Risk Management

By Debbie Sauvé,
Cambrian College Journalism Student

Risk management helps eliminate or minimize the adverse effects of liability through prevention, states Jamie Gougeon of Gougeon Insurance.

According to Gougeon, liability claims generally fall under duty of care and regulatory requirements defined under the Occupiers Liability Act. “When you are in front of a judge defending your liability claim, the first thing that they are going to look at is did you provide everything that you possibly could at the resort to make their stay safe and prevent that loss,” Gougeon said.

Duty of care is showing that you did everything that you could to ensure your guests safety, while regulatory requirements are standard requirements that you must meet. The regulation of chlorination in pools and hot tubs are examples of regulatory requirements. “Regulatory requirements raise that duty of care bar,” Gougeon said. “Essentially, now when you are in front of a judge the first thing that they are going to look at is not the duty of care, but rather did you meet the regulatory requirements.”

Liability claims revolve around accidental losses. Accidental losses include loss of property, loss of income and exposure through liability. Gougeon advises that because accidental losses are a fact of life, outfitters and resorts should consider risk management an essential part of their operation.

There are two processes involved in risk management. The first is the decision process and the second is the management process. The decision process involves identifying the problem and concerns on the property and then analyzing the exposure and alternatives to that problem, he said. You would then look at solutions and monitor the results of your solutions to make sure they are working.

The management process involves planning. “The management process is not unlike any other management process that you would implement on varying other degrees in your business,” Gougeon said. Some of the planning that is involved in this process is planning to look at the risks involved, making an implementation plan and deciding who will be in charge of risk management.

“Risk management is an attitude,” Gougeon said. “It starts with you as owners as resorts, and works down the hierarchy. If you don’t buy into risk management, how do you expect your staff to buy into it?”

According to Gougeon, the important components of the risk management program are emergency planning, practicing your plan with staff, and having an overall risk management plan. Emergency planning includes disaster plans, evacuation plans and fire plans. Gougeon suggests that your business should take proactive steps to have emergency plans in place in the case of fires, storms, and major injuries, for example.

“Every good risk management program starts with an emergency plan,” he said.

In the case on an emergency, some planning that can be done is to conduct interviews or to take pictures. Gougeon advises that digital pictures are not admissible in court, so pictures should always be taken with a standard 35mm camera.

Practicing your plan with staff is an extremely important component, according to Gougeon. “A plan is only good, if everyone knows what to do,” he said.

Overall risk management plans involve preventing risks and documenting incidents. According to Gougeon, documenting incidents allows a business to identify which incidents repeat, so that you can focus on and address that incident. “No documentation means no defence, which means a liability suit that you are not going to win,” he said.

Gougeon also recommends policies and procedures as part of a good risk management plan. Examples of policies and procedures are waivers, log books, training records, general record keeping, company policies and signage. All of these things help to prevent liability. Some liability risk issues include slip and fall, rental equipment, day care or playgrounds, swimming pools or hot tubs, beaches, docks, swim areas, BBQ areas, fire pits, exercise rooms, recreation facilities and animals.

Gougeon suggests that a good way to notice areas that might result in a liability are to have site visits to have someone else take a look. “It’s a value to have a second set of eyes,” he said. According to Gougeon, many liability claims are controllable and can be preventing with a good risk management plan.

“When you remove the risks, you also remove the chance of a liability claim against your business,” Gougeon said. “Consider the cost of doing it, and then consider the cost of not doing it.” 

This article was taken from pages 25 & 26 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, May/June 2003 Issue


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