Gym Safety Sessions: A Follow Up

Not long ago, we were invited to a facility for a Gym Safety Session. There were approximately 12 people in attendance, many understood why they were invited to attend and some had obvious frustration that their attendance was required, they operate the equipment on a regular basis after all, so why should they attend?

This is a large facility, multiple gymnasiums, two large bleacher banks that were installed 20+ years ago along with extensive athletic equipment including divider curtains, basketball back stops, batting cages, and more. With a facility this large and many coaches passing through, there are a lot of hands on the equipment. They recently had repairs completed on both the bleachers and the divider curtains, spurring the Gym Safety Session to ensure their equipment would continue to operate properly post-repairs.

Again, why should everyone attend? Even if they already know how to operate the equipment?

Simple. You don’t know what you don’t know.

And.

Every once in a while, with that many hands on deck, it’s good to get everyone back on the same page.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

It can seem simple, plug in the pendant controller and push the button….open the panel box and flip the switch. But if you don’t know what you’re looking for during operation, there are hazards and possible equipment damage. It’s good for everyone operating equipment to have a baseline of understanding on operation and troubleshooting.

During our session, we did a crash course on proper operation, including trouble shooting and walking under the bleachers. We reviewed best practices for the facility and who should actually be operating the bleachers.

One of the options on this particular set of bleachers is to short set them, closing the first three rows of a section for scorer tables and allowing for more room on the court for team seating. When a section is short set, the increased height of the first row is now +/- 4ft. and requires a guardrail to be placed in front of it for safety and code compliance.

Staff members shared their concern regarding sight lines when the guardrail is in place and inquired about cutting down the guardrail so it would still be there, but it would be shorter, allowing their patrons to have better sight lines.

Enter safety and code compliance.

It’s important to note that the guardrails were designed and installed by the manufacturer to meet code compliance at the time of installation to keep people from stepping off of the front of the bleachers when the first three rows are closed in that area, preventing a fall hazard. Thus, altering the height of the guardrail would go against manufacturer’s design and recommendation. Often doing so, would also void any warranties on the equipment and would place all liability on the facility, not the manufacturer.

They were very wise at this facility to bring up the question while we were there. Ultimately, you don’t know what you don’t know so asking an expert when it comes to modifying a component on your bleacher is always a good idea.

More information regarding code requirements for guards can be found in Chapter 4 of the ICC-300, remember Ohio currently follows ICC-300 2012 as of November 2017. Otherwise, the most recent published version of the ICC-300 is 2017.

We took a similar approach with athletic equipment, reviewing proper operation and best practices while answering additional questions. The main panel of operation in the main gymnasium was non-momentary switches that do not require a key for operation. The switches are housed in a panel box, but as of that day, the panel box remained unlocked, allowing easy access to the equipment switches.

The gym is typically locked so access isn’t always as feasible, but what about when the gymnasium is full of people? Anyone can open the panel and flip the switch and operate the equipment. Should this happen with someone that didn’t know what they were doing, they wouldn’t know when to stop, especially if the limit switch was faulty. The end result would be damage not only to the equipment such as a backstop or gym divider curtain, but to the structural components of the building’s roof. There is also the potential hazard of a falling piece of equipment and having it come down on spectators.

All switches should be momentary type where if you let go of the switch, it automatically springs back to the off position. Many modern options are also available and recommended including a Keypad Group Controller, Touch Screen Group Controller, and WIFI Group Controllers.

Since our Safety Session, the facility has agreed to keep the panel locked to reduce unauthorized access to the non-momentary switches.

Every once in a while, with that many hands on deck, it’s good to get everyone back on the same page.

More and more facilities are posting signage in their gymnasiums warning patrons not to stand on the bleachers (seats) and that bleachers must be in full open position before use. Some facilities go so far as having written directions for operation, including remove pendant controller after bleacher is located and operator is responsible for the safety of individuals on, around, and below bleachers.

