Special events rely heavily upon the use of volunteers. Many of the essential tasks of organizing, setting up and staging an event are completed by volunteers. Without volunteers most events could not happen or happen at the same level. Volunteers bring energy and capability, and are quick to embrace the essential work of staging an event.
There are four elements to assure successful use of volunteers. These are Waiver, Procedures, and Training with Supervision or WPTS.
Even though participation waivers may not always hold up under legal challenge, especially involving minors, they are still essential. At times this may simply be a deterrent to potential claims, and at times a well-crafted waiver will prevent meritorious claims from going forward. If possible the waiver should also include an acknowledgement that the volunteer participant is responsible for their own emergency medical insurance.
Volunteers need clear direction and an understanding of where they can best contribute their time. They may be willing to make personal sacrifices for the success of the event. However, similar to paid employees the functions that will be performed by volunteers should be clearly defined. Volunteers need to have the tasks broken down into easily understood steps and know their limitations.
If volunteers use vehicles, they should have the same licenses, credentials and training that paid drivers would have for the same function. They should also be subject to the same MVR review and acceptable driver criteria.
The event requires advance walk through and practices to help volunteers understand their place and function in the event. Unlike employment training that is designed to enhance professional skill, the volunteer training is fundamental, to emphasis how their role will fit within the overall event, and the limits to their role. They need to know where to refer questions or problems, to either paid staff or volunteer supervisors.
The training should also tie back to the procedures that have been put in place for the event. If volunteers or employees go contrary to established policy, and it results in injury and a claim, then the entity may be less defensible or potentially could have greater liability.
The training also should include crucial areas, such as child protection and sexual harassment prevention. Even though there are many wonderful volunteers that donate time and resources to events, occasionally volunteers will infiltrate events to take advantage of those that are vulnerable. Even though the volunteers appear to be very helpful they may use events for their own nefarious purposes. In circumstances where volunteers have exposure to children or those that are vulnerable, they should also have background checks.
Event supervisors often are paid staff, that have more extensive supervisory training and the ability to deal with questions or complexity that may arise from the event. The volunteers occasionally may also be used in a supervisory role, and when this occurs they should receive more extensive supervisory training.
Supervisors should also understand the greater vision of the event, and the goals of the event, so that this can be conveyed to the volunteers.
Most events require contractors to perform a host of tasks to set up and conduct an event. This includes everything from barriers for crowd control, to electrical connections or the servicing of portable toilets.
The contractors should be aware of and follow the risk management and safety plan. The contractor may also have their own individual safety standards and training within their professional group or industry.
All contractors should also agree to indemnity those hosting or allowing the event, for their potential acts of negligence. The insurance language required of contractors should be set to the latest standards, and reviewed on a regular basis. The limits that are provided should be commensurate with the service or activity that will be performed for the event.
Since there are many different activities completed by contractors, a suspense system should be set to assure that certificates of insurance and reviewed prior to the work or before the completion of the event. These certificates should also be maintained until well after the event, to give recourse if a late reported claim arises.
Our events may be great or small, but they may have the same potential for loss due to a failure or other problem from a contract service provider.
The goal of effective risk management is to make those that host or promote events are financially responsible for the risks that may naturally occur from an event. A detailed review of the contracts should include requirements for indemnification, as well as insurance requirements related to third party liability.
Indemnification is only as good as the strength of the assets of the individual or company that is agreeing to indemnify. In the absence of strong financial resources that would support indemnification, the best recourse is to protect against the legal liability that may arise with insurance.
Essential to an event is a liability policy that will cover the potential claims that may arise from the event. There are a number of specific modifications that can be made to the insurance policies, to assure that they will be responsive .Other considerations may include the use of auto which requires an auto liability policy or employees must be insured by workers compensation.
The required liability insurance limits should be based upon the type of hazards that will be present, the size and proximity of the crowd and if high hazard displays will be part of the event, such as fireworks. The prevailing limits carried by the local entity, which bears similar risk should also be reviewed, to set a fair and equitable limit requirement.
Special events by their very nature invite large groups into designated areas, which require that their basic needs be met.
Based upon the estimated crowd, portable toilets or rest rooms should be conveniently located. The same is true with refuse containers. They not only need to be conveniently located, but also regularly serviced to make sure that they are not over taxed or filled beyond capacity.
