Looking at Recreation risk through different lenses: Risk Definitions

September 09, 2014

lookingDiscover new ways of looking at recreation ‘risk’!

Over the next few weeks we’ll be discussing the following concepts:

  • Risk Matrix, Risk Map, Risk Assessment, Risk Rating, Risk Management, Residual Risk, Risk Appetite, Risk Tolerance, Risk Aversion, Risk Behaviour; Enterprise Risk

We’ll also be looking at risk from two perspectives:

  • Professional and Personal (and how these interconnect).

Professional Risk

Recreation administrators are constantly challenged by managing risk in their programs and facilities. The challenge begins right from the get-go: do you focus on everything (a nightmare) – or do you adopt a more focused approach e.g. zero-in on the ‘high risk’ areas (this could be programs, facilities, people)?

KISS principle

As an advocate of the KISS principle, my recommended approach is the ‘high risk’ approach – so that you “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

Overlap: professional and personal risk taking behaviours

This is where things get interesting! – and where we first begin to see the overlap with your personal perspective of risk. What is your personal risk tolerance/aversion, and how does this impact your risk-taking as a professional?

Recreation Risk Rating

Let’s start with the professional side of recreation risk and introduce some key concepts to use in helping you assess the risk in your recreation programs, facilities and people.

Go to the article on ‘Recreation Risk Rating’ ( learn about the following risk terms: risk assessment, risk matrix, risk rating, risk map and residual risk. You’ll need this to be able to apply to your own programs

Waivers 101

February 25, 2014

John Wolohan
Professor of Sports Law
Department of Sport Management
Syracuse University

There is perhaps no greater issue in the sport, recreation and health club industries than the use and interpretation of waivers. Considering how important waivers are, and how much they are being used, it is amazing that there is still such a great deal of misunderstanding over their legal value and the protection they can provide. This article attempts to demystify waivers and provide readers with a basic understanding of how they work.

Perhaps, first, and foremost, it is important to note that a waiver is a contract entered into between the user of the recreation or health club services and the service provider. In the contract, the user agrees to relinquish his or her legal right to sue the service provider in the event that the user is injured as a result of the provider’s negligence. In exchange for giving up their legal right to sue the service provider, the service provider agrees to allow the individual to use the recreation and health club’s services and facilities. It is important to note that as a general rule the waiver will only protect the service provider from liability for ordinary negligence and will not protect the service provider or its employees from gross negligence or reckless misconduct.

Second, the legality of a waiver is determined by state, not federal law, and therefore its validity will vary depending upon the state. Therefore, just because a recreation or health club facility uses a waiver legally in one state that does not mean that it will be valid in another state. It should be noted that in at least 43 states, a well-written, properly administered waiver, voluntarily signed by an adult, can be used to protect the recreation or sport business from liability for ordinary negligence by the business or its employees. It should also be noted that in three states: Louisiana; Montana and Virginia all waivers will be void since the courts have found them to violate public policy.
Read more

Event Security Planning

February 25, 2014

The Ball is In Your Court
By Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.

Security planning has recently been highly publicized in relation to the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games in Sochi.  High profile events and those that attract thousands of attendees and participants, such as the Boston Marathon, are potential terrorist targets, because of the media attention that will bring the terrorist’s message to the public.  Your sporting events very likely will not attract millions of television viewers, but that doesn’t mean that security shouldn’t be of prime consideration when you develop you risk management plan.

The first step to evaluating security needs begins with risk assessment.  What possible scenarios can you foresee at your event?  In order to evaluate this, you should look at the history of your organization’s events and considered what problems have occurred at similar events in your region and in other locales.  Have you had problems with fights breaking out in the stands?  Are you concerned about attendees carrying weapons?  Is there a risk of a riot post game?
Read more

Disaster Plan Update

January 15, 2014

The Ball is in Your Court
Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where estimates at this writing are 10,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people misplaced, it is time to consider whether your organization is prepared for a significant weather disaster.

1. Disaster Plan Notebook
In response to the question— “what is your organization’s disaster plan?”— did you pull up a folder on your computer marked, “Disaster Plan”? You’re right, it was a trick question. What you should be doing is looking for that Disaster Plan in a notebook form. Yes, trees will have to be sacrificed so that you can print your plan on paper. Otherwise, the disaster that knocks out your electricity could also take your plan with it.
Read more

Six Risk Control Techniques for Sport and Recreation

January 15, 2014

The Ball Is In Your Court
By Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.

Understanding the basics of risk control techniques is a first step in establishing a risk management program for your organization. The techniques are as follows:
Avoidance means electing to eliminate an activity completely in order to avoid the risk all together. An example of this would be to decide not to have surfing as a high school or university sport due to the high risk of injury or death. However, an organization may not wish to use this risk control technique as it might conflict with its goals. Read more

Electronic Waivers Revisited

January 15, 2014

John Wolohan
Professor of Sports Law
Department of Sport Management
Syracuse University

We have all heard the warnings that waivers are not worth the paper they are printed on, and while it is true that some courts do not like waivers and will void them if possible, in must be noted that in at least 45 states a well-written waiver, signed by an adult, is the most effective tool available to sport and recreation providers and their employees against a negligence lawsuit. With the myth of the effectiveness of waivers still around, it is therefore not surprising that some sport and recreation providers are concerned about the legal impact of online or electronic waivers. For example, if a sport and recreation program requires its’ participants to go online and sign a waiver before being allowed to participate in the event, will it carry the same legal weight as off-line or traditional paper waivers?
The purpose of this article is to try and debunk the myth that online or electronic waivers carry less legal weight than other types of waivers. Read more

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