Feature Article - February 2007
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Life Preservers

Considering safety from everyone’s perspective

By Allen F. Weitzel

hat images does the word "safety" inspire for you? What is safety, and what does it mean for your facility?

Webster's defines safety as "the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury or loss."

For employees, park visitors, managers and administrators, the word takes on different dynamics. Every person who works for or visits your facility has a unique perspective on safety. Let's look at these various perspectives, mixed with insight from several recreation industry professionals.

Safety philosophies

From waterparks and playgrounds to fitness clubs and sports complexes, every facility takes a slightly different approach to safety. Historical safety is practiced by facilities that believe that because a serious incident has not happened before, it never will happen. Reactionary safety appears in organizations that believe safety prevention is not necessary. If and when an event occurs, they handle it and then move on. The "ostrich" safety philosophy is exemplified by facilities that bury their heads in the sand and never even worry about what incidents could occur. Legal safety is practiced by those organizations that only implement safety standards when a regulation requires compliance, under threat of penalty. Preventive safety happens when an organization regularly self-audits the facility, analyzes its strengths and weaknesses, makes corrections before an incident can occur, and implements disaster-response procedures.

To help establish a safety philosophy for your facility, ask some key questions: What areas need the most safety-improvement attention? Are guest-incident trends an issue? Are employee injuries on the rise? Is there a lackluster employee attitude toward safety? Does the safety program have weak support from executives and other management? Are you behind on complying with regulatory programs? Are there obvious safety concerns, such as not enough fire extinguishers, bad lighting, poor housekeeping that has created fire hazards, chemicals incorrectly stored, etc.?

Seek opinions from all staff members when establishing a safety objective. Observe, dissect and analyze the facility, and then establish a safety action plan. Hire an outside consultant if help is needed with the evaluation.