The Ball is in Your Court
October 12, 2011
Warning: Cell Phone Danger Ahead!
Katharine M. Nohr, Esq.
Nohr Sports Risk Management, LLC
Cell phones have presented risk management issues for facilities ever since cameras became a typical feature. The concern has been that cell phones will be used to take photographs of naked people in locker rooms—a violation of privacy. With the advent of Facebook and texting, this is a particular concern as pictures can be posted or texted in an instant. It’s possible that the person taking and distributing the picture might not be caught, but the facility in which the picture was taken surely could find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Because of these concerns, almost any locker room of a facility with a risk management policy has signs posted, prohibiting cell phone use or cell phone visibility. These warning signs are not very effective if they are not being enforced. I-Phones and 4G’s are as addictive as crack, and so the mere posting of a few signs on locker room walls will surely not do much to pry them out of their owners’ hands. Does that mean that there should be cell phone monitors in every locker room? That is probably going too far. However, when people complain about continued cell phone use, action should be taken. Perhaps an employee or volunteer can regularly walk through the locker room (of his or her own gender) and check for violations. If facility users know that the facility enforces the rule, locker room cell phone use might diminish.
Cell phones can wreak havoc outside of locker rooms as well. Have you ever bumped into a person who was not watching where he was going, because he was busy texting someone? Slip and falls could increase because of this multi-tasking phenomenon. Even though your state may have laws prohibiting texting and driving and/or holding a cell phone up to one’s ear while driving, these practices may still be taking place in your parking lot. Another potential hazard is participants using cell phones while using weight equipment or trying to do an athletic activity. This might seem implausible to many, but it is happening more frequently. It may seem harmless to hold a cell phone in one’s hand while walking on a treadmill or using a leg machine. However, if such use interferes with concentration, the athlete might injure herself. Have you ever seen a person talking on a cell phone while riding a bike in the street? Have you ever seen a person using a cell phone while running? These scenarios are clearly accidents waiting to happen.
What safety measures should be taken to prevent problems that arise from cell phone use in your facility? It is reasonable to consider banning cell phones everywhere, except a designated area. That way, you are allowing participants to use their cell phones when needed, but you are protecting them and others from mishaps and privacy invasions. You may need to allow phones that are used for the purpose of listening to music only where that would be otherwise allowed. These are some important issues for consideration when implementing your risk management plans. Keep in mind that as technology evolves, these issues will become even more important and policies and procedures have to be updated accordingly.