California Court: Parks Not Liable For Bumper Car Injuries

The attached article, featured in the Insurance Journal on January 2nd, features a CA Supreme Court decision that over-turned a state court of appeals ruling on a park’s liability for injuries to riders of bumper cars.  The CA Supreme Court held that there is an inherent risk assumed by riders when choosing to ride bumper cars.  As a result, the park was found not liable for a broken wrist incurred when the driver was hit by another bumper car.

While not discussed in the article, proper signage alerting riders of the assumed risk may play an important role in triggering that “assumption of inherent risk” by the rider.  While some inherent risk seems obvious, with “notice” to the participant being unnecessary, erring on the side of caution is the best practice.  Posted signs of the inherent risk assumed by participation avoids the debate of whether or not the participant did or should have known about the inherent risk.  We advise our clients to post signs that include safety rules and inherent risk so that the assumption of inherent risk from participation is clearly noted.  Where possible, use signed waivers/releases of liability.  Although states vary in their support of this legal position, notifying riders of the inherent risk assumed by participation is a good risk mitigation practice.

Article: California Court: Parks Not Liable For Bumper Car Injuries

Noise Pollution in FECs: What you need to know

Family Entertainment Center’s (FEC’s) are very noisy places.  Walking through an arcade, inflatable bouncer room, riding the go karts or even bowling centers are very noisy to visit or work at. Noise pollution is undesired sound that is disruptive or dangerous and can cause harm to life, nature, and property.  The hazardous effects of noise depend on its intensity (loudness in decibels), duration, and frequency (high or low). High and low pitch is more damaging than middle frequencies, and white noise covering the entire frequency spectrum is less harmful than noise of a specific pitch. Noise may be ambient (constantly present in the background) or peak (shorter, louder sounds).

During my travels inspecting FEC’s and Bowling Centers insured through the SterlingRisk Family Entertainment Center Safety Association, I experience some very noisy places.  Inflatable party centers are probably the worst for excessive noise.  The constant noise from the blower motors, sometimes two blower motors per unit, make it almost impossible to carry on any kind of conversation without shouting.  I recently began wearing ear plugs to help combat the constant noise I’m exposed to during the inspection process.

Many locations I visit have done something about this source of noise pollution.  They have enclosed the blower motors in sound insulated containments.  This effectively drops the sound level from about 80 to 85 dB to between 60 and 65 dB.  So instead of listening to sound levels equivalent to a vacuum cleaner you are experiencing sound levels equivalent to normal conversation levels.  This is significant and will reduce noise pollution dramatically.

How Loud Is Too Loud

The following sounds can be identified along with their amplitude as described in decibels (dBs) at

-Threshold of Hearing (TOH) – 0 dB

-Rustling Leaves – 10 dB

-Whisper – 20 dB

-Normal Conversation – 60 dB

-Busy Street Traffic – 70 dB

-Vacuum Cleaner – 80 dB

-Large Orchestra – 98 dB

-Walkman at Maximum Level – 100 dB

-Front Rows of Rock Concert – 110 dB

-Commercial Jet at Takeoff – 120 dB

-Threshold of Pain – 130 dB

The accompanying photos below show how the noise containment boxes are constructed.  The first two were made by the inflatable operator using materials commonly found at local building supply stores.  They are fairly easy to construct and effectively reduced the noise in the FEC bounce room from 79 dB to 63 dB.

Noise Filter External View

Noise Filter External View

Noise Containment Filter Inside View

Noise Filter Inside View

Below is an off the shelf unit by Tool King located inMontclair,CA.  For $500.00 you get the silent box, motor and all hardware, ready to install.  According to the manufacture the noise level will effectively drop from 86 dB to 62 dB.

Silent Box

Silent Box

Protecting the hearing of your patrons, employees and yourself should be high on your priority list.

FEC Safety Spotlight: Column and Wall Padding

Who’s the fastest human on Earth?  A 3 year old at an inflatable bounce house FEC running from one inflatable bouncer to another.  Occasionally they run into the immovable object; the building support column.  Sometimes they are exiting an inflatable bouncer located close to a wall and bam, they face punch the wall.  Other times the inflatable bouncer is placed close to a wall and as the netting stretches they can even hit the wall when bouncing sideways.

