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Games Setup

Standard Safety Rules and Practices for Scottish Heavy Events

by Gordon Walsh


To organize and conduct a properly run heavy events competition many things are to be considered and put in place. An improperly run games can have worse consequences than just a poor crowd - there is a very real risk of injury or death when dealing with the sheer force generated by the implements - don't for a second think that it cannot happen! The level of the competitor is not sufficient to provide a means of safety. A beginner who may be just beginning his first games can have an unexpected throw into the crowd just as easily as a professional athlete gunning for a new record - the only things preventing horrible accidents are proper layout, safeguards and a constant lookout for dangerous conditions.

A Rapid City man is in fair condition at Rapid City Regional Hospital . That after an accident at the Black Hills Celtic Festival and Highland Games yesterday.

Faron Lund was participating in the caber competition. Athletic Director Kirk Spell says Lund had to drop the caber because it didn't feel right and it hit him in the back of the head. Organizers estimate it weighed about 65 lbs. Lund suffered a concussion.

Story by: Julie Oberlander/Jennifer Dowling 09/05/2004 KEVNFOX7 Online

Initial Questions when starting a games

There are other instances of injury in other sports such as strongman, Track and Field, you name it! So what can we do to ensure that safety is a priority and we reduce the chance of risk? Ask yourselves the following items :

1) Do the games organizers have liability insurance and are the heavy events named on the rider for coverage?

2) Who is the Athletic Director of the games (AD) and does he/she have the competence and knowledge of the heavy events to conduct a games in a safe manner?

3) If the games are being run by a provincial heavy events association within the main games, does the association have insurance for its member athletes or are the heavy events and the association listed on the policy of the games organizers?

4) Who are the athletes competing at your games and are they trained and knowledgeable of the hazards of the heavy events?

5) Are field judges confident and competent to interpret and enforce safety rules on the field?

6) Is there a written set of safety rules to be handed out to athletes and all involved stating what is expected from athletes and all persons involved on the field?

7) Is someone in charge of going over the safety rules with all persons involved on the field and clearly state what consequences will be enforced if people fail to comply with the rules?

8) Is all equipment to be used in good condition and are all implements measured and weighted to meet official standards?

9) Is a first aid trained person available on the field, and a well-stocked first aid kit available? Are emergency plans in place in the event of an incident? Emergency vehicle access to throwing area?

10) The AD must have a spray bottle full of a Bleach and Water mixture (9parts water/1part bleach, labeled properly) to wash handles if an athlete cuts his/her hands. All blood must be treated as contaminated and precautions must be taken to avoid possible infection of other athletes or judges.


1) If you are the thrower of a hammer or weight and injure or kill someone, nothing can change what happened after the fact. You and the victim’s family and friends will live with the image and fact an innocent by-stander was injured or killed by your hand.

2) Injuries to persons may result in Civil law suits to throwers and games organizers. This has happened in Canada.

3) Criminal Charges under Bill C-45 (Criminal Liability of Organizations) In the new legislation, the term "organization" is used rather than "corporation." "Organization" includes "a public body, a body corporate, a society, a company," taken from the previous Criminal Code definitions, but now also comprises "a firm, a partnership, a trade union or an unincorporated association."

4) Heavy Events cancelled from highland games or at least a reduced version of the games.

5) Even a near miss could result in the loss of public support for the games and credibility with sponsors.

Field size and access to the field

1) Minimum 150 ft x 150 (Depending Level of Throwers). If you know the max level of the throwers add 15 ft to thier throw for thier max and add another 15 ft for the hammer skidding. Measure out the disance from the trig to the corners to be sure there is plenty of room.

2) There can be no compromise on who controls the access to the field. If you are organizing a games and you allow spectators to determine where they will sit, you have just put the spectator, the athlete, the games in a very libelous situation. Examples of near misses and actual injuries can be quoted by most heavy event athletes around the world. Leadership must be shown from minute one. From the first negotiations with the games organizers to the day of the events, safety of the public, judges, volunteers and athletes must be paramount. Education of all parties of the dangers associated with the games is the key to success and guaranteed continuation of our sport. As athletes, organizers and promoters of the games it is unconscionable to blindly put innocent spectators at risk and think we will not be held accountable.

3) Family members of throwers need to be considered and a plan put into effect to lessen the opportunity for children or adults to be located in a dangerous area.

4) The thrower should take responsibility for ensuring that he will not be placing anybody in danger (i.e. throwing left handed without moving the cage from a right handed thrower). A check of the field and immidiate surroundings should be natural.

Equipment Saftey

1) Hammer Cage - If you need one, make it a minimum of 10 to12ft high and in a semi circle around the thrower. Ensure the material used for a cage is of adequate strength to stop a stray hammer. Chain link fence or track and field netting are possible choices.

2) Hammers - Check installation, are the handles the right size and without faults, are the wedges tight? Is there excessive tacky? The use of sunscreen or other creams can make a handle extremely slippery.

3) Weights for distance - Are D-Links the proper strength and size? Are all handles free of sharp edges? Is the chain in good condition?

4) Caber - Check for cracks, splinters, proper taper, overall weight and length. Is the grip area carved and sanded to fit the athlete’s hand?

5) Pitch Forks - Check handles for cracks/ Check the forks for damage / Check the tightness of handles

6) Standards - Are they strong enough? Will they tip? Are they secured to the ground? Is there a safe system for installing the cross bar, if it is a knock off system?

7) Rental Lifts - Is the machine in good working order? Do you have a competent person to operate the machine safely? Are all persons on the field made aware of the possible hazards associated with the machine?