Safety in Physical Education and Sport

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Purpose of this policy

To ensure that students undertake physical education and sporting activities safely.


Principals and teachers must ensure that the Department’s specific requirements and guidelines are met and that:

  • relevant references and sporting associations are referred to so that the correct safety precautions are followed
  • standard precautions and safety measures minimise any potential risk to students
  • all items of equipment are safe, regularly inspected, repaired and maintained
  • records of inspections, maintenance and repairs are kept at the school
  • teachers have the recommended qualifications and experience in sport education, and supervising and teaching specialist areas such as high jump or gymnastics
  • hazards and risks are identified and controlled following risk management processes (see: Risk Management in Related policies)
  • supervising teachers have first aid training.

Activity precautions

This table describes additional precautionary safety measures for a number of activities.


Basketball / Netball

Safety markings

  • Note: Suppliers of basketball rings and backboards are required to place large labels warning about the dangers of improper use or installation of their products. It is illegal in Victoria for basketball/netball rings (stationery or portable) and backboards that do not comply with these regulations to be supplied.
  • Schools must ensure that appropriate safety warnings are permanently marked on new and existing backboards. The safety marking - WARNING: SWINGING ON THE RING MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH - must be clearly legible, in upper case, and in characters not less than 10mm in height. See:  Consumer Goods (Basketball Rings and Backboards) Safety Standard 2017 for information on safety warning requirements.
  • New backboards carry the following permanent warning symbol.


  • If required new stickers are available to be purchased. For further information contact the Department's Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Service on 1300 074 715 or email


  • Principals should ensure that basketball towers, backboards and rings are inspected quarterly. Details of inspections and maintenance need to be recorded and retained at the school. See the OHS Hazard Management webpage for relevant checklist.

Outdoor Soccer

  • Anyone using movable soccer goals in schools must be supervised when using the goals and not be permitted to hang or swing from them at any time. 
  • Injuries and deaths caused by soccer goals have occurred due to the following:
    - instability
    - goals becoming unanchored
    - goals with inadequate anchoring
    - inappropriate or ineffective installation
    - inappropriate use, such as swinging on goalposts or cross bars.

Important:  As of 31 December 2010 the supply of movable soccer goals weighing more than 28kg must comply with Playing field equipment – Soccer Goals – Safety aspects - AS4866.1-2007. A key requirement of the standard is to ensure that movable soccer goals have permanent labelling and informing of the dangers of improper use or goals installation. Information on the standard see: Product Safety Australia.

Indoor Soccer/Futsal

  • All playing surfaces must be:
    - smooth and flat
    - free of obstructions and loose objects.
    Note: The use of a wooden surface is recommended. Concrete or bitumen must be avoided.
  • A venue with multiple courts must ensure nets divide each playing area. Nets must only hang to the floor surface. Any excess netting lying on the floor is a hazard to players.
  • The immediate surrounds of the court perimeter must have a space well clear of any roofing supports or obstacles including equipment, seating and spectators.
  • The space between the walls and the boundary must be sufficient (at least 1 metre) to ensure the safe movements of players and referees. Walls are not permitted to be used as boundaries.
  • Spectators and reserve players must be positioned at a safe distance from the field of play.
  • Students are to wear appropriate footwear such as sports shoes with non-marking soles.
  • Students must be made aware of the rules regarding dangerous play, such as no slide tackling, tackling from behind, shoulder charging, tripping and playing of the player, not the ball.
  • Goal structures must be checked for stability prior to each game. If goals are unstable, they must be firmly anchored to the wall or floor. Goals should consist of light weight material enabling easy transportation to reduce any risk of injury.  Also nets should be used whenever possible.

Important: Principals are required to ensure that indoor soccer goals are incorporated into the school‘s regular facilities and equipment inspections and that appropriate maintenance is undertaken are required. Details of inspections and maintenance need to be recorded and retained at the school.

Martial arts

A martial arts instructor must:

  • be accredited with either the:
    • National Coaching Accreditation Scheme (NCAS) or such other Accreditation Programs administered by the Australian Sports Commission recognised National Sporting Organisations (NSO's), or
    • National Martial Arts Instructors Accreditation Scheme (NMAS), administered by the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA)
  • carry public liability and professional indemnity insurance.

