10 Steps to Spectator Safety

March 22, 2012

The Ball is In Your Court

Katharine M. Nohr, Esq.
Nohr Sports Risk Management, LLC

Hosts of indoor spectator sports have the challenge of providing safe viewing to attendees. In a recent case decided by the Court of Appeals in Oregon, Matson v. Oregon Arena Corp., 242 Or.App. 520, 256 P.3d 161 (2011), the court affirmed a $2,125,000 award of damages to an attendee who sustained damages when she fell 40 feet from a railing in the arena. A jury had found Oregon Arena Corporation (OAC) 50 percent at fault for the injuries that the Plaintiff sustained. The accident occurred when the Plaintiff fell from a railing that enclosed the 300-level smokers’ lounge during a Portland Trail Blazers basketball game at the Rose Garden. Plaintiff alleged that OAC did not post any warning signs regarding the risk of falling, did not have a barrier that would prevent customers from falling and did not implement adequate policies or procedures requiring its employees to warn customers of the danger of sitting on the bench-like platform from which Plaintiff fell. Plaintiff also alleged that the nighttime lighting was insufficient, the bench-like platform gave an impression that it was safe for seating, and that there should have been a video security surveillance system in order to protect customers from harm. The appellate court’s published decision primarily addressed issues regarding jury instructions and did not provide details of how OAC was negligent.
It is unlikely that schools and universities have architectural features similar to that contained in the Rose Garden. However, this case does provide some instruction and warning about spectator safety. The following ten tips are provided so that you can assess the safety of your school or universities’ stands or bleachers:

  1. Bleachers and stands should be examined and evaluated to determine whether there are any areas that could result in falls and injuries.
  2. Make sure that there is sufficient lighting so that attendees can see where they are walking.
  3. Eliminate any trip hazards and regularly clean, maintain and inspect the floor of bleachers and stands.
  4. Post warning signs where needed to warn of known hazards.
  5. Inspect bleachers and stands for loose nuts and bolts, cracks, splinters, debris, or dangerous protrusions.
  6. Make sure that bleachers have nonskid steps and well-marked and clear pathways.
  7. Set up mobile bleachers in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions.
  8. Store mobile bleachers so that they will not be a hazard to athletes during play.
  9. Make sure that stored mobile bleachers are not accessible to children.
  10. Install safety railings and barriers to prevent people from falling off stands and bleachers.

In addition to making sure that your bleachers and stands are safe for spectators, it is also important to make sure that cheerleaders, athletes, coaches, trainers and others are located a reasonable distance from stands and bleachers so that they will not run into them, causing injury. It is also a good idea to provide adequate security during games so that problems in the stands or bleachers can be addressed. If your facility has a history of any injuries in the stands or bleachers, such incidences should be evaluated and any hazards removed or repaired in order to prevent similar injuries or accidents in the future. If the above steps are taken, bleacher and stand injuries can be prevented.

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