By Doyice Cotten
Sport, fitness and recreation professionals know all about risk … and most know at least a little about risk management. And, certainly, we all are familiar with warning signs. Some are good, some are not effective, and some are such that they are not even noticed.
“Why bother with warning signs? Any fool can see a trampoline is dangerous!” you might say. Well, sport, fitness, and recreation providers are faced with possible liability for injuries created by two types of risk: 1) inherent risks of the activity and 2) risks created by the negligence of the provider. (There is also a third type … that created by gross negligence, recklessness, willful acts, and intentional acts of the provider. But Signage will not help you there, so we talk about the first two.)
Some types of signage could help to protect against liability for risks created by provider negligence. A sign warning that the water is too shallow for diving might provide some protection against a lawsuit for an injury caused by an unthinking swimmer diving into shallow water. Failure to have the sign could be construed as negligence by the provider.
But the major value of signage is that it helps to warn the person of the inherent risks of the sport or activity. Now you ask “Why is that important? Anyone knows you can be injured when doing indoor bouldering.” Not so. What about a novice (a child or an adult) who sees the activity for the first time and thinks “it looks like fun.” The height is not great and there might be no understanding that one can suffer serious injury from a fall of just 3 or 4 feet.
In most states, the provider is not liable for injuries resulting from the inherent risks of an activity … UNLESS the injured participant was not aware of the inherent risks. If you have informative signage and warnings of inherent risk included in your waiver, then the injured will have encountered the activity with a knowledge and understanding of the risks. So, think of signage as just one more layer of protection against a lawsuit.
Make sure your signage adequately informs your clients of the inherent risks! They must be clear and easily read. They should be well-placed – not over in a corner where no one ever goes or looks. And there should be more than one!
But from the Signs shown in this article, you might have already figured out that my main point here is that Signage Should Get Their Attention!!!! Now you might think these signs are pretty extreme, and you are probably correct. But there are a lot of ways to get people to read your signs: humor mixed in, cartoon characters, etc. The thing is, get them to look at the signs. Make them memorable.
[I can’t give credit for these signs because I got them in an Email and have no idea where they came from, but, I would bet that anyone encountering them paid attention.]