As a field owner you are faced with several liability issues that you should be aware of. Usually we are too busy to notice the small details or to attend to all of them. A check list would help so I have created one as a guideline. I will list 20 quick items that might help you from having claims on your paintball field. Create your own check list from these ideas.
All paintball field owners should familiarize themselves with the ASTM Safe Practice for Paintball Field Operation (F1777-02) which is available at www.astm.org. This checklist is for some guidance in starting and keeping your field safe. It is not the gospel, but a guide. It is written with information from 13 years providing insurance for the paintball industry, from playing paintball for 14 years as a rec player, a tournament player, and a scenario player, owning a paintball field, and owning a family fun center with a paintball field.
Paintball field safety checklist
1. Minimize trip and fall exposures if setting up a field in the woods.
- Remove branches, roots, rocks in the traffic areas. Low hanging branches have the possibility of knocking off masks so cut all branches up to 7 foot high when the branches are leafed out.
- If using ravines use a step system to enter and exit, do not allow them to jump into it at any point they wish.
- Use caution tape to mark danger areas.
- Have your field boundaries clearly marked.
- Place your bunkers at 30 feet apart so that they will not be shooting so close.
- Have designated areas where the players know, through signage, gates, etc. when they are leaving a safe area and entering a playing area that is a goggle on area.
- When building bunkers, use screws instead of nails and sink the heads to the surface to minimize cuts.
- When building a structure such as a building, make it 3 sided so that the refs can see into the bunkers to keep the players from removing their masks.
- Have side window areas also to facilitate refs seeing into the buildings.
- Have refs walk all fields and review bunkers prior to play for nails that have come out or sharp edges.
- Make sure that you rake the areas in front of the bunkers to remove any rocks, sharp or not, from the entrance to the bunker to prevent someone sliding in and cutting their knees. Review this every morning before you open your fields.
- When building trenches make them wide and shallow. 5 feet wide and no more than 3 feet deep. Use the dirt removed to make berms 3 feet from edge of trench to provide coverage for players. Do not allow the players to jump over the trenches.
- If you are building towers or two story buildings use ramps
- Use cross cleats
- If you use ladders do not allow shooting people on ladder
- Build it to code even though it might not be inspected. Remember, you have no idea how many people will be on that structure so over engineer it to handle the weight and traffic.
- Have side railings on all ramps or platforms.
5. Inflatable bunkers
- If you are using inflatable bunkers, put the stakes in under the ground level so that the players do not slide into the stake cutting their knee. Make sure that they are checked frequently during the day by refs.
- During hot days have refs release air in bunkers to keep the balls from bouncing over the safety netting.
- First set up your speedball fields so that they run parallel to the staging or parking areas to minimize balls clearing the netting.
- If you have speedball fields use a minimum of 20 ft high netting.
- 12 foot netting should only be used when you have trees or hillsides to stop the paintballs.
- Keep all bunkers at least 20 feet from the nets.
- Test your netting every 6 months by shooting at 315 fps at the netting in a 6 inch circle, from 15 feet back, to see if the netting stops the paintballs or any fragment over 3 mm x 5 mm. If it does not pass this simple test, change your netting or do not allow spectators without masks to stand behind that netting.
- Have caution tape 5 feet from netting so that spectators do not put their faces against the netting.
- When you are setting up your netting use telephone poles and set 6 feet into the ground.
- Never have poles more than 25 feet on center.
- Use tie backs on the corners to keep poles from bending inwards and put colored pvc or plastic over the down wires to prevent tripping.
- Use crossing wires between your poles to keep netting from billowing. You can see this diagram and instructions at http://www.thepaintballnettingcompany.com/install.htm
- If you have a chronograph area that is not in the designated play area, have it fully netted with a zig zag entrance/exit so the players in the chronograph area can not turn around and shoot towards players without masks.
- Have at least one chronograph
- Have back up batteries
- Have field shooting speed posted
- Staging area
- barrel blocking device on required in this area
- air fills
- chronograph area
- registration & equipment area
- field rules
- goggle cleaning area
- playing field sign with directional arrows and names of fields
9. Chronograph area should have signage
- Barrel blocking devices on when leaving
- Goggles on entering chronograph area
- Chronograph speed posted
10. Registration area should have signage
- Registration here
- Waivers and pens
- field rules
- directions to fields
- map of fields
- water (drinking and for cleaning goggles)
- first aid sign
- equipment rental here
- emergency procedures posted at registration with phone numbers
11. Entrance to fields should have signage
- barrel blocking devices on at all times from this point on (in several areas on fields)
- goggles on at all times from this point on (in several areas on fields)
- danger, entering paintball field (in several locations around the property)
12. In the field area should have signage
- Signs showing directions to other fields with their field names
- Signs showing direction back to staging
- Goggle on signs
- Barrel blocking devices are required in this area
13. Fill Station
- For Co2 make sure you have scale and weigh each time
- Have back up scale and batteries
- Have back up fill station
- For high pressure make sure all tanks are checked prior to filling for expiration date and fill capacity
- Have back up fill station
- Bulk cylinders are secured
14. Rental Equipment
- rental guns cleaned
- masks and lens cleaned
- barrel blocking devices cleaned
- barrel blocking device for each gun
- extra barrel blocking devices
- any rental clothing clean
- any rental pads clean
15. Employee training
- Training manual for training of employees for a paintball field
- Make sure refs know how to inspect bottles for expiration date or damage and how to understand when they are expired and not to fill them if expired.
- Make sure that they are trained to protect players from being over shot by stopping an advancing player.
- Make sure that the ref is trained to see potential players that might be inclined to lift their masks.
- Refs first aid trained with certificate
- Staff to prepare the rental equipment prior to opening with check list
- Employees know emergency procedures and emergency phone numbers
- Employees to know where the first aid kit is
- Employees have the safety speech in writing to read to customers
- Minimum of 2 refs per playing field or 1 per 15 players with groups over 30 players.
16. Safety Speech
- Your safety speech should be written down for the presenter or have safety speech on a DVD if possible.
- Everyone hears the safety speech every day you are open.
- Rules and consequences for mask removal should be make clear
- Rules on bunkering should be clear
- No shooting rule should be clear
- Explain the risks of injury
- Ref should mention procedures in case of emergency
- Barrel blocking device use and where required
- Correct equipment operation
- Description of field boundaries
- Description of the type of game and length of time playing
- Reinforce drinking plenty of water
- No overshooting of players
- Every player signs a waiver. I recommend having one signed every time they come to play.
- Have the signed waivers for 7 years or the statue of limitation for your state.
- Have your waiver online for easy access
- Have your attorney review and ok the waiver for your state
Larry Cossio is an insurance agent/broker since 1979 and has written and spoken on the subject of insurance and safety for several industries including paintball. He is licensed in all 50 states and provides several industries with specialty insurance coverages.