13 Oct Cross Country Running ‘too dangerous’ says Health & Safety Executive

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has re-classified Cross Country Running as ‘an extremely dangerous activity’. A report seen by Eightlane has thrown doubt upon the continuation of the sport in the UK just a week before the first major fixtures of the winter. Events such as the National Championships are now officially considered more hazardous than sky diving, base jumping and water-skiing.

Auditors raised concerns over ‘excessively cold conditions, muddy terrain and poor visibility’. It went onto state that ‘competitors appeared genuinely distressed before, during and after races’. The HSE has asked the Children’s Minister to investigate whether the regular involvement of under-18s was ‘tantamount to institutionalised child abuse’.

The report concluded that the HSE had ‘no choice but to increase the perceived risk level to an extremely high one’ adding that ‘participants should think very seriously about whether to take part’.

British Athletics (BA) have responded to the news by mandating that all race marshals wear hard hats and high visibility jackets effective immediately. It is also understood that BA are considering issuing competitors with hats, gloves and thermal jackets as well as insisting they carry course maps throughout the race.

A trial of GPS trackers and ‘safety matting’ for uneven terrain is already due to begin in the Surrey, Birmingham and Metropolitan Leagues next weekend. Signs warning of ‘excessively steep’ inclines will also be installed at all major Championship races this season. It is hoped that the same rule will apply to downhill sections by the end of 2016.

BA’s Deputy Head of Endurance Athlete Safeguarding told Eightlane that the situation was ‘under control’ and questioned the report’s findings. ‘Last year, we had no deaths and only a handful of serious injuries’ he said ‘frankly, the sport has never been safer and to say otherwise is just political point scoring’.