What does safety mean to a family fun center? Oh boy, you should not have asked me this question. This could be a two-day seminar, not an article. This article is not for the weak, or timid. The questions below should be read only after taking some Pepto Bismol or something equivalent. I am not just an insurance broker, I owned a family fun center with paintball, go karts, inflatables, soft play, bumper boats, batting cages, arcade, food, birthday party rooms and a parking lot. I understand the exposures that you will face in maintenance and repair of all of these exposures and will share with you some of the questions you need to be asking yourself and your staff in the daily operations of your facility. Put your helmet and seatbelt on, this will be a bouncy ride!
First, safety means that you will have a safe and secure location for people of all ages to come and have a pleasant experience, which is what they are paying for. We all get busy with the daily issues that take up our normal 8-12-hour days on the job. Most of us forget to see the little details that could cause a challenge or expose us to a potential lawsuit. I am going to be posing some very serious questions in this article that might make you a little uncomfortable. The worst thing that could happen to a family fun center is to have someone get injured. It does not matter if it was their fault or not. It is the perception of the public and the attorney representing that injured party that it was your negligence that caused the injury. Bad news spreads fast, and someone being injured at your facility could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Let’s take a look at some of the little things first.
Start with the driveway and into the parking lot. Do you have any cracks in the driveway or sidewalk, rocks, bottles, trash, cables that are down, handrails broken or cracked, any trip and fall issues? Is the parking lot well lit at night? Are the cement wheel stops secured into the ground and are they painted a bright color to be seen? Sometimes the reply I get is “It’s just a little crack in the sidewalk.” Well, that little crack could cost you or your insurance company a $10,000 payout for medical bills if someone was to trip over that crack. Most insurance policies have a $2,500 deductible or self-insured retention so you could count each of those issues listed above as a $2,500 mistake if you did not address each one. Then you might also have the challenge of being cancelled or non-renewed due to claims or frequency of claims, which will increase the next insurance policy you need to purchase.
Next let’s walk into your place of business, open the front door. Is there easy access to your building, do you have the correct signage inside and outside? Do you have spectator areas separated from the activity area? Is the seating area safe and secure? Do you have chairs or benches that are rated to hold someone that is heavier? Do you have a trained attendant right at the entrance to monitor who comes and goes? The operative word in that sentence and in all references to your employees is “trained.” We will discuss that one later.
Do you have a clear way of making sure that all participants sign a waiver before they enter the playing area? Who is signing for the minor, is it a true parent or guardian? Do you smell alcohol on their breath?
Signage is a very important way to help protect your family fun center. More is better, bigger is better, brighter is better, and remember the majority of the people will walk right by the signage and never read it. Do you have signage at the bumper boat area stating no swimming allowed? Do you have signage at the batting cages stating helmet required before entering for everyone, including coaches? Do you or your employees enforce the rules all the time?
Do you have the rules posted for the go kart track before they get into line and during and before they enter the track area including what happens if they do not follow the rules? Is your kart track safe and secure? Are there any loose bolts and nuts on the rails? Are your employees trained not to allow anyone with sandals or flip flops into the karting area? Are your employees trained not to allow anyone in the karting area with hair past their shoulders? Long hair gets caught in the belt or chain causing large lawsuit payouts. Do your track employees have hand held signs stating stop or slow down? Do your karts have automatic kill systems with an attendant that does not leave that monitoring device? Do your employees have walkie talkies that they can communicate with each other or to call management in case of an emergency? Are you following the ASTM guidelines for operation of a family entertainment center?
Are your employees trained refs for paintball? Do they enforce chronographing of all markers, provide mandatory daily safety speeches that are written, goggle on enforcement while in hot area at all times, barrel blocking devices in at all times while in hot area? Are your employees trained to notice a customer that might be a candidate for lifting their mask? Are you following the ASTM guidelines for the operation of a paintball park? Did you minimize all trip and fall hazards on the playing area? Do you have the correct signage on and around the playing area? Have you tested your safety netting to ASTM standards every month?
Are your inflatables inspected daily for any rips or tears in the material or netting? Are they disinfected daily? Do you have padding around the entrance and exit of all inflatables per ASTM guidelines? Do you have enough employees in the play area to monitor the activity of the participants on the inflatables? Are they keeping the size and height of the participants equal in each inflatable?
Are your employees trained in how to touch another employee or customer or if they are allowed to do so? Are your employees trained on how to communicate with adults that are older then they are as far as safety rules? Do you allow your employees to have cell phones on their person while on the clock? Do you allow employees to text or receive personal phone calls while they are working? How can they be watching what is going on if you allow this? Have you trained your employees what to do in case of an accident, an injury, what procedures to follow for each area that they are working in? Have they taken a written test and passed? Do you have documentation that this happened? Do you have an incident form that is completed after any incident and forwarded to your insurance agent or company within 24 hours?
Do you have security cameras for your facility? This is the best defense you could ever have. It is a serious investment up front but the dividends are priceless and it will save you thousands in defense costs. Do you have a back up system where you could burn DVDs and record history for 12 months? News flash, most claims are turned in several months after the incident and are never reported to any employee at the time of the incident.
Now that we have your attention, you can see that providing a safe environment is not an easy task but the attention to detail has to be part of your daily operational handbook. Are your GM and managers walking the facility daily? Do you have a bonus program for employees that find anything that needs to be repaired or addressed? A safe facility is not the easiest task, but by having a safe facility your customers will return and bring more customers to spend money with you. Mothers will brag on how clean and safe your facility is and will recommend your safe facility to other mothers.
Now what are your options here? Take two aspirin and breathe. Have someone that has experience with a family fun center operation come and look at your facility. Have your insurance agent or insurance company inspect your facility. Here is a great one, talk with your competitors and have other competitors review your facility and see if they tell you if anything is wrong. Have someone with a risk analysis background come and look at your facility and give recommendations.
Have you met the police chief in your city and invited the Police and Fire department to your facility for lunch? Have you asked for them to patrol or park in your parking lot to complete their reports or complete any paperwork that they might have to finish? Their presence could deter any unwanted visitors. Have the police come by on weekends and just walk around the facility or have lunch or dinner on you once a month. Once again, their presence could deter a certain crowd from gathering outside in your parking lot or inside your family fun center.
Remember, a little investment in training your employees will go miles in providing a safe and secure environment for your customers and their parents. The parents have the checkbook or credit card, make them and their children feel safe and you will see them return more frequently and see larger deposits going to your bank!
(Larry Cossio is a licensed insurance broker. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)