When I volunteered for this position some of the first questions I was asked were about our insurance coverage. In attempting to answer the various questions that have come up I had to do a tremendous amount of research about what our actual coverage was and how that related to our usage. Unfortunately I found out that our existing insurance was not meeting our needs so with approval of the board I proceeded in exploring other options.
We now have a new policy through Erie Insurance. The following paragraphs outline what our coverage now is and how to ensure we are acting within its bounds to protect the NYSDB organization and ourselves from liability.
Our policy provides protection to members in various ways:
- from the public during promotional blacksmithing demonstrations,
- from non-member attendees during events,
- and coverage of the facilities we use for our meetings.
Any NYSDB demonstration will provide the demonstrating member with liability protection provided they meet the following guidelines:
- all demonstrations are to be performed entirely by active NYSDB members only.
- any demonstration will be considered an approved NYSDB event when a post is placed on the website announcing the event date, time and other pertinent details.
- any demonstrations are to be free. While the host organization may choose to make a donation directly to the NYSDB organization or to reimburse the demonstrating members for travel, tickets, materials, etc. neither the NYSDB or the demonstrating members will be paid.
- during our demonstrations there will be no non-member hands on participation. If you are not a member of the NYSBD you will only observe, no touching hot metal or ‘in use’ tools.
- during the demonstration information about the NYSDB will be available to the observers, either copies of the newsletters or the NYSDSB Trifold Brochure.
- members may sell their own goods at the host’s discretion provided they make it clear these are not NYSDB products but from the demonstrator’s personal forge.
- any demonstrations are to be short term positions.
- our members will provide separation from the active work area by use of ropes or some other visual barrier to prevent observers from getting too close to the fire and hot iron.
- when possible our demonstrators will obtain a certificate of insurance from the host organization to clarify order of liability.
Next, our insurance provides protection to members from any non-member audience or observers at our meeting events. This coverage includes both non-potential and potential members.
- Non-potentials are usually local groups, i.e. 4H members or boy scouts, who would like to have a demonstration for their members but do not have adequate facilities to host the NYSDB for a special event. In these instances the same guidelines as listed above for demonstrations are followed where applicable for the regional meeting locations.
- A potential member is someone who has discovered us in some fashion, i.e., website announcement, demonstration, or word of mouth and has interest in becoming a member. These potentials are either already a blacksmith or would like to become one. Like any other non-members, potentials are not covered by our insurance to participate in any hands-on activities. Here is where the major change to our practices occurs. Historically, we have allowed potential members to participate in a supervised environment. Where a senior member of the group would oversee and assist in the creation of a basic project to ensure their interest and understanding of blacksmithing and provide them with a take home memento. This has seemed to increase the likelihood that the potential would become a full member. We must understand that this greatly increases our liability risk and has introduced loop holes into our coverage. The cost to insure non-members while providing liability coverage to the NYSDB is extremely expensive and even our old insurance policy did not cover this!
- Therefore, NYSDB policy now states that we have a member simply demonstrate a basic project with plenty of engaged conversation and explanation then give the product to the potential as a memento but not allow any hands on activity until the potentials become full NYSDB members. A potential becomes a member by paying their dues and submitting an application.
We must require both members and potentials to sign and read the NYSDB release form prior to observation. Potentials are not charged a meeting fee for their attendance as observers.
Finally, the NYSDB does not own any land or buildings so all our meetings are held in member donated spaces. Each region operates a bit differently but usually an active member will allow access to their personal property and facilities for the group to use. Our liability policy will protect the owner from any NYSDB caused incidents on their premises.
Some of the activities where coverage could be used include: Regional Monthly Meetings, any active forging events for members, statewide membership All-Hands Meetings, group picnic, demonstrations, as discussed above, and classes or special projects for our membership. Outside of these events, those that would require additional insurance include classes for non-members, adjunct programs, and conferences.
Everyone is encouraged to read the policy themselves, , , , , .