Feature Article - March 2013
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Protect Yourself

Effective Risk Management Needs Strategy, Supervision

By Deborah L. Vence

Keep Tabs on Loss Reports

To establish an effective risk management strategy, experts say it is also important to be aware of your agencies' actual loss history and your exposures to loss.

"You need to continuously review insurance and internal loss reports to identify trends where your staff and patron injuries are occurring so that you can take action to prevent future losses," Hoffman said.

For example, if aquatics staff are suffering slip-and-fall injuries, facilities should consider prevention programs, such as a footwear policy that requires the use of water shoes to reduce slips and falls when climbing onto lifeguard chairs, working in wet locker rooms or when conducting in-service trainings like back-boarding, Hoffman said.

Equally important is looking at the legal concept of negligence and its potential defenses, noted John Wolohan, professor and graduate director at Syracuse University.

Negligence is defined as an unintentional tort that injures a person, property or reputation. The greatest number of lawsuits brought against sport and recreation providers is based in negligence liability. (Negligence is caused by the failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances.) The four elements of negligence are: duty, breach of duty, proximate cause and damage.

For risk assessment, Wolohan said that it's important to look for what kinds of liabilities exist and the types of exposure they might have. "One of the first questions to ask is: Who's using the facility? And, depending on the age of the participant and type of facility, you're going to have certain obligations," he said. The younger the patrons are, for example, the more supervision you will need.

Other issues to consider are in regard to supervision. Are there too many people where they can't be properly supervised? Depending on the activity, you have to come up with the type of supervision that's going to be required.

Features of an Effective Policy

Some of the most important components of a risk management policy should include a clear statement of risk/safety management for internal (staff and related resources) and external (direct and indirect customer) sources.

Beckner said such a policy should include:

  • A staff safety program, including training and procedures for varied types of risks such as equipment operation, chemical application, use, storage, etc.; basic daily functions (repetitive motions, lifting, climbing and similar).
  • Facility inspection criteria by facility, frequency, expected standards of life and replacement.
  • Facility rules of use, forms permits, authorizations.

Gonzales said Great Wolf Resorts' program has several components to its risk management policy:

  • Conduct risk assessments. This helps to identify physical, behavioral, financial and integrity risks.
  • Develop programs to mitigate risk. Identify the issue, establish the objective, determine the steps to mitigate risk, and support the position with data sources.
  • Establish written policies. These need to be clear expectations of actions, behaviors or processes to be implemented.
  • Implement training. Simply publishing a policy is not enough. Conferring the information in a way the audience will understand and practice is important.
  • Measure performance. Inspect what is expected and measure excellence in meeting the expectation. Look at leading and lagging indicators to see if the program moved the needle in mitigating risk.