You can’t move or remove the support column, so padding it with colorful padding is the smart choice.  However, what about the wall problem with the bouncer?  Why not just move the bouncer away from the wall?  Well sometimes this can be done and sometimes due the confines of the building it can’t be done.  So padding the walls in strategic areas becomes the next best choice.

Recommended padding specifications for column and wall pads is 2 inch thick foam covered with sewn vinyl.  Velcro attachments are preferred.  The foam would 2.2 lb density polyurethane foam.  The vinyl covering is a polyester fabric, mildew, rot, mold and bacteria resistant and meetsASTME84 Class A, NFPA 701-1989 and CSFM requirements for flame retardancy.

Keep your FEC safe and protect your exposed columns and strategic wall areas.  Below are examples of an unprotected column in a children’s play area and good examples of a padded support column and wall.

This is an example of an unsafe condition

Pole with No Bumper

This support column is properly padded

Pole Padding

Not every support beam is a pole or column

Corner Safety Padding


Nice Ice, Baby

Preparing an Ice Rink For The Holiday Season

Last week’s opening of Manhattan’s famed Rockefeller Center Ice Rink reminds us that the wintery holiday season is almost upon us. In fact, all around the country family entertainment centers that feature an ice rink are getting ready for their guests. But what goes in to making the perfect ice skating rink?

Watching professional skaters glide across the surface looks effortless – something the leisurely skater has probably questioned after falling down a few times. But there’s more to a great skater than meets the eye. It’s all in the ice.

Why Skatin’ Ain’t Easy

Varying the characteristics of indoor ice just the slightest bit can mean the difference between an embarrassing spill and winning the gold. Indoor ice rinks are used for all sorts of sports and recreational activities, not just figure skating and speed skating. Freezing an ice rink correctly takes more than a dozen steps, each playing a pivotal roll in the process of making the perfect skating surface.

Making The Ideal Ice Rink

Constructing an ice skating rink might seem like it’s as simple as flooding the floor with a bunch of freezing-cold water. Like most things in life, however, it’s not that simple.

Creation of a modern ice rink begins by running refrigerated pipes through, or under, a concrete slab. This part of the process is something guests rarely realize as they enjoy one of winter’s best family activities.

Once the slab reaches the correct temperature, the crew must apply the water atop it carefully and slowly, in order to insure ideal thickness. An ice surface that is too thick needs more energy to keep it frozen and is prone to getting soft on top. A surface that’s too thin is dangerous because skaters risk cutting straight through the ice, something that could cause accidents and an owners insurance nightmare.

After the ice reaches a thickness of around 2-3 centimeters (around one inch), a final, thin layer is added to create a nice, smooth surface for skaters to enjoy.

Now you know!

Want to know how to keep your ice rink in tip-top safety standards for the winter season? “Ask Matt” for answers from a expert insurance underwriter.

Sterling & Sterling, Inc. is ranked as one of the top 50 Privately Held Insurance Brokerages in the United States. We help our clients reduce risk and spend less with our unique Risk Profile System®. By using these tools, on average, we have saved our clients 25% on their overall insurance costs. To see how we can help you create a safer, more successful family entertainment center, reach out to one of our insurance professionals today by contacting us here or calling toll free at (800) 767-7837.

New Family Entertainment Center is a Welcome ‘Surprise’

Surprise, Arizona residents looking forward to their first family entertainment center

After years of requests, Arizona’s most unexpected city will finally get its first bowling and family entertainment center next spring.

Uptown Alley plans to open a 60,000-square-foot facility that will include a bowling center, laser tag, climbing wall and restaurant for guests.

According to local officials, a survey of more than 1,000 residents found that a bowling center was their second-most requested type of business to bring to the area. Except for a movie multiplex, Surprise has no large entertainment venue.

The developer behind the project plans to host a variety of events that are fun for all ages, including bowling leagues and group events, and programs for teens and seniors.

The new family entertainment center is expected to create at least 75 new jobs and bring $4.8 million in investment to the area.

Surprise is one of the many U.S. cities that are turning to larger family entertainment centers for their communities. Last week, we mentioned a new FEC that is set to open in Colorado Springs, bringing hundreds of jobs and heaps of fun to its community, as well.

Any way you slice it, it’s a good time to be in the entertainment industry. If you are thinking about starting your own center, or are curious to know if you have the right owners insurance for your current facility, “Ask Matt,” our expert insurance underwriter.