Keeping the Fun Accident Free

September 15, 2010 No Comments

Usually, the two most popular activities at a family fun center are miniature golf and go-karts.  And, amazingly enough, most insurance claims stem from these two activities.  So, how can you work to keep your facility safe while keeping the experience for your guests enjoyable?
Having owned a family fun center with both of these activities I can speak from experience as an owner and as an insurance agent. Good news travels slowly, and bad news about injuries travels quickly, so let’s look at what you can do as an owner or manager to prevent accidents from happening.
Let’s address miniature golf first. Since you are dealing with all age groups from 4-5 years old to 95 years old or more, you will need to make sure that the facility is safe.  Little details are something that we as business owners are oblivious to and walk by many times each day.  Use a fresh pair of eyes, ideally from an outsider who does not work for you, to review some of these issues:
• To prevent trip and fall issues, look for cracks in the side walk, uneven joints or seams in the concrete, posts that hold the rope boarding the walkways at the wrong height and loose poles. Additionally, make sure the steps are clearly painted and outfitted with no-slip coverings.
• Paint all wood and steel frequently to minimize splinters and deterioration.
• Check all equipment before it is given to guests.
• Have signage to direct customers and to remind them about safety.
• Have your safety rules about safe play, no swinging the club above the waist, etc. in several places.
• Most importantly, have an employee walk the property to minimize the temptation for unsafe behaviors by guests.
Now we can address the largest exposure to bodily injury for customers and employees, which is go-karts.  Remember that most kids get their first experience driving behind the wheel of a go-kart.  So how can you protect them from injuring themselves?  An electric ignition cut off is mandatory to control the speed and action on a go-kart track.  
Still, the most important asset you have as an owner is well-trained employees. Have a documented training program for each location in your facility, have staff study it, take a test, and sign off that they understood and passed the test.  Have your employees cross train for different activities.  Teach them what to look for in a customer that might be on track to cause trouble or injure themselves or others and how to handle any situation that they might encounter.
Another important factor is to have enough employees to cover the whole track.  Use observation towers that allow the employees to see several different views and place them where there is usually the most commotion.  One employee is assigned to the ignition cut-off box and never leaves his post.  Have it where he can view the staging area and the course.  Give your employees walkie-talkies so they can communicate with one another in the event of an unsafe driver or an emergency. At my fun center, we used two-sided signs that read “stop” and “slow down” and another sign that read “one more lap.”
It is also important to have a staffer on a microphone with an amplifier and speakers loud enough for everyone to hear giving the go-kart safety speech. Show them the signs and what they need to do if an employee holds one up.  Tell them not to intentionally crash into someone on the track. Tell them to slow down coming back into the staging area and not to bump the car in front of them.  Have an employee check each seat belt for slack and correct fitting. Keep customers seated with verbal reminders, as they are usually worked up and want to turn and talk to the people behind them.  Have them keep their seat belts secured while they are waiting to leave the karts.  Have them all exit out of the same side of the karts at the same time so you can manage them as a group.  Most injuries happen when someone intentionally hits another driver on the track or in the staging area.  Ankle, toe and neck injuries can be avoided through proper management.
Also, signage should be clear on the requirements for fully enclosed shoes, which means no flip-flops or sandals. Additional signage can illustrate kids’ height requirements and no unsecured long hair past the shoulders. Have your safety rules posted where guests line up and enter the staging area. The rules are there for a reason!  Be strict with your safety rules enforcement and the majority of your customers will appreciate your efforts.  Have a sign warning guests not to sit or stand on railings while waiting, and have your employees stay alert and vigilantly enforce the rules.  A bonus system for employees that work these areas for 90 days accident-free is a great way to promote safety and awareness.
One of the biggest concerns for FEC owners is keeping payroll down.  The worst thing that can happen is to cut back on your staff in critical areas. Inevitably, a lack of staff to enforce your safety rules will result in a guest injury, which is the worst case scenario.  The bad press and negative word of mouth will keep guests away and cause financial damages. Remember, you have a deductible to pay, which is usually $2,500 per claim; it is much cheaper to have a few quality employees making sure that the customers are having a memorable and safe experience at your facility.
It is much easier to keep a strong maintenance program in effect and employ the correct number of employees to minimize your exposure to injuries. These steps will in turn help your customers to not put themselves in harm’s way as they have a “Wow” experience at your facility that they will tell others about for years. -
(Visit www.cossioinsurance.com to reach industry insurance broker Larry Cossio.)

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