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Are Professional Sports Teams, Universities and Facility Managers Doing Enough to Protect Workers and Patrons?

In 2011, a 39-year-old Texas Rangers fan died after falling from the outfield stands while reaching for a ball thrown to him by a Rangers outfielder. These kinds of tragic events occur far too often in professional and collegiate athletics. Is there anything that these teams and programs could have been done to prevent the tragedy? Maybe. The solution may center on awareness and education. That’s where Chris Miranda comes in. The founder and CEO of MAC Safety suggests these entities must take into consideration their culture around safety.

There is support for his opinion.

In an article that appeared several years ago in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, two professors at the Central Institute for Labour Protection ñ National Research Institute in Warsaw, Poland wrote that their research “confirmed the hypotheses that people who experienced accidents, dangerous situations, and are to a lesser extent are health problems had a lower level of safety culture.”

Teams and universities also face risks with regard to building stadiums. In an article entitled “Development of safety culture in the construction industry: The leadership and training roles,” the authors suggest that “studies show that an accident and injury at the worksite is often the result of workers’ behavior and safety culture. Safety culture is more related to workers’ safety practices. An efficient safety management system ought to be based on the safety awareness that should become a culture in the construction industry involving all the parties. The efficient safety culture should be shown to the public as a good value business. Leadership is an essential part of the process of management and it is also an integral part of the social structure and culture of the organization. In addition to providing key skills and knowledge, training can be used to motivate and to modify behavior and attitudes. Safety culture is an alternative for encouraging competition at any level in order to reduce number of accidents, fatalities and injuries that involves workers and properties.”

Miranda, an industry veteran of more than 25 years, believes these entities should be more proactive around safety culture.

“There’s a gap that typically exists between upper layers of management and middle management, and middle management and the rank and file,” said Miranda. “This creates problems when it comes to proper communication about safety issues.”

To resolve this, MAC Safety has created a Culture Assessment Tool (CAT), which can score the company, thus assessing how vulnerable it is to an accident. The CAT is essentially a questionnaire that when scored will reveal a company’s “weak spot.”

The scoring is the secret sauce for MAC Safety, allowing its team to take the assessment past the run of the mill evaluation that an insurance company undertake, such as “four guys were not wearing their safety glasses,” according to Miranda.

The CAT will also show if there is “a disconnect” between workers at the same level, which is usually attributable to an age difference.

“The age difference can lead to a major disconnect,” said Kevin Miranda, the company’s COO. “The older workers in their sixties and seventies are safe in their own way. They look down on some of the younger workers, who are at the same level. Are these older workers imparting their real-world experience on their younger counterparts? The CAT will tell us that.”

Meanwhile, an attorney who has represented many such professional teams in such matters, suggests that safety should be paramount to any team or other entity that manages a sports facility to prevent such tragedies.

“The risk of not being proactive in simply too high,” said Carla Varriale, a partner at Havkins Rosenfeld Ritzert & Varriale, one of the nation’s leading sports law experts, especially with regard to negligence issues. “Tools like this increase the communications bond between all employees, and ultimately lessen the risk of an accident, which is an objective we can all get behind.”

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