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Wake-up call: The problem with selfie sticks

15 September 2015
Wake-up call: The problem with selfie sticks

The use of selfie sticks can be a lot of fun, but they can be risky for fellow revellers. Peter Forshaw discusses how to implement a policy

The problem

At tourist attractions and sporting venues, the use of selfie sticks has become widespread. However, their use can have safety, operational and nuisance implications for venue operators and their visitors.

The law

Under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, occupiers of premises have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that their visitors are reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose for which they have been invited.

Likewise, under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, employers must take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent the fall of any object or, where this is not reasonably practicable, take steps to prevent any person being struck by a falling object which is liable to cause personal injury.

Expert advice

The selfie stick does of course have a practical purpose, giving users the chance to save the memory of an event by providing a panoramic backdrop or capturing a pose from a large group. However, there are a number of rising concerns about their use:

Major incident

Injury to users - as a stick is in effect an 'extended arm', users can overlook that they may inadvertently be extending their body into the path of oncoming 'traffic' (for example, on a theme park ride) or into contact with machinery.

Interference with and damage to property - likewise, the extended stick could become entangled with overhead workings or might damage decor.

Injury to those nearby - sticks may inadvertently be extended into the path of someone else or be suspended over their head, and then come into contact with them if dropped. In most cases this may leave nothing more than a small cut or bruise, but depending on the height from which it is dropped, this could have more serious implications.

Nuisance to other visitors or performers - a straying stick can spoil a fellow visitor's view, or an extended flashing camera might distract a performer on stage.

Copyright - the use of selfie sticks, as with any camera or recording device, might have implications for breach of copyright.

In light of these concerns a number of organisations have introduced policies regarding their use, ranging from total bans at the likes of Wimbledon, Old Trafford and Disney, to restrictions at theme parks like Alton Towers.

Some might regard a total ban as a draconian measure and it is certainly not required by law in most circumstances. However, if operating premises where such sticks may be popular, venues should consider the likelihood of the above risks and have measures in place to control the risk of incidents arising. While the user will always be the primary offender, venue operators can also be liable, particularly if there have been previous incidents/complaints, putting them on notice of such issues, or where there are heightened foreseeable risks due to the nature of the operated activity.

Checklist

  • Risk-assess the use of such sticks in the areas where they may be used.
  • Have a clear policy as regards the use of selfie sticks to control such risks in the areas where they may be used and where the risks are clear.
  • Notify visitors of your policy in advance (for example, when sending tickets or on your website) so they are prepared.
  • Make signage clear where they can and can't be used on-site.
  • Train staff to be vigilant and to intervene where they see sticks being used.

Beware

A safety incident involving a selfie stick could, in a worst-case scenario, bring regulatory prosecution, a civil claim for damages and loss of revenue through suspension of the activity.

Contact

Peter Forshaw is a head of commercial insurance at Weightmans LLP

peter.forshaw@weightmans.com

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