Sam Fowlkes
ACA Safety and Rescue Committee Chair
347 Paddlers Trail
347 Paddlers Trail
Sylva, NC  28779
T. 828 586-6563
F. 828 586-9649
6 Points of Risk Mgt
Risk Managment Primer

Risk Management Concerns
Building a Fortress of Protection For ACA Instructors
It behooves instructors to understand the legal environment in which we operate. This environment is very dynamic; we must be adaptable to its changing conditions.
If you are the target of a lawsuit the attorney for the plaintiff will likely try to build a case for negligence by making numerous allegations. The six most common and significant are listed below in order of importance and prevalence.
1. Failure to “warn and inform”- managing this most important issue is a science unto itself. You should cover this thoroughly by – having a waiver or release written to specifically cover the activity’s specific risks and hazards in clear terms. This should be imparted with “time to consider” for the participant. A verbal discussion of the “sport specific” risks and the “frequency thereof” should ensue. It behooves you to ask for questions and ascertain the level of appreciation of risks. The “challenge and participation by choice” option must be discussed and given so forced participation is not an issue.
2. Failure to give proper instructions- be advised of the importance of your instructions reflecting the current accepted industry standard. You should give appropriate instructions as to what you expect of the participants to minimize exposure to the outlined inherent risk. Comments like “do you understand the instructions, any questions?” Statements like this can only serve to build a solid foundation of appropriate risk management.
3.   Instructor/ guide error- guide and instructor training, written records and a recognized certification that is the current accepted “standard of care”. Documented guide training and instructor certifications hold a lot of weight. The legal system values experience as the most signicant attribute of proper training. Past and expired certifications are seen as relevant to your level of training. Being currently certified keeps you abreast of changing standards.
4.  Wrong place, wrong time- document weather, water levels and hazard knowledge.
5.  Equipment failure- the legal system requires properly maintained appropriate gear for the activity. Experience with the industry standards and documentation of prior usage is key.
6.  Rescue was unduly long and exhaustive causing pain and suffering- have a written evacuation plan and procedures in place. Documentation and pre-planning is key.

You can build a solid case if you address these issues properly.
Perform as a “reasonable and prudent” person would with your level of training or position of responsibility. Know the currently accepted “standard of care” by taking the proper training and instruction. “Get it in writing” and maintain your records of the above. ACA sets the standard for paddlesport instruction.
The bottom line is prevention. Having the training, knowledge and experience gives you the judgment to recognize when a situation is developing and the tools to take preventative action.

Adapted by Sam Fowlkes from a Risk Management Seminar given by Will Leverette at the 2004 Whitewater Symposium.

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