Two Columbus area students were taken to the emergency room last Friday after a bleacher railing collapsed during a football game. Reports indicate that a large group of students had pressed up against the railing, in an effort to be filmed by a local news crew. Although no serious injuries were reported, it called attention to a growing problem. In the U.S., more than 9,000 people were injured due incidents involving school bleachers last year. That number is up nearly 40 percent from 2000, according to federal records.
Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendations
In a 2001 report, the CPSC issued guidelines for safer bleachers. The report warned of numerous potential hazards, including guardrail collapse, slick surfaces, bleacher tip-over, and bleacher collapse. The agency recommends a quarterly inspection of bleachers by trained personnel, with a more thorough inspection every two years by a professional engineer, registered architect, or a qualified company. In addition to inspection reports, schools should also keep records of all incidents and injuries.
However, in Ohio there are no state requirements for routine safety inspections of school bleachers. Instead, individual school boards are merely tasked with ensuring school facilities are safe. With no regulatory standards, each district is responsible for examining their bleachers and maintaining records. No state agency monitors or tracks data specifically related to bleacher injuries.
Railing height an issue at all sports venues
Professional sports are not immune from such accidents. Just last weekend, a fan plummeted to his death at Candlestick Park during a 49ers game. In fact, there have been at least 24 incidents involving stadium falls since 2003. When confronted with the growing problem, officials from some stadiums stated that their facilities complied with the International Building Code (IBC).
The International Building Code, which dates back to 1929, requires only a miniscule 26-inch minimum height for front-row railings. The IBC standards have been adopted by all 50 states; however, some jurisdictions do have stricter standards. In response to the death of a fan at Rangers Ballpark in 2011, front row rails there were raised to 42 inches, an increase of as much as one foot in some areas of the park.
Although property owners do have a limited duty to provide a safe environment, being observant can go a long way. Use care and common sense when attending a sporting event. Getting your face on the 11 o’clock news or catching a foul ball is not worth risking your life.
“Law silent on halting bleacher accidents” by Charlie Boss, Columbus Dispatch, September 10, 2013.
“Fans split on stadium safety changes” by Paula Lavigne, ESPN, August 27, 2011.
“49ers fan dies after fall at stadium. A tragic trend?” AP/Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2013.