According to Jason Zeck, the chief compliance, risk and sustainable practices officer at UCLA, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to liability is keeping proactive risk management front and center with students and employees alike.
“Everyone plays a role in a successful strategic risk management plan,” said Zeck. “From promotional and marketing materials, to waivers and signs, to equipment, to adequate supervision, a successful plan begins well before the participant arrives at the recreation center. Encouraging staff to use their risk management lens throughout the process is at times challenging.”
To overcome this challenge, Zeck has made risk management at UCLA a part of the culture. It promotes and supports an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach, meaning everyone works together to strategically identify and manage risk. This is because risk management cannot fall on just one person, realistically. “Continually reinforcing that everyone plays an important role in the risk management process has allowed us to consistently manage risk and ensure a safe environment for all,” he said.
Part of this approach includes searching for high-risk areas that can often be overlooked. Zeck referenced outside camps that utilize or rent your space, or who allow minors access to your facilities.
In this situation, Zeck said it’s key to ask questions such as, “Does the same type of planning and coordination occur to adequately address the safety of minors? Are there policies that require adequate and constant supervision of minors, even if it’s not recreation staff? Are the minors separate from the rest of your audience? Is the facility staff prepared to respond if there was a report of a missing child?”
According to Zeck, if the answer to any of these questions is no, there may be a level of exposure jeopardizing your institution’s reputational risk. “You may view the likelihood of a critical incident involving a minor as low, however, consider the impact of a critical incident involving a minor as severe,” he said.
Although risk such as this can never be totally eliminated, creating a culture of risk management can help. “Since risk is inherent to our business, managing risk needs to remain front and center with staff,” said Zeck. “Specific training sessions such as reviewing emergency action plans and planning for an active shooter are important, however, discussing risk issues at regularly scheduled staff meetings is equally important.”
Have an incident reporting process. “Doing so provides a formal mechanism for staff to report what it is going on within the facility. Within UCLA Recreation, I am the designated individual who reviews all reports and who facilitates follow-up as needed. For critical incidents such as cardiac arrest or death within a facility, hazing by one of your club sports, or a significant automobile accident with a van on a camping trip, do you have a process in place to first report and respond to the incident?”
Documentation. “Making sure that you have proper documentation in place is important, and document retention is equally important. Does your recreation program have a centralized storage location for documentation? Is documentation completed electronically accessible and does it conform to your university’s document retention schedule? As with responding to critical incidents, knowing and understanding the university’s document retention schedule is important.”
Know your staff. “When conducting reference checks, documenting who you spoke with and what they said is good idea. Verifying certifications and other prerequisites is equally as important. Once an employee is working, regular feedback and evaluation is important.”