by Heather M Eichenbaum Esq
Are you prepared to defend the actions of your ride operators and maintenance staff when an accident occurs? Having the proper documentation of all employees’ training is one of the most important aspects of defending your park.
Thorough training of every employee before they work on a ride is imperative. Although supervisors are on site, each employee must be able to handle an emergency in the minutes before assistance arrives. In the event of a catastrophe, every second can make the difference between life and death.
It is easy to forget emergency procedures which, hopefully, are rarely, if ever, used. Particularly with crisis training, the adage “use it or lose it” holds true. Require employees to review, and sign off on, a training sheet which includes a minimum of the more basic safety rules and emergency procedures at least each month. Once such a training document is prepared, having employees review and sign it requires only periodic distribution when they report to work.
In the event of a tragedy, it is imperative that you are able to prove that training occurred, whether classroom or “on the job.” Without evidence to back up your testimony that your employees were properly trained, it will be your word against that of the patron suing you.
The mere fact that an accident occurs is not proof that your employee was negligent in most circumstances. However, juries do not always agree with this legal proposition. Further, proof of appropriate training can make the difference between a jury finding you “not liable” and a jury awarding punitive damages (which are not covered by your insurance policy) because it finds you were reckless in operating a park without properly taking steps to ensure the public’s safety.
Paper training documentation is most practical in most venues, though it is more tedious to maintain. Training can be completed with the aid of technology if you have a computer. Even if you retain training documentation electronically, however, never attempt to alter the records. Technology today can easily discern when such evidence has been tampered with.
How long do you need to keep the training documentation? All countries have varying time periods within which personal injury lawsuits can be filed. Most American states require that such lawsuits be filed within two years, although some do allow longer. For claims by minors, the time period within which to sue does not begin to run until the child reaches 18 years of age. Thus, a child injured at age 7 – or even 17 – can file a lawsuit at any time before they turn 20! Therefore, employee training documentation should be retained as long as possible.
In sum, when you are called upon to defend your employees’ maintenance or operation of an attraction, documentation of the training provided to that employee will be necessary to substantiate your defence. Remember, as much of a nuisance as paperwork creation and retention may be, memories fade but documents will not.
Heather Eichenbaum is an attorney with Spector Gadon & Rosen PC, located in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Florida. As well as defending amusement venues, she also provides training and corporate assistance. Clients include Six Flags, Steel Pier, Gillian’s Wonderland, Holiday World and Reithoffer Shows. If you have questions you would like to see addressed in a future column, contact Heather at +1 215-241-8856 or: firstname.lastname@example.org