirements do not go far enough, and we make a point of surpassing them with a significantly greater effort to care for the people who spend time in our venue. Our moral obligations are important, and we should never allow ourselves to lose sight of doing what is right in the scramble to keep a business open.
We make sure that all our staff have nationally recognised, up to date first aid training certificates, and that our first aid kits are well stocked. We rarely have to use our first aid skills or kits, but it is good practice to ensure that the skills and tools are there in case they are needed. Furthermore, we do the dry and boring paperwork of risk assessments, keeping these up to date and relevant, and making sure that all our activities adhere to them.
We make sure that we have all the necessary firefighting equipment in the venue and that we go to lengths to reduce the chances of any kind of fire occurring, including electrical fires from faulty electronic equipment or wiring. We take this seriously!
Not every business takes it all so seriously, or bothers to keep the paperwork up to date. It is all pretty boring, and quite expensive, but nonetheless we feel that it is the mark of a responsible and professional organisation to do what should be done to ensure the safety of everyone who comes into the venue. Martial arts clubs, especially those run on a shoestring budget by volunteers, often experience “near misses” that people sort of joke about in the pub afterwards – and I have been part of clubs like this in the past – but it really should be a wake-up call to pay a bit more attention to safety and professionalism.
At the Academy of Historical Arts, in our full-time training venue at the Vanguard Centre and at our professional club Liverpool HEMA, we take pains to make sure that we lead by example and show what is possible when you just make the effort to do things correctly according to both the legal and moral obligations to care for people and to help students achieve greater heights.
We are always happy to discuss these issues with other clubs that might need a bit more help understanding what needs to be done, and we are in the process to creating some quite detailed guidance to help club leaders understand this sort of thing; the guidance will be made available to our affiliated clubs as soon as we are happy with it (and have the time to proofread it properly!).
Our challenge to readers from any other martial arts clubs: what can your organisation do today to make your venue and activities safer and more productive for everyone involved?