Monday, July 25, 2011

Whose Risk Is It?- Collaborations

Collaborative risks are messy! It's like mixing ketchup and mustard on your hamburger bun. Once they are combined and my teeth sink into the burger, if the ketchup is bad, well, I can't just scrape it off, the mustard is going to get scraped off too. I thought of that as I was eating a burger prepared by the volunteers at Stepping Up's beach party/surf day last Friday, when Dufour Insurance co-sponsored a free surf clinic for 40 jr high and high school kids.

One of my clients, Orange County Community Housing Corp., has a college awareness program, Stepping Up, providing enrichment opportunities for underprivileged teens, in the hopes of giving them the tools to apply for, and be successful in, college. When I visited my client last, I mentioned offering myself as a volunteer to teach these kids water safety and surfing, my personal passions, over the summer "sometime". They took me up on the offer, and pretty soon, all of their students had signed up for a surf lesson. Oh boy! I recruited some friends and family to help teach the lessons...and we borrowed some gear from another nonprofit, Wheels 2 Water, so that the event would be successful. Of course, I followed my own "Event Planning Best Practices" advice (see last blog), so we were prepared.

But let's say someone was injured... this was a collaborative event, so who is liable for the injuries? We all would be! Dufour Insurance, as the sponsor, Orange County Community Housing, as the nonprofit program manager, and Wheels 2 Water, the owner of the gear used.

It's important to decide who is handling this event's liability insurance. Generally, it's best if each partner holds each other harmless and indemnifies each other. Each party should agree to be responsible for their own negligence and indemify the other for legal expenses and claims arising out of their negligence.

In this case, since we borrowed the gear from a 3rd party nonprofit who was otherwise not involved in the event, we thought it was important to name them as Additional Insured for this event (they are doing us a favor letting us use their gear, we don't wnat them to be liable in any way). Dufour Insurance carried one day event insurance for the surf clinic, and named both nonprofit organizations as "Additional Insureds" on this policy. In this manner, the event insurance coverred all three organizations in the event of a claim. Orange County Community Housing also carries liability insurance covering not just activities on their premises, but ALL sponsored activities.

There are many ways to structure insurance requirements for collaborations, but at minimum, insurance limits should be:

1. Commercial General Liability insurance - $1 million per occurrence
2. Auto liability insurance - $1 million per occurrence
3. Workers Compensation- to cover any and all employees working on the collaboration
4. Certificates of Insurance should be accompanied by the actual ENDORSEMENT to the policy showing who is the Named Insured, and who is the Additional Named Insured, and what the relationship to the Named Insured is.

Drafting an MOU, "Memorandum of Understanding", will help outline the insurance/liability responsibilities of the collaborative partners. These agreements are great tools in describing the intent of the parties, the responsibilities of each party, and legalize the assumptions with the signature of the organizations' representative(s).

We have plenty of resources to help you with your MOU's, waivers, indemnification clauses in contracts, and risk management in general. Please let us know if we can help you!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Safety Considerations for Your "SPECIAL" Day

Yesterday I watched my daughter's first gymnastics competition. All the preparation that these girls put into showing off their skills, all of the hard work by the coaches, the investment of time and money by the parents, the beautiful facility...paid off today. It was indeed a "special" event. But WHAT IF...??? Something went wrong??? What if someone were injured? Were we prepared?

Last year, at my older daughter's Junior Olympic swim meet, a swimmer fainted. EMT was on the scene, she was assessed, treated, and transported for proper follow up care without a hitch...the safety plan was in effect and it worked.

Planning a "special event", whether it be a wedding, fundraiser, parade, community gathering, concert in the park, or marathon....requires detailed planning and preparation. Part of that planning should include safety considerations. This blog is dedicated to helping you put on a safe event.

