After running across an enlightening article recently about liability lawsuits against swim schools, it seemed the right time to mention this on our blog.
It doesn’t pay to operate under the “nothing bad will ever happen to me” theory. The consequences of continuing along unprotected can be devastating. A lawsuit – if successful – can take more than your business – it can take your personal assets, too. It can veritably destroy everything you’ve worked and saved for and dreamed about having.
And you’re not alone in this thinking if you’re one of the folks rolling in ostrich mode with your head in the sand about the reality of liability and lawsuit situations. Every year, many schools are filed against and lose. Many survive and even ward off suits, but many who could have prevented loss, are “surprised” by what has happened to them – just because they ignored protecting themselves.
Yes, every year, aquatics facilities are filed against. For those who are doing a good job, these suits don’t stick but for those who aren’t doing such a good job the suits often stick. This can happen even with experienced managers and owners, but is more often true in facilities with newer managers who aren’t yet versed in the full extent of what liability risks in an aquatics facility are all about and what it takes to mitigate the risks. There are injuries, water illnesses, sex abuse, and drowning to worry about – and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
When a suit is filed, the investigation around it can cause every corner of your facility to be scrutinized. It’s best (especially under the worst circumstances) to be able to provide proper documentation and procedures to show that you operate within all regulations and compliance measures. This gives you the best chance for surviving a suit. Those who try to rely on memory or information that is hastily pieced together aren’t so lucky.
There are four areas of your business that you must be fastidious about to sufficiently protect your business and your personal assets in the event that a lawsuit it filed against you/your facility: Hiring, Facility, Water Quality Management, and Water Safety.
Just think, for instance, how exposed you are through the people you hire. They are on the front lines instead of you and they must be as focused on policies, procedures, compliance and safety – and the best interest of your business and your students – as you are. It’s up to you to make sure that your front line people are as passionate – and as beyond reproach – as you are.
Obviously, your facility MUST be safe and secure and appropriate for the services your provide. Daily inspections are critical. NEVER assume that you’re 100% – prove it every day. Don’t think that you can DIY everything. You’re most likely NOT a pool equipment expert. Since the proper operation of this equipment is critical to your compliance, you should make sure that those taking care of it are experts and that they do their jobs.
Your Water Quality
This area must be operated with a best practices attitude. You want to take a no-less-than-the-best water quality stance when your students and your employees spend as much time as they do in your water. You never want to fail this inspection.
Your Water Safety
It only takes a second for devastating consequences to befall your business – and it can be compounded by liability if you allow safety to be lax, if you allow your rules to bend or your policies to soften. Just don’t let it happen. You’ll truly regret it. Safety training is part of this. Instructors and coaches MUST have lifeguard certification and it must be current. Failure to be in compliance with this WILL hurt (probably immediately kill) your chances of surviving a lawsuit.
Making sure that you are compliant in each of these areas is absolutely crucial to the health of your business and in protecting your personal assets. It is best for mitigating your risk of litigation to adhere to regulations and best practices in all areas. It is also just good business because if you’re doing all of these things right, you’re just about guaranteed to be providing the best experience that your families could ever expect and your business will thrive and grow.
Read the complete article in the Liability section of April 2015’s Aquatics International.
Also confer with your insurance agent and your attorney about your risks and if you’re sufficiently protected and prepared for a worst case scenario.
Source: Aquatics International Magazine