Hazards on hardwood courts: Player gets impaled with splinter

Cracked Boards
Cracked and splintered boards

I just saw a headline about a young student athlete that was impaled with a splinter. Here is a link to that article. The author describes it as a freak accident. The truth is hardwood courts require attention and when dangerous situations occur they need to be fixed. I was involved as an expert witness on a similar case several years ago, and I routinely find real hazards on hardwood courts. Splinters and cracked boards are the most common hazards, but inserts can present tripping hazards, and sometimes slippery floors present a sliding/traction hazard.

The truth is damaged, cracked and splintered boards are reasonably common on hardwood courts. Routine inspections should note when and where they occur and a solution should be developed and implemented.  Splinters and other serious hazards have to be fixed or schools will find themselves on the wrong end of an injury lawsuit. Fixing the hazard may mean having a contractor come in and replace those individual boards, or it may mean applying an industrial strength glue. To be clear, simply taping over a splinter should not be considered a long term fix (see lower right photo). I have seen this at multiple facilities during routine site inspections.

Improper splinter repair
Splinter – Covered with Tape Next to Splinters Uncovered

When I visit a facility for testing or to perform an inspection I always look for and document hazards. When hazards are serious enough I show them to school officials, owners or architects before leaving. For the most serious hazards, I also tell them that they will receive a letter from ASET Services stating that it is our opinion that no athletic activity should take place on the court before the hazard is fixed. A similar note is included and highlighted when the results and observations from the visit are reported. Often times I tell schools, “You may not think you have the budget to repair that floor but it would be cheaper than covering the injury liability if one happens.”

If you think you have hazardous conditions present on your hardwood court, I urge you to take action so that no one gets hurt. Of course you can always contact ASET Services to discuss an on-site inspection if you need an independent 3rd party opinion.

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