We don’t want to sound like a broken leg … ur, ankle… no, record! … but let’s talk risk management again.
Remember that all Chapters MUST keep a signed medical release form on file for all Chapter members. You should really have 2 copies for each member — one kept on file with Chapter records, and one to travel with the Chapter on all functions. This is especially important for sporting events and other physical activities where injury risk increases.
Be sure to get a new release signed for each calendar year. Copies of the PA standard release form are downloadable here (.pdf format) or may be obtained from the DeMolay office. Be sure to have them on file and accessible in case of an emergency.
BUT DON’T THINK THIS PROTECTS YOU!
Release forms provide some protection, but we cannot rely on them alone. Unless there is some intentional act committed by an adult leader that is detrimental to our youth, our greatest risk is that some form of negligence, attributable to DeMolay, will cause harm to a participant. If such negligence occurs, then DeMolay may be held responsible, even with a release in hand. A release may afford little protection, other than as a reminder to parents that they have allowed their child to participate, in their absence, under supervision they have delegated to a volunteer. Our best practice is also our best defense – that of creating a culture of thorough care for the participants in DeMolay programs. Talking about care does nothing – providing it speaks more than the words on hundreds of releases.
Here are some other important risk management reminders for all DeMolay activities:
- Don’t approve high-risk activities for your Chapter. “My parents will let me” isn’t a solution. An activity that a youth might participate in with friends or family is not necessarily a good risk for DeMolay
- Get medical attention for the injured. Even if you have emergency medical training, its always safest to have an injury professionally evaluated. Don’t transport a seriously ill or injured participant yourself … if in doubt, call 911, and let them instruct you.
- Always complete an incident report. A standard report form is available from PA DeMolay. A written record of what happened and what action was taken is essential. Take names and contact information for witnesses, including Advisors and other DeMolays present.
- Call PA DeMolay as soon as possible. We need to be aware of all incidents, and action taken. Copies of incident reports should be mailed or faxed to the PA DeMolay office. We will then inform DeMolay International. PA DeMolay will obtain legal counsel when necessary.
- NEVER sign a “hold harmless” agreement. Some activity sites include statements in their contracts or rental agreements to the effect that the contracting organization (in this case, your Chapter, and by extension, DeMolay in general) will hold them legally harmless in case of accident or injury. DO NOT AGREE TO SIGN SUCH A STATEMENT. When an individual signs a “hold harmless” agreement, they speak for themselves only. When we sign one for our Chapter, we take an unreasonable liability upon ourselves. If the organization won’t let you participate without such an agreement, then don’t participate. It’s not worth the risk.
- In case of an accident or injury, do not say “DeMolay will take care of everything.” Our insurance coverage does not “take care of everything,” in every circumstance, nor can we afford to. Your statement could be taken as a statement of financial responsibility on behalf of our organization, and is not correct or appropriate.
- Follow-up with the victim and the family. Cards, calls and visits show that you care. All liability issues aside, this is just the right thing to do
And, as always, let’s be careful out there!