Article

Risk management for public entities: Sledding and Tobogganing Hills

Although sledding and tobogganing can be a source of enjoyment for the community during winter, addressing safety risks is essential for municipal entities.

snow mountain hiking group aerial view

As the winter season brings about the colder and snowy weather, it transforms municipal parks and provides the opportunity for members of the community to participate in a number of winter activities, which can include sledding and tobogganing.

Although sledding and tobogganing can be a source of enjoyment for the community during winter, addressing safety risks is essential for municipal entities. They need to think about a range of risks associated with allowing the community to use designated hills for sledding and tobogganing and implement a comprehensive risk management plan to help prevent injury, severe harm, or death.

The following guidance highlights key areas of consideration for municipal entities as they make available designated sledding and tobogganing hills for their community. 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.

Designation

Municipal entities need to establish clear criteria that will be used to designate which hills within their jurisdiction will be made available for sledding and tobogganing. To select the most appropriate hills, they should consider the following items:

Hill feature:- Height, Slope, Length, Width, Run-off or landing area
Hazards:- Roads, Parking lots, Trees, Poles, Benches, Water fountains, Bodies of water

Design

Municipal entities need to appropriately lay out the designated sledding and tobogganing areas to maximize the safety of patrons. A well thought out design includes the following:

  • Fencing
    • Install fencing or other barriers to control entry and exit to the hill.
  • Boundaries
    • Place visual markers such as ribbon or rope alongside boundaries of the hill.
    • Place protective barriers around immovable safety hazards in close vicinity of the hill.
  • Lighting
    • Install lighting at key locations throughout the hill, as required.
  • Visual Markers
    • Install visual markers such as signage at the following locations:
      • Collision hazards
      • Run-off/Landing area
      • Hazards (for example, trees, poles, roads, and parking lots)

Inspection and maintenance

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

  • Inspection
    • Establish an inspection policy, which should outline the required frequency and scope of inspections taken to identify safety hazards at the sledding and tobogganing hills that require remedial actions.
    • Conduct regular inspections of the hills to verify a smooth, clean, and safe surface. Remove any of the following:
      • Slip, trip, or fall hazards
      • Garbage, broken glass, or other debris
  • Maintenance
    • Establish a maintenance policy, which should outline the remedial actions, timelines, communication, and documentation associated with the repair and/or removal of any safety hazards.
    • Conduct preventative and demand maintenance to the sled and toboggan hill to help ensure that all identified safety hazards are rectified:
      • Inspect all areas prior to use.
      • Dispatch safety hazards to be repaired or replaced.
      • Post signage advising patrons if an area is unavailable for use or under repair.
      • Conduct grounds maintenance program to the sled and toboggan hill, including any pathways or stairs.
  • Establish a centralized documentation repository to house the inspection reports and work orders.

Communication

Municipal entities need to leverage various communication channels (for example, media releases, website updates, and social media updates) to disseminate key information to its community regarding the designated sledding and tobogganing hills in their jurisdictions, which can include the following:

  • Location of the hills
  • Hours of operation
  • Permissible and non-permissible activities
  • Safety measures in-place
  • Closure of the hills (due to maintenance or inclement weather)

Signage

Municipal entities should have the appropriate signage at the designated sledding and tobogganing hills entrances and key locations throughout the park to inform patrons of the following:

  • Safe use of sledding and tobogganing hill
    • Unsupervised hill — Patrons assume own risk
    • Exclusion of liability
    • Recommended use of protective equipment (for example, helmets)
    • Recommended use of sledding and tobogganing equipment
    • Patron etiquette and conduct
    • Supervision of children
    • First aid station
  • Restricted activity
    • No horseplay
    • No alcohol or drug consumption
    • No excessive speed
    • No altering of hill or building jump platforms
  • Hours of operation
  • Garbage and recycling area
  • Emergency contact information:
    • Emergency services
    • Maintenance request

Summary

Municipal entities must design and operate their designated sledding and tobogganing hills 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.

 

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