28/09/2022- Safety

Safe Piste Layouts – Safety Committee Notice

The BF Safety Committee reminds all those involved in fencing about the safe practice in the arrangement and layout of pistes and everyone’s responsibilities in relation to creating a safe fencing environment and reducing the risk of accidents.

The Safety Committee feels the start of the new season is an opportune moment to remind those organising, refereeing at and taking part in competitions and matches, be they open, between clubs or schools, or indeed within clubs or schools, of safe practice in the arrangement and layout of pistes.

There are two essential elements to remember:

  1. The physical environment in which the fencing will be taking place must be clearly defined and safe, that is:
    – the boundaries of the piste clearly marked and understood
    – a sufficient area surrounding the piste, both sides and rear, clear of any obstructions and hazards (furniture, equipment, trip risks such as loose spool cables and, importantly, spectators)
    – sufficient space for a referee to operate safely.
  2. A risk assessment must be carried out that includes the above requirements.

The BF Safety Guidelines, section 4.5 (found here), although specifically written for competitions, provide a very useful blueprint to follow for all competing and sparring conditions, as follows:

4.5.1 Piste-laying : A risk assessment should take place, taking into account :the age group; the weapon; the standard of fencing; and a safe position for the referee and for spectators.

Subject to this specific competition risk assessment the following distances are recommended:-  between the edges of adjacent pistes on the side where score boxes are placed: not less than 1 metre.  between the edges of adjacent pistes on the side used for refereeing: 2.5 metres. If the distance is less, the referee should wear some form of protection, such as a mask or goggles.  between any person (e.g. scorers, box operators, spectators) and the edge of the piste: 1.25 metres.  total distance between the rear line of two pistes placed end-on: not less than 2 metres.  There should be an unobstructed run back beyond each rear line of as near 1.5 metres as possible, which should be unobstructed by chairs, cables, fencing equipment, or by anything else which might trip up or obstruct a fencer.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and as a participant (whether a fencer, a coach or a club officer) you have a responsibility to stop training if necessary to deal with any risks (for example spools can move, fencers can drift and be in line to retreat onto ground leads or other hazards).

The BF Safety Guidelines sets out this duty of care more formally:

Every fencer also has a duty of care to each of their opponents. In particular this involves fencing in a way that is safe, avoiding hurtful, violent and dangerous actions (cf. also Rules for Competitions t.121.2).
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of every official and coach to ensure that fencers respect this obligation

Remember  – safety – yours, your opponent’s and that of those around you – is your first priority

Enjoy your fencing

BF Safety Committee


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