Stay Safe

People are attracted to camp for great reasons… To meet people, make friends, participate in activities that they might not have available at home, and to feel more confident about meeting new challenges.

Related Article: Risk Management Resource List

Camp directors work hard to make the pursuit of these experiences possible for their campers. It is a formidable task with many responsibilities to provide not only the exciting activities but to meet each camper’s basic needs of food, shelter, medical services and a safe environment.

One of the worst nightmares for a camp director is the thought of a camper suffering a painful injury that could lead to a permanent disability or even death.

The emotional suffering that comes with these situations is terrible enough. However, the suffering doesn’t end there. There can be financial consequences, especially if negligence can be demonstrated, which can literally put a camp out of business.

Ounce of Prevention

A sound risk management plan can go a long way to prevent injuries at camp and provide a camp director the peace of mind that everything possible is being done to minimize risks for campers and for the camp business.

Given the meteoric rise in medical costs and the prevailing public perception that anyone who suffers an injury during an organized activity should seek compensation for damages, a solid risk management plan for a camp business is vital.

Before we discuss how to develop a risk management plan, it is important to acknowledge that there are injuries that can occur at camp that a sound risk management plan cannot always prevent.

However, a lawsuit that is brought against a camp business must demonstrate the following four elements in order for the defendant to be found guilty of negligence:

• A duty — In the case of a camp, a staff member was responsible to provide proper supervision to a camper

• A breach of duty — A staff member who has neglected his/her responsibility to properly supervise a camper

• A breach that caused the injury was a direct result of the lack of supervision that the staff member owes the camper

• Damages due to the injury, which can be the medical costs to treat the injury, monetary awards for pain and suffering, legal costs and any lost wages.

Also, a sound risk management plan must account for eliminating negligent risk (the risk that should have been eliminated by a prudent professional).

A negligent risk can be indirectly associated with ignoring the issue of foreseeability, or, a reasonable anticipation of the possible results of the action or inaction.

If a pre-existing condition has the potential to impact the health and safety of the camp group and the camp staff chooses to operate without eliminating or reducing the risk of the pre-existing condition, the principle of foreseeability has been violated.

An effective risk management plan should have established guidelines for:

• Selecting/training of staff members. A job description that outlines staff member duties and responsibilities should be part of the camp documentation. This document must be prepared so that the potential employee understands his/her role within the organization. In turn, a supervisor or camp director will know what to expect in terms of their performance, and not have expectations that exceed the job description specific to the role for what the employee was hired for. Included in this description should be the specific credentials that apply to their responsibilities, which should include CPR/First Aid Certification, and certifications in specialty areas where they will be teaching, such as in-line skating, weight training and water safety.

• Emergency Plan. To insure maximum efficiency, the camp director must have an emergency response system (EMS) in place that successfully integrates the key players — camp counselors, camp security, and the local police/fire department and/or 911 system (see Camp Business July/August, page 25).

• Participant screening/documentation for healthy participation in camp activities. Each camper must provide proof of a recent physical signed by a physician, as well as documentation of prescription drug usage, over the counter drug usage, and pre-existing conditions that could lead to catastrophic injuries or illnesses, such as food or insect allergies and asthma conditions. This information must be protected in the interest of privacy and accessible in the case of an emergency.

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