1. Designate a responsible "Safety" Team Leader who will be the go-to person and is fully aware of the event's planning, schedule, and safety plan and should oversee or be familiar with the rest of the points discussed below:

2. Location- Select a location that is adequate for the # of participants and spectators, accessible by all (keep in mind guests with disabilities), has adequate, accessible restroom facilities, exits are well marked, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are in good order, all surfaces are smooth, non-slip, and even, outdoor sprinklers are turned off. Check that indoor and outdoor lighting are adequate, and parking is adequate and safe. Ensure that your insurance will cover you for any risk you assume in the venue's lease or rental agreement. (send a copy of the lease or agreement to your insurance broker for review. You will want to make sure you are only agreeing to be liable for those things over which you have control.)

3. Food Service- Plan for proper refrigeration and heating, proper food service (don't want guests burning themselves on hot, spilled coffee!) If you are having the event caterred, ask the vendor to provide you with a copy of their insurance certificate and an endorsement naming you as "additional insured".

4. Alcohol- I once had a client call me and tell me that several of the "members" in his club got DUI's returning home from after-parties from their races. If there had been an accident, that club would be liable for supplying the alcohol and allowing the participant to drive home intoxicated. First, check to see if you can have a licensed vendor serve the alcohol. If not, you'll need a procedure for checking ID's, and those serving alcohol should be trained to serve/not serve patrons as appropriate. Cut off the booze service 2 hours prior to ending your event as a precaution.

5. Staffing Needs- Make sure you have enough staff or volunteers to cover: parking, security, first aid, crowd control, food, entertainment, set up and tear down, hospitality for vendors, etc. Each individual should be responsible for a task and this should be clear to the team. "Runner" positions are handy in filling in the unexpected gaps. If your event involves supervision of children, plan for several adults to assist (no one-on-one with children), and ensure that there are enough adults for the number of children being supervised. The "recommended" ratio of adults to children varies, but for ages 7 and under=3:1, 8 and up= 5:1. This is up to your own discretion, and not a "rule of thumb".

6. Security- A nonprofit once held a beauty pageant in a public park. They hired armed security for the event. A man with a gun came to the event, shot into the crowd and injured a volunteer. The hired security shot back and killed the man. His family sued the organization for the wrongful death of their loved one. This sounds backwards, but crazy things happen! If possible, hire UNARMED security for your event if you need to hire a professional security company. Consider partnering with your local police department for public events. If you are managing your own security, make sure you know the laws for escorting troublemakers. (No search and seizure, no detaining guests.)

7. Planning for Emergencies- Every event should have a basic emergency plan, and depending on the size and type of event, you may want to hire an EMS professional. First Aid kit should be stocked and on site, and in the care of your first aid staff or volunteer. At least, this individual should know CPR and First Aid. "Incident Report Forms" should be on hand as well to be completed in the event of an injury. You should be aware in advance how long it will take for emergency medical personnel to arrive on scene in the event of an emergency. You may want to contact your local fire dept. off ahead of time and let them know where you will be/what you're doing, if the event is risky/remote.

8. Vendors/Collaborative Events- If you allow vendors (booths, entertainment, food, etc.) at your event, you should determine who you expect to assume the liability for their actions. You can (A) assume liability under your insurance for all of their actions, and in that case, you'll want to check with your liability carrier to make sure you're properly coverred for this exposure, or (B) ask the vendor to cover their own liability and provide you with a certificate of insurance and endorsement naming you as additional insured on their policy. The same applies to collaborative events. Don't assume your collaborators have insurance to cover their actions- discuss this ahead of time, and determine whose coverage will apply in the event it is called for.

9. Waivers- If you are holding an event where guests "participate" in a sport, athletic activity (such as a 5k run or swim), church camp, soccer tournament,'ll want to have them sign a participant waiver ahead of time. If you have volunteers, you may also want to have them sign a waiver for their "volunteer participation". Waivers should be very clear and address the activity being held, should specify the organization(s) requesting the waiver, be easy to read, require a signature and date, and the person signing the waiver should receive it and have the opportunity to review it BEFORE the day of the event. It's not appropriate to have a waiver signed a couple minutes before the start of an event. Waivers should be reviewed by legal counsel. If legal counsel is not available, ask your insurance company to provide you with a waiver sample or template that you can edit. Waivers do not necessarily absolve you of liability, however, they help you ensure that your guests understand the risks that they are subjecting themselves to, and this understanding discourages them from holding you responsible if they are injured.