After the event is over the site of the event should be restored to the same condition as was evident, prior to the event. Similar to good hiking and camping protocols, if things are brought in by the planner or spectators, then they should be taken out again. The positive influence of a well-run event lingers well after, but the debris or other reminders should be long gone as the site of the event is restored to the original condition.
All events require designated areas where it is safe to watch or participate in the event. One of the major concerns of outdoor event planners is how to keep individuals in the safe areas, and not overrun areas that may not be as safe or may violate the personal property of others.
For example, most parades that go through communities have floats or others in the parade throw candy or other prizes into the crowd. This may cause young children to move under barriers and seek a better spot to catch the candy, and thus move them into an unsafe place where they could be hurt or injured. A simple solution is to reduce the throwing distance by not permitting those on floats or other displays to throw candy or prizes. Instead if they would like to give candy or prizes to children or others in the crowd, require them to have trailing individuals walk along the safe zone and hand or toss the candy or prizes to those in the crowd.
Every event will have similar potential for the spectators to be invited or unwittingly move into unsafe areas. Careful thought and consideration should be given to assure that those that are involved in the event, either as participants or spectators should stay in safe areas. If fireworks are displayed, the discharge should stop if the crowd moves into the drop zone of the fireworks.
All events require careful planning on how participants and spectators will get into the event, and when it is over how they will leave. Consideration should be given to the amount of required parking, the distance that will need to be traveled from parking areas to the event. Is it necessary to offer shuttle services or a drop zone for spectators or participants?
Most individuals will also look for the shortest way to the event, even if they face greater personal risk crossing busy streets or jay walking. Traffic control and warning devises are essential to assure safe ingress.
When an event is over, many will not be as careful about following predesignated routes. Temporary barriers or control devices may be disregarded. Many events require participation of local law enforcement to assure traffic control and that the designated routes are followed upon completion of the event.
Law enforcement is also an excellent deterrence to potential civil disobedience that may occur after major concerts or sporting events.
Effective risk management planning starts with identification of the hazards that may be inherit to the event. Hazard identification is a careful assessment of the known risks and potential risks that may arise from the activities’ of the event.
For example if the event is a live stage performance at an outdoor location, the hazards may arise from the use of temporary structures, such as stages and related equipment, There may also be hazards related to the use of power, lighting systems or sound equipment. Are spectators or participants allowed to cross areas with electrical lines or guide wires? Is the sound system adequate for the venue or will spectators need to crowd too closely to the stage to hear the performance? How strong is the support for these systems, especially if a wind or other weather event arises?
These details need to be identified and addressed in the risk management and safety plan for the event. At times the various stakeholders involved in the event may need to meet and discuss specific planning details and the potential hazards that may be evident. This enriches the process through the collective resources of many stakeholders.
When events are allowed under a permit process it is necessary to complete a thorough review of the event, including the use of the local facilities and potentially the contribution of resources.
The permit process applies in a universal or non-discriminatory way, so that all potential sponsors that meet the essential criteria are equally welcome. If the community contributes resources then it should be handled as equitably as possible..
For example, if a long standing parade is held each year to commemorate the founding of a community, and the local municipality contributes resources like police and traffic control, then other groups may also be given consideration. If the butterfly club would like a parade, they should be given the same consideration as other groups that may have a greater ethnic or religious heritage in the community.
When new or fresh events are planned they require more careful analysis and review, including contingency planning if things do not go as planned.
There have been a number of events held over the years, where the local community was left with damaged facilities or broken promises of promoters. If a promoter represents greater financial risk or risk to facilities, greater security or a performance bond may be required.
The first step in evaluating special events is to consider the ultimate responsible party, and make sure that party has an effective risk management plan in place to address the risks associated with the events.
It is very common for event planners to desire the “wow” factor in events, to assure interest and success with these events. Yet the desire for something new or innovative cannot compromise the safety of those who participate in the events. Every year there are events that result in tragedy, which may have been avoided if life safety was the highest priority and if a detailed risk management plan had been put into place for the event.
A tragic example happened a few years ago when a participant was seriously njured during a demolition derby at a county fair. The county did not require equipment pre-check when mechanized demonstrations occurred. If a pre-check had been required, then a loose strut on one of the trucks in the derby would have been discovered, avoiding serious injury.
Make life safety the top priority at your special events.
Brian Child with Olympus Insurance, and Jared Smith with the City of West Jordan recently presented at the Utah League of Cities and Towns 109th Annual Conference on – Avoiding Liabilities from Contracted Work. A copy of their slides are included below.