The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
issued safety guidelines for retrofitting bleachers to prevent people, especially children, from falling off them. The guidelines are intended to be used by anyone concerned with bleacher safety-including facility owners and operators, school officials, parks and recreation personnel, manufacturers, designers, inspectors, and regulatory officials.
CPSC sponsored a national Roundtable on the Safety
of Bleachers and Grandstands in 1999. The meeting, attended by consumers, industry, and government representatives, was convened after two children had died and five children were severely injured in bleacher falls in 1998 and 1999. The CPSC guidelines were developed, in part, as a result of recommendations made at that meeting.
Bleachers are structures that provide tiered or stepped seating, generally without backrests. They come in various configurations and sizes, including: permanent/stationary, portable/movable, telescopic/folding, and temporary (for specific events, such
as circuses, golf tournaments, and parades).
The CPSC guidelines apply to all four categories
At the time the bleacher safety guidelines
were published, the CPSC was aware of 10
deaths that involved falls from bleachers from
1980 through 1999. Of these deaths, four involved children under 15. Two deaths occurred in 1999. In one case, a 6 year-old fell from the bleachers through a 13-inch opening between the footboard and seatboard. In the other incident, a 3 year-old fell through an opening in the guardrail.
From 1991 through 1999, an estimated annual average of 19,100 people were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for bleacher-related injuries. In 1999, there were an estimated 22,100 bleacher-related injuries. Approximately 6,100 of these injuries were the result of a person falling from, or through, bleachers onto the
surface below. Approximately 4,910 of these falls involved children under 15.
Bleachers can pose a number of hazards. For example, falls from bleachers can occur when guardrails are missing from the backs or open sides of the bleachers. Injuries can occur when the openings between components in the seats and guardrails are big enough to permit a person to fall through them.
Injuries from falls on bleachers also can occur when there are missing or inadequate bleacher components. In addition, bleachers can collapse if they are not installed or operated properly.
Many bleachers in facilities today pose a fall hazard, especially to children. This is because, in part, many bleachers were built and installed when building codes did not require guardrails and allowed openings big enough for children to fall through them.
When a jurisdiction adopts a new building code, existing bleachers are not typically required to comply because most codes do not have retroactive provisions for existing structures.
The CPSC guidelines address guardrails and openings in the bleacher components. For example, to prevent falls, children should not be able to pass under or through the components of a guardrail. Guardrails also should be designed so they do not encourage young children to climb on them. To prevent falls through bleacher components (such as the footboard, seatboard, and riser) that are a certain height above the ground, the openings should prevent passage of a 4-inch sphere. This opening recommendation is based on anthropometric data showing that 95%
of children 4 months and older would be prevented
from completely passing through a 4-inch opening.
Prevention of falls on bleachers also should not be ignored when considering retrofitting.
Falls on bleachers are likely to occur when there are missing or inadequate components that assist in access and egress, such as aisles, handrails, and non-skid surfaces. Many older bleachers do not have these safety features.
Licensed professionals or qualified bleacher firms
should know how to reduce the hazard of falls on
bleachers. Local building officials also should know about safety features for bleachers in the governing building codes.
If you have been injured by a bleacher it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
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