Find danger before it finds you.

Protect your organization from liability caused by unsafe conditions on your property.

by Debra Reynolds

Caution. Icy.The holiday season is here. For many organizations, this means more people on your property. Pageants, toy drives, food drives, shelter from the cold – these are just a few of the many reasons nonprofit organizations may see increased activity, now and throughout the year. To ensure the safety of visitors and protect against liability, organizations must take the necessary steps to prevent accidents. Failure to do so could cause significant liability, siphoning already limited funds intended for the good work of your organization.

Property owners owe a duty of care to individuals and groups visiting their organization. The duty varies, depending on the status of the visitor, but organizations should seek to protect all visitors on their property from harm. This can be accomplished by drafting, implementing, and enforcing policies and procedures for inspecting the property regularly and taking appropriate action to remedy any condition that poses a risk of harm. Your organization’s policies should include a reporting system for employees to identify potential hazards and ensure they are addressed.

In addition to ensuring your organization’s property is safe for visitors, the organization should add other layers of liability protection. These may include release and indemnity agreements for outside groups using the property and liability waiver agreements for visitors participating in activities on the property. When well drafted, such agreements help insulate the organization from liability; however, they do not eliminate the organization’s duty to inspect the property and make it safe for visitors.

Nonprofit organizations face the same potential liability as for-profits. Rather than ignore this risk of liability, organizations must acknowledge and address it. In the words of Winston Churchill, “One ought never to turn ones back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.” Carefully crafted and implemented policies, procedures, and agreements can help your organization meet danger head-on and reduce your risk of liability.

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