Feature Article - August 2009
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Safety & Protection for All: How the Right Risk Management

Strategy Makes Recreation More Enjoyable

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Q: Is it essential to have an attorney involved in developing your risk management protocols and documents?

"Any contracts or waivers [you're creating], you want an attorney to do it," Ornelas said. Legal experts are most likely to know what will hold up in court. For instance, rather than tossing in a provision for everything you can think of and creating a giant document, Ornelas and his firm recommend a smaller contract, and also a separate waiver document that is brief and to the point. Make sure the average person can wade through the amount of information you're presenting and clearly understand what they're signing.

Beyond legal documents, policies and procedures could be drafted by your risk manager, but then send them to an attorney for review, suggested Ornelas. "You'll save money by not having an attorney draft these documents."

An attorney advisor can also be helpful when it comes to staying current with playground and equipment standards and ever-changing laws, particularly those that apply in your state, Hoffman noted. This is a big part of the services PDRMA and its two in-house attorneys offer their members in the state of Illinois. "What you spend on an attorney for a good opinion in an area of sensitivity can pay dividends," he said. "You want to be compliant and on the right side of law. If you have a bad incident, involvement of an attorney early on is crucial so you can develop a good, solid defense."

Risk Management Resources

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)

The American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and their Safety and Risk Management Council are subgroups of this organization, and they provide members with a variety of risk management resources, including speakers at national conferences and a "safety notebook" with collected articles on important risk management and safety issues.

Association of Governmental Risk Pools

Although PDRMA is only for Illinois park districts, you may be able to join with other park districts and recreation facilities in your area to tackle insurance and risk management issues. AGRiP is the largest pooling organization in the country, and their Web site can help you learn more about this option.

Risk Management in Sport and Recreation (Human Kinetics, 2006)
by John O. Spengler, Daniel P. Connaughton, and Andrew T. Pittman


This book and the accompanying Web site provide a great starting point for recreation managers looking to beef up their risk management knowledge.

"Professional associations and various organizations have come up with procedures for risk management for a number of situations," noted Dr. John Otto Spengler. "You can go online and find several good sources. In the past recreation managers may have had a manual stuck on a shelf somewhere, but now, in the electronic age, you can access this information through links. Check with the professional associations you may be involved in," he suggested.