Paintball centre legal issues

Person playing paintball holding gun in with blue bag in background

Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your paintball business are listed below.

What licences does a paintball centre need?

There are no specific licensing requirements that apply to paintball sites. Standard paintball markers are not considered to be firearms and do not need a licence as long as they conform to the normal specification. However, note that airsoft guns (similar to paintball markers, but firing small plastic balls) which are realistic imitations of real weapons may only be purchased by people who meet certain criteria - for example over 18s who are registered members of an airsoft skirmish site. You can find out more on the Airsoft World website.

Be aware that if you are developing a new site rather than taking over an existing one you will need the appropriate planning permission.

You should also consider the following:

  • if you serve food at the site, perhaps in a cafe, then you will need to register as a food premises with your local authority environmental health service.
  • if copyright music is used in the business - for example background music in a 'safe zone' - then you will need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website

Voluntary accreditation

The UK Paintball Sports Federation (UKPSF) operates a site accreditation scheme. Accredited member sites must meet certain safety and quality criteria, and stick to a code of practice. You can find out more about voluntary accreditation with the UKPSF on their website.

Firearms legislation

Paintball markers are treated as air weapons by the Firearms Act and do not need to be licensed as long as:

  • rifle type markers are not fired above 12 ft/lbs
  • pistol type markers are not fired above 6 ft/lbs (the vast majority of markers are rifle types)
  • markers must not be fully automatic
  • ammunition breaks up on impact and can not cause a penetrating injury

Airsoft guns (which fire small plastic balls) are treated similarly by firearms legislation. However, guns which are 'realistic imitation firearms' - as many airsoft guns are - may only be purchased by people who meet certain criteria - for example over 18s who are registered members of an airsoft skirmish site. You can find out more on the Airsoft World website.

Compressed air cylinder testing

Compressed air cylinders need to be tested at regular intervals. The length of the interval depends on the type of cylinder and the materials used to make it. You should ensure that the cylinders that you own are regularly tested and also that players who bring their own markers have had their cylinders tested.

Information about compressed air equipment and the law is available on the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) website.

House rules

You will almost certainly have some strict house rules and policies regarding matters like the minimum age to play, alcohol use, players who appear to be intoxicated, safe use of paintball markers and so on. These are likely to form an essential part of your overall health and safety policy and should be made clear to all players and staff.

The UKPSF has a code of practice for member venues which is widely recognised as the basis for guidelines on operating a paintball site safely.

Reporting accidents

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) require that certain accidents which happen in the workplace are reported. Details of the requirements as well as an online reporting facility are available from the RIDDOR section of the HSE website.

Environmental protection

Environmental legislation exists to protect the environment from potentially harmful activities. Legislation covers matters such as pollution, noise and nuisance. Be aware too that certain species of plant and wildlife (and their habitats) have legal protection, so you'll need to take steps to protect them if they're present on or near to your site. You can read more about wildlife protection on the website.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation. This covers all aspects of workplace health and safety. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees. Those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement. It's very important to make sure that staff such as marshals, players and spectators are kept safe at all times. Equipment should be safety checked on a regular basis. You should also make and write down risk assessments of the various different aspects of your site - for this you could use the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication Health and safety toolbox as a reference guide.

Contact the UK Paintball Sport Federation (UKPSF) or your local authority health and safety section for advice and guidance. The UKPSF can supply a risk assessment package for paintball sites which contains essential information to help in making a risk analysis. Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available from the HSE website.

Information for paintball operators on health and safety matters is available on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for a paintball centre

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider.

Due to the potential risk involved in the activities that you offer, it is essential that you have appropriate public liability insurance cover. The UK Paintball Sports Federation (UKPSF) requires accredited sites to hold public liability insurance. They can advise on the specific types of insurance cover needed and the insurers who can provide it.

Your insurer will require you and your staff to be properly trained, and to provide appropriate safety briefings to customers. Equipment will need to be checked and maintained regularly, and proper risk assessments carried out and kept up to date.

Your other insurance may include:

  • employer's liability
  • premises and premises contents
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • motor insurance (business use)

The UK Paintball Association (UKPBA) offers its site operator members access to discounted business insurance services - find out more and get contact details on the UKPBA website.

 When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form.

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