It’s not a bad idea to have a set of rules for operation including, but not limited to:

Bleachers
Athletic Equipment

Safety in Operation: Telescopic Bleachers

Telescopic Bleachers

Quick, show of hands – how many of you were at the original telescopic bleacher demonstration for the bleachers in your gymnasium?

In a group of 10, we’re lucky to have two hands raise up, sometimes one. This is by no fault of your own but it is our goal to make sure that you have all the information you need to safely operate your telescopic bleacher unit. This is one of many reasons we offer free Gym Safety Sessions, so we can not only review operation but we can also answer questions pertaining specifically to you and your equipment. While the below information isn’t as comprehensive as a Safety Session, we do want to point out some helpful tips.

Opening Your Bleachers:

Pendant Control

Get Your Pendant Control.
Seems a little obvious, right? But I say this because only Authorized Personnel should be operating your bleachers, this means that your Pendant Control should be stored in a safe place that only those authorized can gain access to it. Opening and closing the bleachers may seem like a simple task, and to a point, it is – but you want to make sure you know what to watch for and that you’re taking every safety and operational precaution into consideration.

Before operation, you want to be sure that the area is clear of people, debris, and dust (see cleaning under the bleachers). You’ll want to check under the bleachers as well as the area the bleachers are opening to.

Once you’re sure the area is clear and you’re plugged in ready to go, keep your eye on the bleacher unit to be sure it’s opening correctly and that all banks are opening together, not skewed across the gym floor. Make sure you bleacher opens completely before detaching the Pendant Control.

Take the Pendant Control with you once you’ve opened the unit fully. Even if you plan to close them again, the last thing we want to happen is that you go under the bleachers and someone closes them not realizing you’re there.

When you’re done, put the Pendant Control back in its stored location.

Additional Set Up:

Aisle Rails

If you don’t have Auto-Rotating Aisle Rails (you should!), you’ll want to make sure every aisle rail is turned and properly secured for the safety of your patrons. A loose rail can be a major hazard for someone trying to catch their balance or worst case, some have pulled them out to use against another patron.

Floor to First Row Aisle Steps, if you don’t have them hinged (again, you should and we can do that for you!) you want to make sure to install each one properly before use. We’ve heard the debate several times, “but they’re a hazard!” Well, no. They’re not. The reality is, according to the International Building Code, if your bleachers were manufactured with removable first row aisle steps – code compliance dictates that you must use them.

Bleacher Aisle StepsThese steps are designed to maintain varying height levels of steps to reduce trip/fall hazards because they were happening frequently (without the steps in place). If you have varying step heights on your unit and someone isn’t paying attention when they are walking up or down the steps, it is likely they could miscalculate their step and trip or fall. This trip and fall hazard increases your liability risk!

Flex Row Operation. If you have Hussey Seating Company Bleachers, be sure you know the proper way to open and close Flex Rows. Hussey has a great Flex Row video along with several tutorials here: Hussey Seating Company

If you have a Safety-End Closure Curtain (they’re great for school spirit AND more importantly restricting access to the understructure of your bleacher unit), you want to make sure it’s securely attached.

For many, this is all of the set up you need, for others you may have additional guard rails or accessories. Make sure they properly installed and all hardware is tight.

Closing Your Bleachers:

Telescopic BleachersThis is where you backtrack. Make sure your aisle steps are removed and stored. Most aisle rails can be left in the proper in-use position or you can turn them. If you’re turning them, again make sure all hardware is tightened. Get your Pendant Control from its stored location. Check under the bleachers for debris and dust that may impact properly closing your bleacher unit. It may seem impossible for things to fall through – but you’ll be surprised at what you might find. Check the surrounding area so that it is clear for closing. As you are closing the unit, be sure that, again, your eye is on the unit and that it is closing consistently.

Warning Signs Telescopic BleachersWe’re noticing more and more districts and facilities are putting up reminders regarding operation of their bleacher units to keep safety at the forefront. By focusing on safety, you’ll also be focused on operation which will increase the longevity of your equipment.

Have Questions?

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