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.