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

Go Kart Safety – A Closer Look at Seat Belts

Many Family Entertainment Centers insured by SterlingRisk have Go Karts as part of their attractions package for their patrons to enjoy. For people too young to drive or for experienced drivers, go karts offer fun and enjoyment during their visit to your FEC.

Example of go kart seatbelt where the padding is too worn

Example A: Frayed and worn material

Overall and in general, the go karts I inspect are in good condition. There are many points of inspection that need to carried out on a daily basis but for this article we are talking about seat belts.

Let’s start with the webbing.

1. The webbing should be free of visible fraying (see example A), rips, tears and excessive wear.

2. On the part of the seat belt that goes over the shoulders there is a padded section that needs to be carefully maintained (example B). This padding usually wears on the inside of the belts that will come in contact with the riders’ neck and cause lacerations or burns if not properly maintained.

Example of go kart seatbelt where the padding is too worn

Example B: Worn padding

The buckles should not show any signs of excessive wear, should be free of cracks, the buckle should be complete and make sure it functions properly when buckled and released.

The stitching should be visibly intact and free of loose or pulled threads.

The seat belts should be properly anchored and secured to the seating area (example C).  There should be no signs of additional wear or excessive damage and they should be unsoiled and clean in appearance.

If a seat belt fails any of the inspection criteria listed above or is not installed according to the manufacturers instructions it should be replaced.

Example of go kart seatbelt where there is excessive wear at the the attachment point

Example C: Excessive wear at seat belt attachment

Remember to have your trained mechanic perform the daily preventive maintenance procedure in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.  There should be no deviation from the manufacturer’s maintenance procedures unless written permission is given from the manufacturer.

A go kart is made up of several safety systems working together to provide the patron with a safe and enjoyable experience.  This particular member of the go kart safety system is essential for keeping the rider secured in the go kart and to prevent excessive movement of the body and/or ejection from the vehicle.  To put it bluntly, faulty seat belts can cause serious injury or death–neither of which is conducive to a safe and profitable operation.

If there is anything I can do assist you with a problem, please feel free to contact me at

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Trips and Falls

Since I began inspecting Family Entertainment Centers for the insured’s of  the SterlingRisk Family Entertainment Center Safety Association insurance program, I have visited over 1,000 FEC’s in the past 7 ½ years.  I find it hard to believe that I’ve flown, driven, walked, climbed and crawled that many miles.  For the most part the vast majority of FEC’s I’ve seen are in good shape.

To give you some idea what this means, I’ve looked at over 310 arcades or 11,914 games, 131 FEC’s with go karts or 228 tracks and over 3,190 karts, 182 FEC’s with mini golf or 255 courses and over 4,064 mini golf holes, 108 FEC’s with batting cages or 649 cages and the list goes on.  I began to keep track about 5½ years ago, so this does not reflect the total amount of FEC’s I’ve inspected and many FEC’s I see every year.

From this experience I’ve learned that trips & falls and laceration hazards make up the majority of the problems I find.  This is followed by emergency lights and lighted exit signs that do not work and fire extinguishers that are undercharged or damaged and need to be serviced.  Then there are the too numerous to count blocked electrical panels, transformers with everything piled on top of them from televisions, to paint, to paper products and of course the ever popular electrical panels that are missing breaker blanks or missing the front cover exposing the buss bar to patrons and employees.  And this just covers the facilities themselves—not the attractions.

Trips & falls and laceration hazards are easy to find and requires someone with a keen eye to walk the facility everyday and find them…and of course, repair them.  The emergency lights and lighted exit signs along with the fire extinguishers should be checked monthly.  To help keep your facility safe here are a few more tips to consider:

1. Have all policies and procedures in place to include emergency action plan, incident report log, daily maintenance procedures and training procedure guidelines.

2, Make sure there is a first aid kit in a central location that is easily accessible to all staff.

3. Make sure all safety related signage is in place, as well as general safety rules for the facility.  This signage should be mounted on or near each attraction, in the area where instructions are given and in the party rooms.

4. Have your evacuation, fire extinguisher and fire alarm plans in place and posted in each party room, each play arena and other areas of the facility.

5. Rechargeable flashlights should be placed in several locations throughout the facility.  Even though there are emergency lights, there are always dark corners and areas when the power is off.

It’s difficult to cover a lot of ground in a monthly column.  So over the next several months I will be talking about more specific problems I find as well as problems with the attractions themselves such as go karts, mini golf, batting cages, etc.  I hope everyone finds this information helpful.  If there is anything I can do assist you with a problem, please to contact me at

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