A Sea of Litigation: Risk Management for Resort Waterparks, Waterslides

With the warm weather around the corner and after a year of safer-at-home guidelines and resort waterpark closures and/or limited-capacity mandates, operations are now getting ready for returning guests.  As fun as waterparks and slides are, they can also be dangerous with people getting hurt, sometimes severely. Slip and fall injuries are common as guests spend the entire day walking on wet and slippery surfaces in the waterpark. Other hazards include defects in waterpark equipment, lifeguard error, and guests not abiding by weight and height restrictions.

Now is the perfect time to remind hotel and resort clients of the exposures involved with waterparks and waterslides and to reinforce their loss-control measures to mitigate risk.

  • Post warning signs indicating the risks of each ride.
  • Make equipment safety a priority: Maintain and regularly inspect all equipment. Be sure equipment is free of protrusions and other injury-causing elements. Additionally, equipment should be made of non-skid materials with less electrical conductivity and heat reflection.
  • Ensure waterslides are well-lit during evening and night-time operations.
  • Keep the water safe: Extreme care must be taken to properly treat recirculated water. Highly resistant bacteria such as E.Coli requires many passes through the treatment process to be completely cleaned from the water. The ability to automate how water is sanitized minimizes the risk for water-borne illnesses, whether the system uses chlorine, bromine or some other system.
  • Train employees: All employees – including lifeguards and ride operators – should be trained in the safe operating procedures for all activities that could cause injury, and to understand the operation’s prescribed procedures to prevent and respond to emergencies at facilities with aquatic attractions. In addition, contracting an outside company certified in the safe operation of recreational facilities at the onset of seasonal staff training reinforces the message that the resort is safety conscious.
  • Monitor staff regularly: Management should monitor operations to ensure that the personnel trained to perform their duties are doing so and are not preoccupied with sneaking checks on social media or any other diversions. Also, ensure employees are verifying that guests fall within the posted minimum or maximum weight, age or height requirements and are wearing the proper clothing and footwear. Mandate lifeguard vest usage in wave pools for individuals of certain heights.
  • Ensure detailed recordkeeping is performed. In the event of an accident, the supervisor should keep records that document the injured person, what occurred and interviews with eyewitnesses. Whenever possible, also get an account from the injured person of what occurred. Incident reports are critical and can be useful in the event of a lawsuit. Take photos of the accident scene and keep a record of any surveillance video. Check the operation immediately after the incident for any malfunctions. If there are any broken parts, remove and preserve them.
  • Use liability waivers: Although they are not enforceable in some states and are enforceable in limited circumstances in others, liability waivers can be a useful tool. They should be written in plain English.  

The state of COVID-19 continues to be a fluid situation even while more activities open up to the public. It’s prudent to keep abreast of CDC and other guidelines as they pertain to waterparks and other water-related activities. Guidelines may include continuing to have social distancing markers on slide towers and other applicable queueing locations; frequently disinfecting and sanitizing all waterpark locker rooms with hospital-grade cleaning products; providing effective social-distancing space between guest chairs and tables; placing hand sanitizing stations throughout the waterpark; and limiting crowd capacity, among other measures. 

Safety should always be a priority to protect your valued guests looking for a fun-filled vacation.