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Easy and Effective Common Sense Risk Management

Managing risk for your agency doesn’t always require sophisticated or expensive systems or extra staff resources. Sometimes a few simple, low cost, common sense procedures can be implemented that protect your organization from liability.

Enjoying one of the city’s parks with my family, I noticed that one of the swing seats (the flexible, sling type) appeared to have some cracks in it. The following Monday when I returned to city hall I asked one of our maintenance people to inspect it and see if it should be replaced. The employee reported that not only the swing I mentioned but several others were in poor condition, even though to a casual observer they looked safe. In one, the metal band that reinforced the rubber seat had cracked nearly all the way through! I immediately authorized the replacement of all the flexible swing seats and an inspection and replacement of all the “s” hooks at the top of the chains that took most of the wear. I also ordered that all the swings be inspected every Monday morning and that the inspection results be noted on a simple log. I also authorized the replacement of the flexible swing seats every year prior to the heavy summer use, whether they appeared to need it or not. I decided that new seats were cheaper than a potential injury.

The staff faithfully followed this documented inspection, maintenance, and replacement routine for several years.

A few years later, an adult using one of the swings was injured when it broke and the person fell to the ground. The city’s liability insurer denied the claim for damages, and the city was subsequently sued. In its defense, the city’s motion to have the suit dismissed cited, among other things, the regular, documented inspections and maintenance of the swing sets over the previous several years. The city’s motion was granted, undoubtedly saving the taxpayers much more than the cost of inspecting and replacing a few swing seats every year.

Most risk management can be summarized as good common sense but it can be made even more effective with a few simple steps to document your actions:

  • Record what maintenance steps are followed and when
  • Record what remedial actions are taken and when
  • Take pictures (the digital record will document when it was taken).

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Lynn Nordby

About Lynn Nordby

Lynn’s public sector career included over 30 years in local government management and experience in virtually all municipal services including the operations of a wide variety of municipal utilities. He is now retired.