Note: Where school facilities are to be used by community groups or individuals who will be providing martial arts instruction, school councils may wish to draw their attention to the above instructor requirements.

Rugby Union/Rugby League

  • When included within the school's program, the school must provide parents/guardians with information on the potential risks of the activity and more particularly as to the feature of these games i.e. scrums. 
    Definition: Scrums are formed by players who are designated forwards binding together in three rows. The scrum then engages with the opposition team so that the players heads are interlocked with those of the other side's front row. 
    Note: Scrums occur more often, and are of greater importance, in union than in league. In league, scrums do not occur in primary school and may occur in 13 man aside games in secondary school.
  • Parents/guardians may choose to withhold permission for their children to participate. 
  • A subjective assessment of all players needs to occur to determine if they have the physique to play in any position and more particularly where scrums are part of the game. If there is any doubt concerning the appropriateness of students' physiques, a player must not be permitted to play in a scrum.
  • All players must wear mouth guards.  It is encouraged that all players wear Standards Australia approved head gear and shoulder pads as well as chest pads for female players. Shoulder pads/protective gear worn must have the International Rugby Board (IRB) Approved Mark (for Rugby Union) or approved by the Australian Rugby League (for Rugby League).
  • Appropriate padding must be used on goal posts.

Example: The Australian Rugby Union TryRugby program introduces new players to the game through a series of age-specific modified rugby games in a controlled environment i.e. no tackling for ages under 6 and 7 years. Each game-style of the Under Six 6 to Under Twelve Tryrugby Kids Pathway has a developmental skills focus which takes into account the chronological age of the child and their capacity for safe and achievable rugby skill acquisition.  

For more information see:

Interschool sports

Interschool sport must be organised as an excursion and must be approved by the principal.

See: Excursions and Activities and Transporting Students in Related policies

If a small group of students represents the school at a sporting event:

  • the principal should arrange for a teacher to accompany and supervise the students
  • the supervising teacher must be at the venue to supervise the students as they arrive
  • if arrangements cannot be made for a staff member to accompany the students:
    - the excursion cannot go ahead as an official school activity
    - parents/guardians may make private arrangements to take their children to the event and supervise them while they are in attendance.

Weight training

  • Primary students are not to do weight training and weight lifting.
  • Secondary students may do weight training if a qualified teacher with specialised knowledge in this field supervises them.

Equipment precautions

This table describes precautionary safety measures for some equipment.


Baseball, softball, cricket

When a hard ball is used, male students should wear a genital protector (box).  Additionally, for all students:

  • catchers should wear:
    - a body protector
    - shin protectors
    - face mask
    - throat protector
  • batters should:
    - wear a double eared helmet when a hard ball is used
    - remain on when the batter is running between bases.
  • wicket keepers should:
    - wear a helmet and face mask when a hard ball is used.


  • Students should not be permitted to throw the bat after hitting the ball, e.g. when playing T-ball.
  • Students on the Ôbench' must be kept well away from bases and base lines.

High jump

  • High jumping should only be permitted where teachers or instructors are experienced in high jump instruction or have appropriate qualifications.
  • Use:
    - foam practice-bars or round fibreglass bars
    - block mats. As the mat thickness required will depend on the weight of the jumper, the height being attempted and the surface the landing mat is on, manufacturers should be consulted about the relevant specifications
    - gym mats to surround block mats.
  • Do not use triangular aluminium bars.

Note: The Fosbury Flop technique can be used if the teacher or instructor is experienced in this technique and the students have developed the necessary preliminary skills, for the run-up, take-off, flight and landing phases of the jump.


Advise parents and students of the benefits of mouthguards and take reasonable steps to ensure that students wear them when involved in physical activities, particularly when:

  • competing in contact sports such as football (all codes), basketball, hockey, lacrosse, martial arts
  • participating in formal training sessions.

There are three types of mouthguards:

  • individually fitted mouthguard - available from a dentist and is custom made.  This mouthguard provides maximum protection.
  • semi-adaptable mouthguard - sold over the counter and is adaptable in the mouth after warming
  • standard mouthguard - sold ready-made over the counter.

Mouthguards should fit properly and have sufficient retention to prevent dislodgement by an impacting force. Mouthguards can be made to allow for missing and erupting teeth, and to fit over orthodontic wires. An ill-fitting mouthguard has the potential to cause injury. A mouthguard that has to be held in place by clenching the teeth is unsatisfactory. Yearly replacement may be needed for younger students to allow for growth and development.

