Accidents happen. Checklists save lives.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs … – Rudyard Kipling

By Austin Wilkerson

I have come across some bizarre accidents in my time as an attorney. There was the 17 car pile-up where one vehicle went airborne and landed upside-down on top of a tractor trailer, the drunk driver who launched from a hill into the second story of a client’s home, and the tractor trailer that was hauling bees (use your imagination). I have seen the icy slip and falls, the ladder falls, the dog bites, and the flooded offices. I could go on.

Accidents happen. As your organization grows, accidents will become more prevalent. Of course, there are countless preventative measures you can and should take to prevent accidents. But, when the inevitable accident occurs, is your organization ready to respond?

We advise clients frequently about policies and procedures, and this is another area where appropriate policies and procedures are critical. Use of appropriate forms, checklists, and procedures will help prevent accidents, and when used in response to an accident, protect your organization from liability, including potential lawsuits, and maybe even save lives.

In his New York Times best seller The Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande makes an incredibly compelling case for the use and implementation of checklists. From airline pilots to surgeons, the use of checklists improves results and helps ensure safety. Dr. Gawande’s main point is simple: no matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes. Your organization’s activities may not engender the same level of risk as leaving a medical instrument inside a patient or crashing an airplane, but your potential liability in the wake of an accident could be very costly. And, depending on the nature of your activities, personal safety may be a very valid concern.

In addition to helping prevent accidents and protecting your organization from liability in the case of an accident, using checklists and forms and following documented procedures also helps your employees and volunteers stay calm in an emergency. In the case of any accident, the simple act of completing a form, writing down a narrative of what occurred, or taking photos to document the accident can make all the difference months or even years later when a claim is made and memories have faded.

Is your organization doing all you can to prevent and respond appropriately to accidents? Contact us now for a review of your current practices or for help developing new policies and procedures.

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