An important part of running a great bowling center is to ensure that the center is safe for both employees and guests. Bowling center operators already know the potential hazards within their centers and the things that are to be done to avoid these hazards.
Perhaps one of the biggest hazards in a bowling center is a specific type of customer that feels their personal safety is the responsibility of the center rather than taking safety as their own personal responsibility. Anyone that works in a bowling center knows this type of customer. They leave their personal gear and bowling bags in the middle of the concourse, they do not report their spills, they don’t read the safety warning signs and basically are unconscious of their surroundings and how they may personally be affecting those surroundings.
With this type of customer in mind, this article addresses some simple things center staff can do to help keep everyone safe by detecting and addressing hazards created by the oblivious customer.
Start the day with a safety check and continue checking every hour. The check does not need to take more than five minutes – walk the center to look for the following:
- Clutter on the floor: If bowler’s equipment is not stored, show them where to store it safely.
- Floor spills: Clean them up right away.
- Turned-up mat: Fold it back down.
- Trash and debris: Pick it up. Check the parking lot as well.
- Snow and ice: Should be properly and frequently removed.
- Entrances: Check to ensure that dirt, mud, and water are not tracked in from the outside.
- Restrooms: Make sure the water is turned off and floors are in good order.
The most important way to identify a hazard created by the oblivious customer is to constantly walk the concourse to assess your guests. You need to know if they are bowling in a safe manner and if they are not, you must address their behavior with them immediately. While this could be uncomfortable, it’s simply not safe to ignore the issue and hope they change it on their own – they won’t. The oblivious customer does not know they are doing anything unsafe. Here are some things to look for and some simple instructions you can use with your oblivious customer that won’t offend them, but will create awareness:
- Customers past the foul line, for whatever reason, are a hazard. Start the exchange by asking them if they are having a good time. Tell the customer it is not safe to be past the foul line and point to the warning sign. Tell them you will be happy to help them if assistance is needed to retrieve a ball and show them the call button. End the exchange by asking if you can get them anything and ask how their bowling is going before you leave.
- Customers that wear bowling shoes outside are a hazard. Start the exchange by asking them if they are having a good time. Tell the customer that shoes will bring in dangerous debris that will cause a hazard. Check their shoes with them before they go back to bowling. End the exchange by asking if you can get them anything and ask them how their bowling is going before you leave.
- Customers taking food and drink to the bowling area are a hazard. Start the exchange by asking them if they are having a good time. Tell the customer that these items need to stay out of the bowling area. Explain that even the smallest debris can cause their special shoes to stick and cause an injury. Offer to help them move the items. End the exchange by asking if you can get them anything and ask them how their bowling is going before you leave.
- Customer’s children running around the center are hazards. Don’t approach the child (unless an immediate hazard is happening, of course). Identify the parents and again start the exchange by asking them if they are having a good time. Tell them that unattended children can get injured – leave it at that. It’s always an uncomfortable situation when addressing this with parents, as the oblivious parent can get defensive out of embarrassment. Smile when you have the exchange; take the stance that you are worried about their children and be cautious you are not projecting disgust at their lack of parenting. You may be thinking it, but remain direct, yet nice, during the first exchange. If a second exchange needs to occur during the same visit, by all means be “more direct.” End the exchange by asking if you can get them anything and ask them how their bowling is going before you leave.
- Customer’s horseplay is a common hazard that must be addressed immediately. There may be no easy way to approach this. After all, you want everyone to have fun, but unsafe fun cannot be tolerated, even for a minute. Tell the customer that you are glad they are having a good time but they need to be aware that X (whatever behavior – perhaps doing a cartwheel after a strike) is not safe for them or those around them. End the exchange asking if you can get them anything and ask them how their bowling is going before you leave.
We do everything we can to minimize the chance that an emergency or injury will occur, but sometimes emergencies happen despite our best efforts. The key to dealing with emergencies is being prepared by having an emergency action plan in your center. Review it with all new hires and know what to do if an emergency occurs.
For more about safety training for your center – call BPAA and learn about their Risk Management and Safety program offered free to all members. The program includes online safety training, manuals and center signs.
(Amy Arcuri is the BPAA director of membership.)