How Do I Lower Paintball Field Liability Exposures?

Lower Paintball Field Liability Exposures
Lower Paintball Field Liability Exposures

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 but after the first 2 weekends the clipboard comes up missing and you forget about it.  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  This article 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.

  1. First, design your fields to be safe.  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 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.
  2. Make sure that bulk cylinders for air fills are correctly secured.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 to project a deeper trench and to provide coverage for players.  Do not allow the players to jump over the trenches.
  5. If you are building towers or two story buildings use ramps with cross cleats instead of ladders.  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. Spend the extra money to do it right the first time and it will last longer and be safer.
  6. 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.  Also during hot days have refs release air in bunkers to keep the balls from bouncing over the net.
  7. Netting is always a challenge.  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 300 fps at the netting in a 6 inch circle, from 15 feet back, to see if the netting stops the paintballs.  If it does not pass this simple test, change your netting and do not allow spectators without masks to stand behind that net.  Have caution tape 5 feet from netting so that they do not put their faces against the netting.  When you are setting up your netting use telephone poles 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
  8. 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.
  9. Signage is one of your best friends.  Have signs showing where the important areas are located on your property. Where should you have these signs?
  10. Staging area should have
    1. barrel blocking device on required in this area
    2. air fills
    3. bathrooms
    4. chronograph area
    5. registration & equipment area
    6. water
    7. field rules
    8. goggle cleaning area
    9. playing field sign with directional arrows and names of fields
  11. Chronograph area should have
    1. Barrel blocking devices on when leaving
    2. Goggles on in chronograph area
    3. Chronograph speed
  12. Registration area should have
    1. Registration here
    2. Waivers and pens
    3. field rules
    4. directions to fields
    5. map of fields
    6. water (drinking and for cleaning goggles)
    7. first aid sign
    8. equipment rental here
  13. Entrance to fields should have
    1. barrel blocking devices on at all times from this point on (in several areas on fields)
    2. goggles on at all times from this point on (in several areas on fields)
    3. danger, entering paintball field (in several locations around the property)
  14. In the field area
    1. Signs showing directions to other fields with their field names
    2. Signs showing direction back to staging
    3. Goggle on signs
    4. Barrel blocking devices are required in this area
  15. Hire and train the correct people for the job
    1. This is probably the most important part of your business as you are an entertainment facility.  Having the correct amount of trained staff is important, especially refs.  ASTM standards state at least 2 refs per field for outdoor play.  It is impossible to ref a field correctly with one ref.  You will want attentive employees that like working with people and are talkative, fun people.  I will have a separate document that addresses training of employees for a paintball field as it is so important.  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 they do not overfill Co2 or compressed air tanks.  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.
  16. Make sure that you have staff to prepare the rental equipment prior to opening.  Make sure that the lenses are clean and spot free on all masks.  Make sure that there are plenty of barrel blocking devices for rentals and for sale as they will always lose some.  Make sure you have a back up battery for the chronograph and a secondary chronograph.  Make sure you have a first aid kit that is supplied.  Make sure that you have at least two members of your staff, besides yourself, that has taken a first aid class. Make sure you have emergency procedures posted at registration with phone numbers on the posted paper.  Make sure you have a couple of fill stations and scales with back up batteries.  Chronograph all guns and several times per day.  I like running everyone by a chronograph each time they go onto the fields.
  17. Every player signs a waiver.  I recommend having one signed every time they come to play.  They can never say they did not understand what they signed if they signed 6 of them.  Several fields just do one per year now which is ok by some standards.  Do not allow friends to sign for minors, have their parent sign or you may be liable for their kids injuries.  Save the signed waivers for 7 years.
  18. Your safety speech should be written down for the presenter or better yet have on a DVD if possible.  You should have the same message every day you are open.  If you adlib it you will be more likely to forget something so read from your list.  Everyone hears the safety speech every day you are open.
  19. Do not give chances if they remove their mask.  If you remove someone from play for removing their mask and have them go home you will send a strong message to the rest of your customers that you will not allow this important rule to be violated.  Start with your refs, they should NEVER remove their masks on the field.  Refs should make sure that the players are reminded to keep masks on from the playing field till they pass into the safe zone by the staging area.
  20.  Do not allow players to overshoot other players.  If they are playing rec ball, let it be fun.  If it is rec speed ball, let it be fun.  No need to bunker someone or to shoot someone 10 times.  Make sure to enforce this with your refs as your customers will not return if they are used as cannon fodder!

Larry Cossio is an insurance agent/broker since 1979 and has written and spoken on the subject of insurance and safety for several industries.  He is licensed in all 50 states and provides several industries with specialty insurance coverages.

3 thoughts on “How Do I Lower Paintball Field Liability Exposures?”

  1. Hey, I am currently developing a 5 course Paintball facility in the city of Nolensville tn. I am curious, what on average do paintball facilities tend to pay annually on insurance?
    kindest regards,
    Robert Withrow

    1. Hi Robert, The price of paintball insurance depends on annual player participation, however the average is anywhere from $1200 – $2500 annually. If you would like to get an actual quote please call our office at 864-688-0121.

Leave a Reply to Robert Withrow Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *