Meet Safety

By:  Doug Daniels

      Industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars or more each year to improve the safety of the workplace, yet did we as lifters ever stop to think about the issue of safety at a powerlifting meet? Granted, we are not confronted with explosive gases, molten steel or kilowatts of electricity, but there are safety issues involved in lifting competition. The question is how can each lifter prepare to insure that his competitive experience is a safe one?

       The meet director has the responsibility to provide each lifter at his meet the safest possible conditions, yet there are no real standards that have to be met by any organization. For example, spotters carry no 'accreditation'. They are usually local 'gym rats', many of whom have never even seen a lifting meet let alone spotted someone squatting 700 pounds or more. Sometimes in a pinch, spotters are volunteers from the crowd. The meet director should also provide properly working equipment, which should include locking collars, sturdy squat racks, and non-slippery platforms. But as many of you veteran lifters know, this varies greatly from meet to meet. Too many meets are equipped with unsafe equipment and inexperienced spotters and loaders.

       Taking that into consideration, each lifter must basically look out for themselves. I would suggest working together with your buddies who accompany you to the contest. Before each attempt, one of you would check to make sure the bar is loaded symmetrically on each side. Sometimes one loader will not load the bar correctly and the bar will be heavy or light on his side. This can prove to be dangerous to the lifter as well as the spotters as this greatly increases a chance of the lifter missing the lift due to loss of balance. Also, make sure the collars are put on securely and the plates are tight together from the inside collar to the outside collar. Loose plates can also compromise control during execution of the lift. Another good check is to make sure the platform is dry and uncluttered. Spotters may get lazy and not put the loose plates back on the rack, which can create a serious tripping hazard.  Another hazard is excessive chalk dust on the platform. Have the spotters wipe the dust up occasionally. As the squats proceed, I have seen the racks edge farther and farther forward until they are almost tipping over the platform. This is caused by the many re-racks after squat attempts. If the racks are not pushed back where they were originally, the rack may tip off the platform with the loaded bar not far behind. If you see an unsafe situation, let the head judge know as soon as possible.

      The squat is usually the lift that competitors miss the most attempts in. The lifter's duty is to try to stay with the bar if he misses an attempt. The spotters may not be able to catch the weight if the lifter drops it off his back. This places everyone including the lifter in a dangerous situation.
      The platform is not the only place where there are safety concerns. Perhaps even a greater threat is the warm-up room. Over the years I have written a lot about warm-up rooms. They are basically free-for-all areas with an every man for himself attitude. There is no structure or order in the warm-up room. There are no spotters or loaders dedicated to it, each lifter must take care of himself. I do not want to give you the impression that no one helps each other back there, but you must be aware that the ultimate responsibility of safety rest totally on you. You can contribute significantly to safety in the warm-up room by making sure you have no lifting gear etc., in the way where lifters are warming-up or walking. Be considerate and help spot (safely) fellow lifters in the room. In turn, they will spot you. When walking around the warm-up room, be aware of things going on around you like lifters warming-up or wrapping, a collision could be disastrous. If you are not lifting or warming-up, you can really help things by staying out of the warm-up room and watching from the audience.

      With the amount of attention in the last few years given to infectious virus's etc., it is important and good hygiene to wash your hands regularly. Bring some bandages and antiseptic for your own use in case you cut yourself or rip calluses. It's just common sense. 

      I did not mean to frighten anyone about the safety at lifting contests. For the most part they are safe but accidents do occur. Safety is common sense, plain and simple. Just be aware of unsafe conditions and act accordingly. If you notice a problem at the meet, let the meet director or judges know. Though lifting at meets does not present the same danger that a zillion kilowatts does, awareness will help insure a safe and rewarding competitive experience.


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Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1999 Doug Daniels.