Ten Ways Organizations Can Reduce Their Risk in 2023

GuideOne Risk Control staff conducts surveys at thousands of policyholder locations each year to help policyholders identify and reduce risk. As a result of these surveys, we often provide recommendations to the policyholder on ways to improve their operations or facility condition with an eye to reducing the likelihood of future issues. In 2022, we tracked more than 4000 recommendations and highlighted a Top Ten list of steps organizations can take to help reduce risk and keep resources focused on their mission.

#10 — Playground protective surfaces

The surface in and around playground equipment can be a major factor in causing injury. A fall onto a shock-absorbing surface is less likely to cause injury than one onto a hard surface. To reduce injuries, the area around playground equipment should have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel1. An alternative is mats or synthetic surfacing made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials. Protective base surfacing should extend at least six feet in all directions from play equipment. We detail more information regarding construction and maintenance of playgrounds in our resource on Playground Safety.

#9 — Water damage

Our Risk Control team found hundreds of locations that exhibited signs of water damage. Water damage in one area can indicate a problem in another such as adjoining structural areas, wall studs and subfloors. Weakened support members, such as floor joists and wall plates, can eventually give way causing major damage. Additionally, the presence of water inside a structure creates conditions that encourage mold and other fungal growth. Mold can not only be hazardous to human health, but can also negatively affect the structure of a building. Policyholder should hire a licensed professional to inspect water damaged areas and make necessary repairs.

#8 — Sexual misconduct and abuse prevention issues

Allegations of abuse and other sexual misconduct are becoming more common due to an increase in public awareness and updates to statutes of limitations in many jurisdictions. While the effects of sexual misconduct can devastate the victim and the victim’s family, the damage can also destroy the trust, credibility and reputation of an organization. Moreover, the legal costs of a lawsuit can ruin an organization financially. At GuideOne, we have collected an array of resources on the topic at our Abuse Prevention Landing Page.

#7 — Defective or missing handrails

Handrails are an important Safety Measures that can Prevent Slips and Falls on Stairs. More than a million people a year seek treatment at a hospital for falls on stairs2. Missing or damaged handrails can contribute to a slip and fall injury. Handrails should be provided on all steps with four or more risers. Best practices and many building codes prescribe handrails 34 to 38 inches high, measured from the nose of the tread. If stairs are more than 44 inches wide, handrails should be provided on each side. If stairs are less than 44 inches wide, a handrail should be provided on one side. If stairs are 88 inches wide or more, install the handrails on both sides with an additional intermediate handrail in the center.

#6 — Life safety

Many of the recommendations our staff wrote focused primarily on obstructed exits, exit signs and emergency lighting. Unobstructed routes of egress exit paths are crucial to help people safely evacuate a building. Our staff found hundreds of locations where exit signs were either not lit or were missing entirely. In addition, many locations stored items in exit hallways or blocked exit doors. While storage space is sometimes hard to come by, storing items in egress routes creates a hazard in case of emergency and adds the potential for negligence claims in lawsuits. We recommend storage only in recognized storage locations.

#5 — Fire extinguisher installation and servicing issues

Our risk representatives found hundreds of instances where extinguishers were not installed correctly, not inspected or were missing entirely. Fire extinguishers are an important part of any fire protection plan. Failure to regularly inspect and service extinguishers could make them ineffective and create additional risk. Fire extinguishers should be inspected and serviced at least annually as required by NFPA code 10. For more detail, please see our resource Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers.

#4 — Roof issues: missing shingles, lack of maintenance

Preventive roof maintenance programs such as regular inspections, repairs and replacement help protect an organization’s buildings from water damage. Unmaintained roofs increase the potential for water damage to the building and contents due to the roof's inability to properly divert water (rain and/or snow and ice melt). To reduce potential water damage, roofs should be inspected regularly and a qualified, licensed roofing contractor should make necessary repairs to the roof and its components. In addition, many roof gutters, valleys and downspouts become blocked with leaves and other debris which increases the potential for water damage to the building. Roof drains along with gutters, valleys and downspouts should be free of obstructions, and downspouts should extend away from the building. In addition, cleaning of these components should be done in the Fall and Spring seasons annually or as necessary.

#3 — Defective or damaged walking surfaces

Properly maintaining a facility’s walking surfaces helps prevent slips and falls. Cracked, pitted or uneven sidewalks and torn, uneven or loose carpeting present serious potential for trips and falls at the organization’s property. Damaged areas should be repaired or replaced to provide a smooth and even walking surface. Repairing damaged walking surfaces reduces the risk for slip/trip and fall accidents and helps to reduce liability losses. The Maintenance of Walking Surfaces is an important part of any organization’s safety plan.

#2 — Lack of Electrical Preventive Maintenance Program

As electrical equipment ages, an increase in failures occurs. Studies show that the failure rate of electrical equipment is three times higher for components that are not part of a scheduled preventive maintenance program compared with those that are inspected and maintained regularly. It is recommended that once every three years, preventive maintenance is conducted on the electrical equipment by a licensed electrical contractor. The electrician should verify that the breakers are tight, clean, cool, and dry3. For additional information please visit our resource The Benefits of an Electrical Preventive Maintenance Program.

#1 — Deferred maintenance issues such as peeling paint & housekeeping

Our team’s most common recommendations in 2022 relate to deferred maintenance. This category includes a number of general housekeeping issues like overgrown shrubs, peeling paint and accumulated trash. Overgrown shrubs create roof hazards and conceal proper lighting. Peeling paint allows moisture intrusion into woodwork, and accumulated trash creates a fire hazard. While each of these issues creates hazards individually, they typically indicate larger issues related to proper maintenance. Lack of upkeep is not only unsightly to those visiting the facility, it also creates an impression for thieves and vandals that the facility is an easy mark. Facilities should be regularly maintained by appropriate personnel to both protect the property and reinforce the idea that the facility is valued and cared for.

In summary, while there will be other issues that impact our policyholders, these ten areas represent common issues that can all be addressed to help identify and reduce risk. GuideOne Insurance understands that risk issues are both a challenge and distraction. Our goal is to help our policyholders keep their resources focused on their mission through proactive maintenance and preparation.




Filed under Nonprofit Religious Organizations Education Small Business
Brian Gleason

Brian Gleason

Senior Risk Manager

Brian Gleason, MBA has spent most of the past 30 years working with and for churches, schools and nonprofits as an employee, consultant and board member. His experience includes insurance, occupational health and safety, human resources issues and emergency management. Prior to his career at GuideOne, Gleason spent 20 years as the risk manager of a university in southern California. He earned his MBA, is a Certified School Risk Manager, and speaks and writes regularly on a variety of topics related to risk management.

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.