Posts Tagged ‘Special Events’

Risks of Tents, Canopies and Umbrellas at Events

Collapsing and fly-away shelters can cause bodily injury and property damage

Tents, canopies and umbrellas are popular shelters and sun shades at sidewalk sales, farmers’ markets, craft fairs, cookouts and sporting events. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see such equipment inadequately secured. The risk of injuries is great, and property damage can also result when these shelter frames buckle and collapse or they go flying in a gusty wind.

In July 2018, umbrellas sent flying by wind gusts impaled people at Maryland and New Jersey beaches. A number of our sports insurance clients experienced similar mishaps with canopies that blew into spectators and resulted in significant injuries.  

As a matter of fact, one of them recently shared what happened at their youth soccer event:

Opening ceremonies were taking place at the local YMCA on a clear and cloudless morning. Suddenly,  a tornado-like wind burst on the scene. An unstaked canopy went rolling in the air, the legs hitting both a small boy and a woman in their heads. The woman required major surgery on her crushed forehead and she sued the YMCA. The YMCA in turn sued our client because he supplied the canopy. The YMCA did not have secondary insurance covering injured players and participants. Following this tragic event, this soccer league took no more chances. It banned canopies and tents at their games and events, and only allowed hand-held umbrellas.

Best risk management practices for canopies, awnings, tents and umbrellas

Make sure that the people erecting and taking down canopies are not distracted. A poorly-secured canopy is as dangerous as an unsecured canopy.  

Canopy weights should be attached to canopies at all times. Weights should be secured in such a way as to not create a separate safety hazard:

  •      Anchoring weights should not cause a tripping hazard
  •      Ensure weights are attached securely and tethering lines clearly visible
  •      Weights should not have sharp edges that could cut people passing by
  •      Anchor the weights should be on the ground; never hang them overhead

Sufficient weight is at least 24 lbs. per leg. One canopy manufacturer recommends a minimum of 40 lbs. on each corner of a 10’x10’ tent; double that on a 10’x20’ tent. Umbrellas should be anchored by a 50 lb. weight.

Even properly-secured canopies can be precarious in inclement weather. Determine if weather dictates that canopies should be taken down during an event. If so, direct bystanders to stay clear in order to prevent injuries.

Proper canopy anchors

  • Fill 2.5 gallon buckets with cement and tie one to each canopy corner  with a rope or bungee. Do  not place the buckets on the feet of the canopy.
  • Purchase vertical sandbag weights specially designed to be strapped to the canopy legs. Make sure weights are a minimum 24 lbs. each.
  • Fill PVC pipes capped on one end with cement. Attach one to each canopy pole securely.

Improper canopy anchors

  • A gallon of water weighs 8 lbs. Therefore jugs of water are not heavy enough to anchor a canopy in a gust of wind.
  • Tents, canopies or umbrellas tethered to tables, coolers or vehicles make for tripping hazards and are not sufficiently weighed down.
  • Sandbags that don’t sit upright and can’t be securely tied to the tent or canopy should not be used.
  • Tent stakes are tripping hazards and typically do not provide enough anchor in strong wind gusts.
  • Cinder blocks are hard, easy to trip over, and are all too often the cause of broken toes and shins.

Umbrellas

Obviously, it’s best not to erect an umbrella or canopy on windy days. However, if you must, choose one of high quality.  An umbrella made of cheap plastic and a flimsy aluminum frame will not hold up in high winds. Always anchor canopies and tents as directed above.  

Beach umbrellas should always be tilted into the wind and anchored securely.  See the video below for information use of umbrella anchors. You can also purchase sand weights that are made especially for anchoring umbrellas.

We offer other important risk management articles to help lower the risk of liability at markets, festivals and out door events. We also encourage you to call us at (800) 622-7370 if you have questions or to receive a quick quote.


Sources:

The Athletic Participant Exclusion

Difficult to understand in context of special events or competitions

General Liability policies often include an Athletic or Sports Participants to exclude exposure for sports activities that may occur at special events for nonprofit associations and corporate picnics. However, the wording in this exclusion is unclear and can lead to surprising results when interpreted by claims departments and courts.

The exclusion states that the insurance policy does not cover “bodily injury to any person while practicing for or participating in any contest or exhibition of an athletic or sports nature sponsored by the named insured.” The two most common issues are determining whether a particular activity is an athletic or sports contest and what is meant by Athletic Participant Exclusion“practicing for or participating in.”

Unfortunately, most policy versions of this exclusion do not define these terms, and court decisions are all over the board in rulings. Here are examples of how various courts have ruled:

  •  A rodeo event where participants attempted to remove ribbons from a bull’s horn was found to qualify as a contest of an athletic or sports nature since the participants were engaged in physical activity for pleasure. The Oklahoma court instructed that the word “contest” means a competition or struggle for victory and “sports” is defined as physical activity engaged in for pleasure.
  • The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that cheerleading activities during a football game did not constitute a sports contest since cheerleading was ancillary to the real sporting event – the football game.
  • A New Mexico court ruled that a jockey was not practicing for a horse race while exercising a racehorse. The court reasoned that “practicing” means the same act or acts required for success in the sport in question or at least so similar as to develop the particular capabilities and skills essential to success. Furthermore, the risks accompanying practice must be the same as those faced by a participant in an actual competition.
  • A Louisiana court ruled that a football team’s school-supervised, off-season weight-lifting program was not practicing football since practicing for football involved running of plays, passing, blocking, tackling, etc.
  • A Michigan court ruled that a referee was not a participant in a hockey game because a participant is “actively involved in the contest either individually or jointly with team members, but the referee has “an uninvolved role and is responsible for the application of the rules to the contest.”

Where the exclusion is present, what would the claims department of the insurance carrier or the courts decide in the event of an injury at a company sponsored fishing tournament? This question was recently posted to the Big I University faculty in their April, 2012 online publication. The faculty members were divided on the predicted outcome.

Based on the lack of definitions in the Athletic or Sports Participants Exclusion and the unpredictability of the above rulings, policyholders should always assume that the exclusion removes all coverage for anything similar to an athletic event or practice unless written clarification has been received from the underwriter or claims department of the carrier.

 Source: A Closer Look at Tricky Coverage Issues; Robert Redfearn, Jr.; Insurance Journal; Sept. 3, 2007

Super Bowl Insurance and Risk Management

More at risk than the main event

Special sport events insuranceSuper Bowl fans are likely unaware of the risk exposures of the event and those extending far beyond the venue’s gates. Planning of an event the size and scope of a Super Bowl begins years in advance. The types of insurance policies typically needed for a Super Bowl-type of event are spread among multiple insurance carriers and include the following:

  • General Liability and Excess (limits may exceed $100 million)
  • Property
  • Media Liability
  • Event Cancellation
  • Weather Insurance

And there are Super Bowl exposures that require risk management controls:

  • The event itself, including field, stands, and surrounding parking lots for the normal exposures of slip/trip/fall, crowd management, and security
  • Preparation for potential terrorist attacks, including prevention and response
  • Halftime show with all the people on stage and fireworks
  • Pre-game airplane flyover
  • Adverse weather that prevents participant and ticketholder arrivals and departures, including postponement and cancellation contingency plans.
  • Surrounding activities such as pep rallies, parties, entertainment events, etc.
  • Collapse and other liability resulting from temporary event structures such as stages, bleachers, platforms, tents etc.
Source: Planners Tackle Super Bowl Risks, Rodd Zolkos, Business Insurance, January 30, 2012