When you think of a dangerous job, you might picture a construction worker or a tractor trailer driver. Although it is true that these and other occupations can be hazardous to one’s health, it might be surprising to find out that haunted house workers also get injured on the job. It may also be surprising that these injuries are often inflicted on workers by customers, who are not always on their best behavior in these houses. How do these injuries happen?
How do Haunted House Workers Get Hurt?
Haunted house workers get paid to scare customers, who may unintentionally lash out in response. Some industry professionals claim that these customers “freak out from fear” and ending up biting employees’ arms, throwing punches, and breaking noses. In essence, they forget that those ghouls and monsters are real people and experience a fight-or-flight reaction and lash out.
However, this is only part of the story. These employees must do things such as scream loudly, jump out in front of people, and use props in unusual ways, which can lead to different kinds of personal injury. Imagine having to lift a heavy plastic chainsaw up and down for hours on end. Some ex-haunted house workers also share stories of having to jump and run around, hide behind steps, and perform semi-acrobatic feats, which led to slips, trips, and falls. Repetitive stress injuries were also common. Lying in a casket and having to pop up and scare people repeatedly also present risks. It is easy to see how someone could injure their back doing this, not to mention the chance of having a frightened customer trying to kick or hit them.
How can These Workers be Protected?
Oftentimes, haunted house operators hire young, inexperienced people to perform this kind of unusual work. In both Delaware and Pennsylvania, the minimum age for employment is 14; the Pennsylvania Child Labor Act mandates that minors who are ages 14 to 17 must have work permits. Delaware has a similar law that applies to ages 14 to 18. Parents of minors who get hired at haunted houses can reach out to the employers to see what safety precautions are being taken; if the employer does not cooperate, the teenager should find work elsewhere.
There should be some monitoring of the employees while the haunted house is open for business. One example is limiting the amount of horseplay, and if there are any games, they should not involve physical participation. Wearing costumes is obviously part of this job, but anything that obstructs the wearer’s vision is dangerous. It is important to be able to see clearly, especially in dim light with lots of Halloween decorations everywhere. Things frequently fall on the floor or are already on the floor, so there are tripping hazards everywhere.
Employees also need to respect company property and not play around with things that are intended for other purposes. Many props have moving parts and run on electricity, so the proper precautions need to be taken. Employers need to train every employee and emphasize the importance of following their instructions.
What about the Costume Safety?
There should be guidelines for the costumes worn in these houses; they can still be scary, but items such as long cloaks and capes can get caught in machinery. Naturally, no one will be carrying real swords or axes, but some of those fake weapons can have sharp edges or can be heavy. It is best for the employer to either provide costumes that conform to safety regulations or screen the costumes that the employees bring in.
Other things with which to be careful is showing too much skin, wearing anything that is politically charged, or something that would offend someone of a certain culture or nationality. These can raise the possibility of displays of aggression, lewdness, anger, and violence. Again, these outfits should be screened every day. The customers walking into the haunted house should also be checked over, and it is a good idea to have a security person at the entrance. The Halloween holiday is notorious for heavy drinking and drugging, and it is understood that some customers will be under the influence. It is wise to have a plan in place for dealing with any of them who are not fit to tour the house.
What if the Haunted House Itself is Unsafe?
Employees and customers can all get hurt when haunted houses do not follow recommended safety guidelines. Although there are companies that are responsible for their properties, others are often negligent about upkeep and maintenance. Sometimes props extend too far out into walkways because they are not secured, and people walk or run into them. Haunted houses have long curtains covering the windows, which are a definite tripping hazard. There are also props such as black lights, and fog machines have cables and wires, which need to be run along walls, encased and out of the way, placed under carpets, or taped down. The house itself may not even be up to code and may have broken stairs, damaged handrails, and holes in the floor.
Haunted houses can also have other tripping hazards, such as streamers left on the ground and liquids from spilled drinks, fake blood, and water. Customers also walk in carrying food, so it is a good idea to not let anyone bring in snacks or drinks to keep things safe. Picture all these hazards in a place where it is hard to see because the lights are dim, and you have a recipe for workplace accidents. If customers get injured in a haunted house, they can look to a premises liability lawyer, but what options do the injured employees have?
Can I Get Workers’ Compensation if I Work in a Haunted House?
Delaware and Pennsylvania employers require companies to provider Workers’ Compensation for temporary, full-time, and seasonal workers. In Delaware, companies with one or more employees are also legally required to carry this insurance. There are some exemptions in both states, so those who are farm workers or independent contractors may not be covered. Employers who do not provide this coverage are subject to severe financial penalties.
Haunted house employees can suffer a wide range of injuries besides bruises inflicted by frightened customers. A serious fall could lead to a concussion, back and neck injuries, broken or dislocated bones, sprains, lacerations, and burns. There is also the risk for more serious issues, such as spinal cord damage and traumatic brain injuries.
Workers’ Compensation insurance provides benefits for medical care expenses and temporary disability payments, as well as compensation for resulting permanent impairments. Should the employee die of his or her injuries or illness, those benefits are then payable to the family. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who make Workers’ Compensation claims; this includes firing, discriminating against them, or any other kind of retaliatory action. Keep in mind that not all Workers’ Compensation claims are approved by insurers, so even if you make a legitimate claim, it is possible that it will get turned down. Appeals can be made, and in some cases, employees must go to court to pursue their claims. Whenever getting hired by a new employer, it is wise to become familiar with their policies and make sure that you qualify for their Worker’s Compensation coverage.
Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Help Injured Workers in a Variety of Professions
If you need experienced legal help with any kind of Workers’ Compensation claim, reach out to the knowledgeable Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. We will carefully examine the circumstances of your injury and fight to secure the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients in Dover, Newark, and Middletown.