The excitement of the game, the thrill of playing on a team, and even the roar of the crowd can encourage athletes to participate in sporting and recreational activities. With increased participation, it is important to implement proactive risk management strategies that can reduce or mitigate liabilities.
Safety begins with regular inspections of the facilities and equipment. Employees or volunteers should perform daily inspections, and a qualified inspector may conduct more formal inspections. The frequency of inspections and the level of expertise required will vary across facilities.
However, completing an inspection is only part of the process. Develop procedures for accurate documentation and filing. Keep records of inspection dates, who conducted each inspection, the findings, and the maintenance done. Monitoring and caring for items found to be deficient in inspections is crucial; you must develop follow-up plans (i.e., inspection of completed repairs, continuous training/review of employees, etc.).
An appropriate supervisor-to-user ratio is crucial to assure a safe environment for athletic activities. The proper ratio depends on the type of activity, the equipment used, and the age of the participants. Also, supervising staff and volunteers should pre-inspect the grounds each day for obvious hazards. Sports participants should always wear appropriate clothing and use the right gear. Staff should be ready to intervene if someone is not wearing proper protective gear or equipment. Equipment should be checked regularly to be sure it is in good working order. Remove damaged gear from use.
Keep in mind some sports activities should be avoided altogether. Your liability insurance through Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) specifically excludes activities such as contact sports, rock climbing, and gymnastic rebounding devices. Coverage for some of these activities can be secured with the right controls in place. Talk to your conference if you are planning to include a higher risk activity.
Screen all participants for health limitations that may make it unsafe for them to participate in your program. Implement a screening and hiring policy to make certain only qualified staff members are employed. Before the first workday, require a criminal background check for employees and volunteers working with the vulnerable, such as the elderly or children. Adequately train all staff and volunteers in first aid, coaching, organization policies and procedures, and any other training needed to safely and successfully lead out your activities.
Communicate and enforce a strict no hazing, no bullying policy
. Hazing can include but is not limited to being yelled at, being publically embarrassed, being made to eat disgusting things, to cause harm to others, and more. Do not tolerate any behaviors that interfere with or threaten the well-being of another person.
Protecting Your Organization from Legal Liabilities
Consistently use valid waiver forms to protect your organization from liabilities either by requiring people to willingly consent to emergency medical consent, clearly informing them of the activity’s hazards, and other disclosures. Always consult your conference and use approved forms that have been reviewed by the conference’s legal counsel.
Develop emergency and accident response procedures and implement them as written policy. Know how far the closest emergency responders are from your facility. Always contact first responders through the local emergency number such as 911. If this type of service does not exist, have the emergency contact information written down in an easily accessible area. It is important that all staff is trained and receives copies of all procedures and information. Conduct safety drills to help staff respond efficiently in the event of a real emergency.
At ARM, we strive to provide resources for you and your ministry to make sure you are always protected. We invite you to share these resources with your local church and school leaders to grow a culture of safety in your community.
By: David Fournier
Chief Client Care Officer
Adventist Risk Management, Inc.