Article

Risk Management for public entities: Outdoor Ice Rinks

Although outdoor ice rinks can be a source of fitness and enjoyment for patrons of all ages, addressing safety risks is essential for municipal entities.

Girl tying shoelaces on ice skates before skating on the ice rink, hands in red knitted gloves. View from top.

As the winter season ushers in the colder and snowy weather, it transforms municipal spaces and provides the opportunity for patrons to participate in skating activities on outdoor ice rinks in their communities.

Although outdoor ice rinks can be a source of fitness and enjoyment for patrons of all ages, addressing safety risks is essential for municipal entities. They will need to consider a range of risks associated with operating an outdoor ice rink and address them through the implementation of a comprehensive risk management plant to help prevent injury, severe harm, or death.

The following guidance highlights key areas of considerations for municipal entities as they operate outdoor ice rinks across their communities; for clarity, the guidance provided applies to artificial outdoor rinks only and not frozen bodies of water. It should not be seen as an exhaustive list and should be used in conjunction with internal policies and procedures, as well as in compliance with local laws and regulations.

Design

Municipal entities need to appropriately design the outdoor rink to ensure the safety of patrons. This should include considering the following:

  • Surface
    • Construct the rink on a smooth, flat surface that is free from any irregularities, stones, and other debris
    • Identify and repair any cracks or holes in the surface and remove any debris prior to flooding
    • Make sure the ice is at least 2.0 inches thick
  • Rink boards
    • Install rink boards around the perimeter if hockey activities will be permitted on the ice; this will help reduce any injuries to patrons and bystanders.
  • Rink perimeter
    • Install non-slip surfaces or pads around the perimeter of the rink; this will help prevent any slip and fall injuries as well as make it easier for patrons to navigate around the rink on their skates.

Communication

Municipal entities need to disseminate information to its community regarding outdoor ice rinks in their jurisdictions, which can include the following:

  • Location of the outdoor rinks
  • Hours of operation
  • Permissible and non-permissible activities
  • Safety measures in-place

Flooding

Municipal entities need to establish standardized practices for flooding the outdoor ice rink to ensure a safe environment for patrons. Failure to  follow the considerations listed below may result in an uneven ice surface and unsafe skating conditions.

  • Flood the rink as often as needed to maintain a smooth ice surface.
  • Clear the outdoor ice rink of any snow and other debris prior to flooding.
  • Do not flood the outdoor ice rink when it is snowing or on extremely cold days.

Inspection and maintenance

Municipal entities need to establish a comprehensive inspection and maintenance program for outdoor rinks to identify, rectify, and document safety hazards, which should include the following elements:

  • Inspection
    • Establish an inspection policy, which should outline the required frequency of inspections and activities taken to repair, remove, and reinstate damaged or defective rink features or equipment.
    • Conduct regular inspections before, during, and after operating hours to verify the following:
      • The rink surface is smooth, clean, and safe. Repair any of the following:
        • Surface cracks
        • Exposed ground
        • Frost boils
        • Uneven surface
      • Close the rink until the surface has been fixed.
      • All equipment is in safe working condition. Repair or remove any of the following:
        • Any excessive wear and tear of rink features and equipment
        • Any defective rink features or equipment
        • Any slip, trip, or fall hazards
        • Any garbage, broken glass, and other debris.
      • All handrails, barriers, railings are sturdy. This applies to accessibility and security measures in addition to rink features and equipment.
  • Maintenance
    • Establish a maintenance policy, which should outline the actions and documentation associated with the repair and/or removal of any safety hazards.
    • Conduct preventative and demand maintenance to ensure that all identified safety hazards are rectified:
      • Dispatch safety hazards to be repaired or replaced.
      • Post signage advising patrons if the rink is closed or if equipment is unavailable for use or under repair.
      • Inspect all equipment repair or replacement prior to use.
      • Conduct grounds maintenance program to the outdoor ice rink.
    • Establish a centralized documentation repository to house the inspection reports and work orders.

Equipment

Municipal entities should have the appropriate equipment on-site to ensure the safety of patrons.

  • Lighting: Check that rink lighting is projecting appropriate level of lumens/brightness towards targeted areas.
  • Benches: Provide benches around the rink so that patrons have an area to put on/take off their skates.
  • Flooding equipment: Have the appropriate flooding equipment, such as hoses, shovels, and ice blades readily available.
  • Resurfacing equipment: Make sure the ice can support its weight.
  • De-Icing equipment: Have available de-icing equipment, such as ice melt, to keep area outside of rink safe.

Supervision

Municipal entities can opt to have their outdoor ice rink supervised during the posted hours of operations or during designated times. The following are the suggested supervision-to-skater ratios:


Signage

Municipal entities should have the appropriate signage at the outdoor rink entrance and key locations throughout the rink to inform patrons of the following:

  • Safe use of outdoor rink
    • Unsupervised rink — Patrons assume own risk
    • Exclusion of liability
    • Recommended use of protective equipment (such as helmets)
    • Patron etiquette and conduct
    • Supervision of children
    • First aid station
  • Restricted activity
    • No horseplay
    • No alcohol or drug consumption
    • No food or drinks on the ice
    • No body contact or checking
    • No hockey during public skating
  • Hours of operation
  • Garbage and recycling area
  • Emergency contact information
    • Emergency services
    • Maintenance request

Summary

Municipal entities must design and operate their outdoor ice rinks in a manner that helps keep all patrons safe. Through the development and implementation of a comprehensive risk management plan, measures can be put in place to help prevent injury, severe harm, or death and provide patrons with an enjoyable and safe experience during the winter season.

If you have questions, please contact your Marsh representative.