See: Frequently Asked Questions – Mouthguards at Australian Dental Association in Other resources

Starting devices

Starting gun caps are not to be used.

Note: JEX caps, is not an approved explosive for use in the State of Victoria. Any existing Jex Caps should be removed and disposed of appropriately. A Health and Safety Hazard Alert (pdf - 352.23kb) has been issued which outlines the recall process.

There are a number of alternative starting devices suitable for use, including:

  • air-driven horns (including rechargeable with a pump)
  • starting clap board
  • whistle
  • electronic starting pistol or electronic beeper with flash
  • portable PA with beeper.

Note: Aerosol air horns eliminate the chemical hazard from starting caps. However, compressed gases in aerosol cans can expand if shaken and explode when exposed to direct heat (e.g. exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods of time during sports events). Manufacturer’s instructions should be understood and followed.

Hearing Protection

Hazardous noise levels are a risk for most alternative starting devices. Therefore the starter must wear hearing protection with a sound level conversion (SLC) 80 rating of not less than 25 db

A.Bystanders (not competitors) must be kept as least 5 metres away from the starter if not wearing hearing protection.

Accredited Starters

Licenced starting pistols, which use a metal encased charge, should only be used in schools or at school events under controlled conditions by an accredited, licenced starter. An accredited starter is one who holds a current firearms licence and who has attended and completed an accredited course recognised by Athletics Victoria or Little Athletics Victoria.

Further information or advice contact the OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715 


This table describes specific precautionary safety measures for gymnastics.

Safety measureRecomendations


Match gymnastic activities to the students age and ability.  All activities require adequate preparation and instruction to ensure students are physically ready to perform skills including:

  • appropriate lead up
  • prerequisite developmental skill progressions and drills.

Recommended activities

Gymnastics Victoria advises that for schools the following activities are:


  • acrobatics
  • basic tumbling
  • hand apparatus
  • circuits—fitness and skill development
  • group performances
  • non-inverted vaulting activities
  • aerobics.

Not Recommended

  • bridges
  • headstands
  • hock swings
  • neck rotations
  • sideways landings from a height
  • excessive deep knee bends
  • wheelbarrows
  • inverted spring activities
  • excessive weight-bearing on wrists. 


All gymnastic equipment and apparatus used:

  • must be suitable for the requirements of the activity and the age and ability of the students
  • must be safely set up and prepared appropriately for the activity for which it is being used
  • should include:
    - safe matting around all equipment at all times
    - crash mats (where the program activities require them) and floor mats to the side and behind the crash mat area
    - a suitable cover over the springs of a mini-trampoline.


Trampoline sports must only be allowed:

  • under the strict supervision of:
    - teachers and other approved adults, both of whom have completed an accredited coaches' course approved by Gymnastics Australia
    - at least four trained spotters' guarding each side of the trampoline.

Supervisors of trampoline sports must:

  • check the trampoline before each use for safety 9such as springs, bed, frame and frame pads) and ensure a minimum ceiling height of 5m with at least 2.5m clear of walls on all sides
  • never allow students or any equipment under the trampoline
  • check that students are wearing appropriate clothing including socks/gym shoes for safety and hygiene
  • only permit students to climb, never jump onto and down, from the trampoline.
  • teach and use safety measures including:
    - the appropriate progression of learning skills
    - the risks of performing for long periods or at excessive heights
    - the importance of having only one performer on the trampoline at any one time.

Mini Trampolines

Mini-trampoline should have a suitable cover over the springs so that the springs are not exposed.

Schools may take students on excursions to gymnasiums with specialist instructors who have the technical knowledge and skills to instruct the students.

However the teachers still has the overall responsibility for the safety and welfare of the students.

Suitable courses

Recommended courses are:

  • the Department’s PHASE coaching courses offered through the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) (a membership login is required) appropriate for teachers and others who assist in instruction
  • coaching certificates offered through the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme
  • an accredited coaches course such as provided by Gymnastics Australia.

See:  Other resources

Related policies

Related legislation

  • Vocational Education and Training Accreditation Act 1990

Other resources

For further information and advice on: