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Gymnastics Risk Management & Consultation

Risk management has always been a key issue for the gymnastics industry. However, risk management is now possibly the most important issue facing our industry. Demonstrating good risk management practices has been proven to reduce the number and severity of gymnastics related injuries and may assist in reducing the number of negligence claims made against the sport professionals.

All of us deal constantly with a variety of potential risks on a daily basis. Just by getting into the car to drive somewhere we face the possibility of injury to ourselves or others, and financial loss if we break the law speeding to our destination or if we damage our car. Somehow, among these and other risks, we manage to continue with our lives. Risk is not something we even want to eliminate, risk makes life exciting. Risk is not something we can avoid completely, but it is something we can manage. Hazards on the other hand must be eliminated in order to reduce the possibility of catastrophic injury.

Participants involved in gymnastics activities cannot be expected to accept injuries as part of their chosen pastime, and individuals and organizations providing these opportunities must take action to prevent things going wrong.

There is an enormous amount of information available on safety, risk management, legal and insurance issues, and the task of developing a risk management plan can seem daunting. Many individuals and organizations choose to ignore reality and hope it is an issue they will never have to deal with. Unfortunately ignorance is not an excuse and this position could prove costly in the long term. Something as simple as failing to warn the participant of a risk of injury, even though the risk might be small, could be a breach of your legal duty and place your organization at risk of a negligence claim.

It is clear that all gymnastics organizations are subject to potential liabilities simply as a result of what they do. A gymnastics safety and risk management audit aims to give you the basic information to help you understand what you need to do to manage risk and why. By being aware of what those liabilities are and adopting the risk management practices and obtaining appropriate insurance, organizations can go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of those liabilities occurring.

The audit has been designed to demystify the process of risk management and was developed on the premise that within gymnastics organizations there is limited expertise in the area of risk management. This resource will not provide you with a solution to every possible situation, but it will, in simple terms, explain risk management and assist your organization to develop a process to identify, assess and manage risk.

The audit report is meant to be a detailed "how to" manual, but also provides an introductory guide with references to other resources which you can access depending upon your needs. There is no single solution that works for all organizations. Every gymnastics organization will need to develop a customized solution that meets its particular needs and circumstances. This audit should help direct you on your way, to assist in determining the process you need to follow to identify, assess and manage risk.

A risk is any exposure to potential loss or damage that can impact on your organization. Risk management is just systematically identifying threats (risks) to your organization and developing ways to minimize those occurring. You are already practicing risk management to some degree, but it is important that you formalize what you do.

Risk management involves developing a system of policies, systems and procedures. You can never eliminate all risks, but you can manage them appropriately. Risk management needs to become a part of the culture of your organization, rather than being seen as something separate. Even if the process used is informal, it should be documented and based on a known system.

Risks can generally be grouped under four headings:

1.       Physical - injury or damage to persons or property

2.       Legal - breaching legal obligations

3.       Moral / Ethical - harm to your organization’s reputation

4.       Financial - loss of assets of the organization

Some examples of risks include:

o        Insufficient qualification of staff

o        Equipment failure

o        Attracting too many participants for an event

o        Discrimination or harassment

o        Injury to a staff member, spectator or participant

o        Negative publicity

o        Damage to the environment

o        Loss of property


There are three main stages in risk management namely: identification, assessment and controls. The gymnastics safety and risk management audit will assist you to work through these stages by following a simple ten step process to developing a risk management plan.

In summary, the ten steps to develop a risk management plan are:

1.       Make a commitment as an organization to risk management.

2.       Identify all hazards and possible risks.

3.       Assess the level of each risk.

4.       Decide to avoid or accept and manage each risk.

5.       Determine management options for all unacceptable risks.

6.       Formalize your risk management action plan.

7.       Implement your management options.

8.       Communicate information to everyone affected.

9.       Review your risk management action plan on a regular basis.

10.   Identify any new risks and update your plan.

Getting started on your audit

To assist organizations in identifying risks rather than wait for a disaster, progressive organizations are now shifting to a culture of continuous improvement and using safety audits as a tool to guide their direction in risk management.

A safety and risk management audit is a systematic and critical examination of the key risks and safety areas in an organization. On-site inspections and interviews are used as diagnostic tools which will disclose an organization’s strengths, weaknesses and main areas of vulnerability to risk.

Audits are useful tools as a starting point to identify risks. However they are not definitive and each organization will have issues that are specific to them that must be considered. An example of the sorts questions you might find in an audit include:

o        Does your Board or staff meet regularly with all decisions and actions documented?

o        Is the annual report or meeting minutes circulated to all members?

o        Are all financial transactions accurately recorded?

o        Does the organization have the following insurance coverage - public liability, professional indemnity and director's and officer's liability?

o        Are your rules, by-laws and practices non-discriminatory?

o        Do you have a clear plan for the future that describes what you want to do and how you are going to do it?

o        Have you considered the health and safety of everyone in the organization and do you meet OSHA regulations?

o        Do all coaches/instructors/leaders have appropriate, current accreditation?

o        Does staff receive regular ongoing training to keep up to date on gymnastics standards?

o        Do you conduct risk assessments on all programs, activities and events?

o        Is there a clear procedure for investigating and reporting accidents/injuries?

How did you do? Could you answer YES for each of these? If not there may some issues here you need to address. But there may also be others. To arrange for your safety and risk management audit and access more comprehensive tools on how to assess these risks and implement a plan to treat them, contact us at or call 650.888.9020.

Fees and Rates

$1,500 retainer required - all work billed at $395 per hour. A minimum non-refundable retainer of $1,500 is required for all initial consulting service agreements. Independent contractor agreement is available upon request. Solution analysis projects (business program evaluation and consultation) and risk management projects (inspections, safety and risk management audits) are bid and billed based on the projectís scope. Charges are $395 per hour for all research, consultation, and deposition / legal discovery reading, report writing, depositions, trial testimony, and travel time. Travel time may be negotiated, but meals and lodging are billed. Monthly invoice is due upon receipt. For depositions or trial testimony, a three-hour minimum is required at the hourly rate. Services (including depositions or trial testimony) can be retained at a daily rate of $2,000 per day for non-profit organizations and $3,000 for all other clients, plus expenses.

The following represent a brief sampling of the types of services has provided over the years.

o        Assisted a national youth sport association in developing a comprehensive nationwide coach’s education program.

o        Provided expert testimony in a number of gymnastics injury lawsuits – some on behalf of the plaintiff and others representing the defense.

o        Assisted a national youth sport association in conducting a comprehensive nationwide sport parent education program.

o        Completed a comprehensive playground inspection audit for a major University child care operation, which determined that their existing playground presented a significant liability risk.

o        Assisted several youth sport organizations in developing appropriate responses to deal with ADA concerns, employee misconduct, and coaching education.

o        Conducted a large scale analysis on the entire gymnastics operation for a major California city that resulted in that City re-emphasizing their recreational gymnastics program and increasing enrollment and revenues substantially.

o        Developed comprehensive employee manuals, incident investigation and reporting procedures, and risk management guidelines for several major park and recreation departments.

o        Undertaken comprehensive school audits examining general safety, fire code, and risk management concerns.

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