10. Photo/Media Release- I once worked for a nonprofit who held a "dress for success" event for men re-enterring the workforce. The press was invited and took photos of a great looking male makeover and published his story in the newspaper. The D.A. saw the article and tracked down the man who was "wanted" and he was arrested the next day. Maybe this guy belonged in jail, but many times, events are held and group photos are taken by guests or volunteers and posted to social networking sites without proper permission. This can be dangerous to the organization...say, if the guest is a survivor of domestic violence or it's a minor with custody issues. Always be sure to obtain media releases from all guests. You can add this language to your waiver form.

11. Before/During/After the Event- The Safety team leader should arrive early and begin event setup well in advance of the event. A site walk-through to checks for hazards should be conducted and each volunteer/staff should be briefed and understand their role. The site should be free from spills, wet areas, and unsafe obstacles. Warning cones or tape should be used to restrict access to areas that are unsafe, wet, or where access is prohibited. Communications between staff/volunteers should be simple. Walkie-talkies are handy when posts are assigned, or a "runner" should be available to aid in communicating between individuals assigned to a fixed position and the safety team leader. In the event of emergency or injury, the proper first aid/care should be addressed, and an "Incident Report" should be completed. This report will gather all of the pertinent information (witnesses, phone numbers, site description, photo if available) to report to your insurance company, if necessary. Clean-up crew should make sure the event area is clean, clear of obstacles, food is properly stored, all utilites are properly shut off, and location is secure.

If you'd like sample waivers, safety checklists, hold harmless agreements, incident reports, etc...let me know, and I'll be happy to help you.

Now for my disclaimer....This blog is intended to assist you in planning a safe event, to put you into the mindset of planning for safety. I've gathered this information from several insurance carrier's "best practices" and have added bits of my personal event planning experience. It is in NO WAY guaranteeing that an unforseen incident will not occur or that these suggestions are adequate for your event. Happy planning!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

First Blog...Need some FEEDBACK!

I'm taking suggestions on direction for this blog (PLEASE!) Of course in future posts I will focus on insurance, risk management, HR management, and new developments in the insurance industry that show off my expertise, but I'd like to do so in a way that doesn't bore you all to tears...while keeping in mind my overall altruistic goal of making clients into lifelong friends and friends and family into clients who are "enlightened" and safeguarded.

My former assistant, Marie, has graciously offered to help me get Dufour Insurance Services off the ground. Starting a new business, I have to consider now being an employer...the burdens of my staff are now my burdens too! Their time is spent building my (our?) business, and my (our?) success rides partly on "our" ability to work cohesively, respectfully, happily and professionally together. I've read management books, "Let My People Go Surfing", "How Full Is Your Bucket", "Mindset- The New Psychology of Success" ...and others, but this feels different, I'm now "responsible" for her "job" and liable for "our" failures. As a former employee, I've had hopes and expectations for growth, experience, stability, satisfaction, fairness, happiness...after all, I spend the bulk of my day working. I've had office "jobs" for years, and have seen how employees work, and talk about their boss...etc... I don't want that!! So what can I do for my (this?) staff that will meet these basic human needs? Bring plants into the office? Stop to eat lunch together? Acknowledge/compliment them daily? Understand their personality type and manage to their personality? (From "The Mastery of Management") Wow, wait a minute....I just had a relevation...I actually DO know something about working with employees...I can do this!

I had the good fortune of working for a company that was big into "personal development". Most employers don't take time for that. (Note to self!) I've seen so many companies and organizations facing wrongful termination claims lately...most are avoidable and preventable by following "The Golden Rule", or by following the good advice in the books I've listed. Having an insurance broker/HR consultant/Legal team who can provide coverage/direction/advice on tougher issues is really valuable. (Note to Reader, call me!) I have a great network of such folks, and along that line, I'm going to send a link to a friends' webinar "Avoiding Litigation in the Workplace". This webinar tell us all what to do and what NOT to do, to have a positive work environment. We can all benefit from healthy work environments. (It's on August 5th, so hang tight for that announcement!)

Until then, Work hard, play hard (it's summer!), be kind, be fair, be responsible.