Jim Moss is a practicing attorney specializing in outdoor recreation law; he has the informative website Recreation Law , on which this article was originally published.
Risk Management Plans always sound good; but, they often turn out to be a lot of work! On top of that, many plans turn out to be so cumbersome that they do not work in actual practice. Jim offers suggestions as to how to create a risk management plan that actually works in real life; suggestions that are practical and effective.
By James H. Moss, J.D.
Everyone tells you, you must have a Risk Management Plan. One of the first things a plaintiff is going to look at in a lawsuit is a Risk Management plan. So we have a document that is a two-edged sword to help and possibly hurt your business. What do you do?
Risk management plans or Emergency Action Plans, Emergency Response Plans, or many others such as names, are put together as procedures to follow when you have a problem. People expect you to have a Risk Management plan and people expect you to follow your Risk Management plan. Failing to follow your Risk Management plan can create liability for your business.
The first problem is, during an emergency, you don’t have time to run get the book and see what to do next.
A Risk Management Plan must:
- Be Understood
- Not come back to haunt you.
Your front line employees will not know or remember a complicated Risk Management plan. They need to either be able to reference or respond with very few steps. Your front-line employees are also going to be the face of your Risk Management plan because they will be the ones to discover the problem and start to implement the plan.
Risk Management plans developed and understood by management are job security, not litigation prevention programs.
A Risk Management plan is not a management-level plan. It is a plan for the people who will be using it. Those employees making the phone calls, dealing with the problems and helping the victims are the people who must know and be able to execute the plan.
The next major issue I find with Risk Management plans is, the plan is written to cover every possible scenario. If you start today when you sell your business or retire you still won’t be done writing down everything that can go wrong with your business. Once you get that type of plan done, the emergency will be over or your business will no longer exist by the time you find the solution or response in your plan.
Write a so you can enjoy your work,
not an anchor that plan that works drags you down each day.
As soon as you start writing your Risk Management plan you need to start editing and updating your plan.
As an example: You write a plan based on employees who have been with you for a while, you trust and can respond to about everything the correct way. A couple of years later, you have new employees who have no idea what to do. Your Risk Management plan has to be written to work with both types of employees.
State and Federal regulations are going to change; your insurance is going to change, and you are going to change. Consequently, your Risk Management plan must be flexible enough to work, without being re-written, to deal with changes, If not you’ll never leave your office, you’ll just be constantly dealing with changes to the plan, let alone ever dealing with an emergency.
When has “Business as Usual”
actually been true in your business?
- The biggest failure of a Risk Management plan is they are too complicated and consequently, only the person who wrote the plan can follow it. Your plan must work for your employees; Not your risk manager, your lawyer or your insurance and never just for your industry.
- Write your plan to be used, not to be a way to use your imagination about what could possibly go wrong.
- You cannot write a plan that covers every scenario. If you could it would occupy one entire wall of your office in three Ring Binders.
And even then you plan will not cover everything. So why waste the time, energy and money in trying to write a plan that covers everything. You can’t. Inevitably, it is not going to cover the problem that you are having. It just seems to work that way.
I’ve yet to see a Risk Management plan that was written to
cover the emergency that actually occurred.
You need a plan that:
- Can be remembered and executed by all your employees.
- Each employee’s part of the plan can be easily carried with them for reference.
- The employee has access to and the information necessary to communicate the need for the plan and their responsibilities under the plan.
- The plan works for every incident possible.
- Your plan for the front-line employees should fit on a 3X5 card on one side’
- The other side of the plan has phone numbers of the people that employee is supposed to contact to activate the plan (or radio channels).
- The only person who may have more of a plan than on a 3X5 card is going to be the person at the top to work on follow up.
- Basically, an employee’s plan is going to be stop the bleeding, stabilize, call 911, and call the supervisor.
- Your plan must be something that can be executed without referring to anything for more than 30 seconds.
Your Risk Management plan must be written by your company, which means every person in the company, understood by every person and executable by everyone. Anything more is just going to be ignored when EMS, USFS or any other responding agency comes on the scene but used against you in court.
I love Risk Management plans written by management. They train employees in the plan, with the employees wondering if the people writing the plan have ever seen the work they do. Risk management plans need to be dirty because the people who have to follow the plans should be writing them, and they don’t have an office to keep the plan clean.
Risk Management Plans only work if the people
executing the Plan Know How to Work.
Quit writing and re-writing your plan and start training your employees on what to do if something does not go as planned.
Rate Your Plan
Score 1 Point for Each Correct Answer
- You have a Risk Management Plan.
- Employees know there is a Risk Management Plan.
- The Employees know the Risk Management Plan.
- Employees know their position & responsibility in the Risk Management Plan.
- Employees know the responsibilities of the person above and below them in the Risk Management Plan.
- The Employees carry their responsibilities in the Risk Management Plan with them.
- The Employees carry with them all information they need to communicate if there is a problem to the necessary people in the Risk Management Plan.
- The Risk Management Plan has been updated in the past 12 months.
- The Employees have been trained in the Risk Management Plan in the past 12 months.
- A mock disaster has been held using the Risk Management Plan.
- You have identified a team to deal with the human issues of an incident after the incident is under control.
- Senior Managers have gone through the same training and drills as the employees.
- You have not had to use the Risk Management Plan.
Grading your plan!
0-1 Point: Lock the doors and go home now.
2-5 Points: Prepare to lose a lawsuit
6-9 Points Good, but you can do better.
10-12 Points Not bad! Impressive
13 Points Excellent
Your score is important; however, it may not be the biggest issue you face you’re your Risk Management plan. The biggest problem facing outdoor recreation and adventure travel businesses is not the issue of having a plan. It is creating a plan that is workable, able to be used by employees and one that will NOT haunt you later.
Risk Management is education, not paperwork!
Photo Credit: Thanks to Sean Biehle via Flickr.