Developing a Campus Recreation Risk Management Committee

May 12, 2011

Creating shared responsibility in managing risk

Patricia Malarney
Associate Director of Programming
Campus Recreation
Florida State University

Does your Campus Recreation or Rec Sports Department have a Risk Management Committee? Does this committee meet on a regular basis each semester or convene only when there is an ‘incident’ in your program area or facility? Is risk management the responsibility of one individual or is it clearly stated in the job descriptions for each position in your department? Are your emergency action procedures or protocols consistent throughout the department? Do you have travel guidelines for students and staff? Does your facility have an emergency action plan and is this plan checked or practiced routinely?

These were only some of the concerns our Campus Recreation Department at Florida State University addressed as it developed a new internal Campus Recreation Risk Management Committee in 2004. This committee consisted of full time professional staff members who represented all program and facility areas in CR. Much of the momentum for the development of this committee evolved from a campus wide initiative within the Division of Student Affairs (DSA), and led by our own Director of Campus Recreation. The initial goal of the DSA risk management task force was to review risk in our programs and facilities and to continue to provide a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff. The Campus Recreation committee members felt that our department already had a ‘leg up’ on the division’s goal/initiative due to the experience levels of many of our committee members in our inherent high risk program areas such as Aquatics, Rec Sports, Outdoor Adventure and Fitness. Our initial charge in 2004 included:

  1. Assess the exposure of risk in all areas of Campus Recreation.
  2. Develop action plans within each program area and overall as a department. Include not just accidents but natural disasters and crisis situations.
  3. Develop a departmental Risk Management Manual.
  4. Discuss procedures for implementing timelines for updating policy, procedures and protocols for our risk management plan.
  5. Establish responsibilities and procedures for reporting and communicating to upper level management.

By setting up these goals at the beginning, the committee developed quickly into a task oriented functioning group. Although lengthy discussions developed with each topic area, the bottom line was that this committee was productive as it reviewed, developed and implemented functional policies and procedures that would help reduce or eliminate our risks or help us manage our high risk areas more effectively and according to the standards of the industry.

Coinciding with the development of the risk management committee, our Department had a new Director (although not new to FSU or Campus Recreation) and new, energetic professional staff who had many questions regarding risk and liability. To accomplish our tasks we solicited resources within our University, including the legal staff and requested shared information from other University colleagues either through listservs or blogs on various risk management topic areas.

In our first year we developed incident and accident charting for the entire department based on a newly revised consistent accident/incident reporting form. Previously each department had their own accident forms that would be used for their own specific program area. It was imperative that these forms be consistent and inclusive for the entire Department. By formulating this consistent department wide form Campus Recreation could then chart the risk areas by program area and subsequently develop staff training and preventative strategies to help in reducing risk or to train staff how to manage risk more effectively.

Emergency action procedures were reviewed and revised as we developed consistent response protocols for all program areas. The committee endorsed the policy that all student and professional staff have current certifications in ‘CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer’, as well as basic First Aid. Although this would be a labor intensive endeavor each semester, we felt strongly that this criterion needed to be met since many of our staff have dual responsibilities in more than one program area and continuity and consistency in emergency response was essential.

Through regular monthly and bi-monthly meetings in our first two years, each program area reviewed, revised and implemented job descriptions to include language that clarified our risk management responsibilities. Subsequent years found our committee developing, evaluating, revising, and implementing many areas of risk management and risk prevention that included: development of a department wide risk management manual, revised emergency action plans, facility safety inspection check sheets, MRSA protocols, travel protocols and procedures for handling distressed students on campus.

The beauty of this committee is that some years found us a bit more active than others, depending on societal trends. What we realized was that most of what we had developed or were in the process of developing in Campus Recreation would turn out to be a model for other departments in the Division of Student Affairs.

One of the training programs which emerged from the Risk Management Committee’s initiatives is an accompanying article on ‘Audit 911’ developed by our full time professional staff at our Leach Student Recreation Center. This program was an extension from what typical Aquatic programs have accomplished for years in their training programs. However this was expanded to include all staff located in one building at our Student Rec Center.

The Risk Management Committee is continuously evolving and addressing new issues and risks. Each year we must be prepared for new and challenging opportunities. Risk management and prevention is a shared responsibility that must be embraced by all staff. Our committee keeps safety on our minds and allows us to reduce risk to our constituents.

If you would like further information regarding our committee work please contact the author at

For more information on our Online Courses,
contact us now!