Usually the two most popular activities at a family fun center are miniature golf and go-karts. And amazingly enough, the most insurance claims are these two activities. So how can you work to keep your facility safe, keep the experience for your guests enjoyable and accident free?
Glad you asked! Having owned a family fun center with both of these activities I can speak from experience as an owner and an insurance agent. Good news travels slow, bad news about injuries travels fast, so let’s look at what you can do as an owner or manager to prevent these from happening.
Let’s address miniature golf first. Since you are dealing with all age groups from 4-5 yrs old to 95 yrs 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 that does not work for you to review some of these issues:
- Trip and fall issues, maybe a crack in the side walk, an uneven joint or seam in the concrete, maybe the posts that hold the rope boarding the walkways are not at the right height or the poles are loose in the ground. Make sure that the steps are clearly painted and no slip added where necessary.
- Paint all wood and steel frequently to minimize splinters and deterioration.
- Equipment checked before being released.
- 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 walking the property being visible to your customers to minimize the temptation for them to do something unsafe.
Now we can address the largest exposure to bodily injury for customers and employees which is the famous 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.
The most important asset you have as an owner is quality trained employees so please do not just put young adult out there that is untrained to chase away your customers. Have a documented training program for each location in your facility, have them study it, take a test, 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 the situations 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 cutoff box and never leaves his post. Have it where he can view the staging area and the course. Have your employees with walkie talkies so that they can communicate where there might be an issue or an unsafe driver or an emergency. We had two sided signs that the employees had that said “stop” on one side and “slow down” on the other. We had another sign that said “one more lap”.
It is so important to have someone on a microphone with an amplifier and speakers loud enough for giving the safety speech while they are in the go-karts so that everyone can hear it. 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 to be tight and fitted correctly. Keep them all sitting down with verbal reminders as they are usually worked up and want to turn and talk to the persons 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 during accidents where someone intentionally hits someone on the track and in the staging area. Ankles, toes, necks are injured here and should not be happening if correctly managed.
Have the signage clear on must have fully enclosed shoes, no flip flops or sandals and enforce it all the time. Have signage for height of kids and no long hair past the shoulders and enforce it. Have your safety rules posted where they are in line to wait for their turn and prior to entering the gate into the staging area. The rules are there for a reason! Be strict with your enforcement of the safety rules, the majority of your customers will appreciate it. Have a sign warning not to sit or stand on railings while waiting and have your employees enforcing it while by just turning around and being aware. A bonus system for the employees that work these areas with 90 days with no reported injuries is a great way to promote safety and awareness.
Now one of the biggest concerns with FEC owners is keeping payroll down. The worst thing that can happen is to cut back on your staff on high impact areas. What will happen is that there will not be enough staff to enforce your safety rules and an injury could occur. The worst thing that a family entertainment center could have happen is a customer to be injured on your facility. The bad press and the spreading of the report of an incident at your FEC will hurt you more financially from the word being spread that someone was hurt and you have customers not come to the facility because of it. Remember you have a deductible to pay which is usually $2500 per claim; it is much cheaper to have a few quality employees making sure that the customers are having a memorable experience at your facility.
It is much easier to keep a sharp maintenance program in effect, keep the correct amount of employees on staff, and minimize your exposure to injuries which will in turn help your customers to not put themselves in harm’s way, which will in turn provide a WOW experience at your facility that they will tell others about for years!
Larry Cossio is an insurance broker providing insurance for the entertainment industry for over 30 years and is a speaker on insurance issues nationwide. www.cossioinsurance.com You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org