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                                         Risk Out West 

Volunteers Beware 

           You are asked to volunteer, you decide you have some free time, itís for a good cause, so why not. Youíre assigned to be a ring steward and are given an expensive radio. Youíre down at the ring when a gust of wind comes along, a horse spooks, you drop the radio, the horse steps on it and itís destroyed. Who is responsible? You assume itís the showís responsibility. Donít assume you might end up being financially responsible.

          Shows are only required to carry Liability Insurance for 1 million dollars to cover your basic slip and fall.  But, they are not required to carry additional insurance to cover equipment damage, especially at smaller shows. I have compiled a list of questions for you to ask so you are a more informed and protected volunteer.

  • Ask to see their insurance policy if they donít have it available ask what it covers.
  • Do they have job descriptions?
  • What equipment do you need?
  • What do they supply and who is responsible for any damages? MAKE SURE YOU ASK WHO IS RESPONSIBLE!!!!!!!
  • What happens if you have injuries, or there is damage to someoneís personal property, themselves, or their horse. Who is responsible?
  • How many hours are you suppose to work?
  • Is there any training involved and a checklist of proper operation of equipment?
  • If you do have an accident make sure an accident report is filled out?
    • The paramedics need to be called and they need to fill out an accident report.
  • Even if the accident is minor have it documented completely with everyoneís name.
  • If there are witnesses get their statements and names and numbers.
  • Did you know that golf cart you are riding around in probably isnít insured? You want to be clear who is responsible should an accident occur.

There is a Colorado State Statute that says a volunteer is not liable for any act that is not a willful and wanton act, C.R.S.ß13-21-115.5 Volunteer Service Act - Immunity. There is also a state statute that protects Board of Directors in Non-profit organizations, see ______________

Remember this is your organization, you have a right to ask questions and have a right to answers. Donít be intimidated to ask questions, without you there is no organization.  Iím not trying to discourage you from volunteering, but make you aware of the risks and protect yourself from potential liability.  Without volunteers many events would not be possible to put on. But, as one attorney said to me, even though there are statutes and acts out there to protect you, you canít legislate peoplesí morals. Donít get caught up in a moral dilemma, be an educated volunteer.                  

+      As of April 1, 2005 USEF passed a new ruling that stated you must be 16 years or older with a valid drivers license to drive or rent golf cart.

+      The following are some suggestions to remain safe & make sure you are not caught off guard with something that could end up being a costly situation to you:

o       Bits checking Ė shouldnít they have to drop the bridle as in Reining? Ask if the horse bites. Ask if they have a halter at the arena. Be patient, ask rider if can check bit and make sure the rider is in control of their own horse & that they are paying attention to what you are doing and not talking or looking around. Ask them to get down from their horse. Be SAFE. Use a new glove each time, when taking the gloves off turn them inside out.

o       Check the whip length Ė Ask rider to see the whip. Be careful not to swing the whip around. When handing the whip back be careful and just hold it up and wait for the rider to acknowledge you and let the rider take it from you. Ask the Rider the best way to hand it back to make sure that you donít spook the horse. Get the riders attention before handing it back. Always ask the rider the best way for you to measure the whip, remember they know the horse the best.

o       Radios Ė Better to use the Family radios that are not very expensive, if your at a show that uses the big expensive radios, such as Motorola ask how they are insured and who is responsible if something should happen to them while in your care. The Motorola radios run around $300-$400, you donítí want to be in a position to have a horse spook, you drop the radio and the horse steps on it and it breaks then you find out that you are responsible for paying for it. So ask questions about the insurance and who is responsible for the equipment. If the show doesnít have proper insurance, tell them to call Equisure, they insure equipment.

o       Driving  Golf carts Ė Beware Ė USEF New Rule as of April 1, 2005, no one under 16 can drive or rent a cart. You must be 16 and have a valid driver license. If they want you to use a golf cart, Ask who is responsible for damages. Donít assume the show will bear the brunt of the cost of damages and donít assume they have insurance. ASK!!!!  Golf carts can cost $5,000 or more. If something does happen get the serial number that will tell you how old it is. You donít want someone to tell you it is brand new, when really it is 10 years old. 

o       Ask the show if they have job descriptions Ė What equipment you need, What do they supply and who is responsible for any damages. MAKE SURE YOU ASK WHO IS RESPONSIBLE!!!!!!! What happens if you have injuries, or there is damage to someoneís personal property, or worse to someoneís horse, who is responsible.

o       Make sure there is a Checklist of proper operation of equipment & when you use equipment that someone else was responsible for make sure it is operational.

o       Nonprofit Risk Management Center, a great resource center located in Washington, D.C. They provide nonprofits resources to prevent problems.  

 Be an educated volunteer, be careful, ask questions, and most of all make sure you are not responsible for anything that may happen to a piece of equipment while it is in your care. Make sure the show has plenty of insurance and don't be afraid to walk away. The last thing you want is to volunteer your time and end up having to file a claim against your homeowner insurance because the show didn't have the proper insurance. 


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Last modified: 03/04/08