Even a club as safe and secure as Congressional CC can always find value and benefit from extra sets of expert ears, eyes and legs.
It’s a safe bet—literally—that no club is more serious about safety than Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. It’s a mission that stems first from the history and nature of the club, which has included several U.S. Presidents and many other high-profile politicians and business leaders among its membership since its founding in 1924.
The need to be ever-diligent about safety also relates to the massive size and scope of Congressional’s operation, which now encompasses two 18-hole championship golf courses, a 100,000-sq. ft.-plus, recently expanded clubhouse, three new outdoor swimming pools, 3,000 members, 350 employees and over $20 million in annual activity. Then there are the added safety issues and concerns that come whenever Congressional’s grounds are opened to thousands of visitors for major events like the 2011 U.S. Open, which was held there this past June.
Perhaps most of all, though, Congressional’s approach to safety is an outgrowth of the firmly buttoned-down attention to detail that characterizes all aspects of its operation, as directed by Chief Executive Officer/General Manager Michael Leemhuis, M. A. Ed., CCM, PGA Professional, and carried out by what’s recognized as one of industry’s most experienced and accomplished management teams (see “Cornerstones of Leadership at Congressional CC,” C&RB, October 2006).
Taking the same comprehensive approach to safety that marks Congressional’s excellence in all other departments and areas has yielded real and significant benefits, Leemhuis reports. “In an industry environment where the average property has experienced percentage increases in the high teens for employee insurance and other coverage,” he says, “our overall strategy for employee health, wellness and safety in our operations has produced a 7% decrease in premiums. That’s a 78% swing [from the norm].”
Well Worth the Time
With this type of track record and hyper-consciousness for safety issues, you might think the last thing anyone on the Congressional staff would need, or want, to do would be to devote a few hours to a special safety review—especially if it were scheduled to occur just six weeks from when the 2011 U.S. Open was about to begin.
But on an afternoon in late April of this year, members of the Congressional safety team blocked out time to do just that, as part of a loss-control review and “walk-through” arranged by Venture Insurance Programs, the West Chester, Pa. company that provides Congressional’s property and casualty coverage through its Preferred Club Program.
The review began with a meeting in Congressional’s boardroom that included Chief Financial Officer Dean Davidson, who heads Congressional’s management Safety Committee, Project Coordinator Vernon Stricklin, and A.J. Marshall, Director of Safety, Security and Loss Prevention (“to my knowledge, the only such title that exists in the club business,” says Leemhuis).
Patrick Duke and Mary Love, insurance-industry professionals who are Congressional members and serve on the club’s Board-level Insurance Committee, were also in attendance, along with members of the Preferred Club team and other companies, including Chubb and Zurich, that also help to provide Congressional’s coverage.
The review process began with a meeting of roughly one hour, during which participants went over the details of how the Congressional team was covering all of its safety bases, both for ongoing operations and in preparation for the special needs presented by the U.S. Open. The group then took another hour for a thorough walk-through of the Congressional property, during which other team members such as Executive Chef Forest Bell and Director of Green and Grounds Maintenance Mike Giuffre participated, to conduct tours of their particular areas of responsibility and answer questions about training programs and specific safety measures and initiatives within their departments.
Not surprisingly, the two hours largely served to confirm that Congressional had things well under control and that very few, if any, adjustments in their safety approach and program were needed. But that didn’t make it any less important of an exercise for any who were involved.
Michael DeMarco, Executive Vice President of the Preferred Club Program, commends the Congressional team for taking advantage of the opportunity to get on-site risk-management counsel from expert eyes and ears—a service that is always offered as a standard part of any coverage his company provides, but that he says some properties fail to use.
“We can only help if the clients let us,” DeMarco says. “Even for a club like Congressional which follows safety best practices, it is extremely valuable for our carrier partners to understand just how well a client’s operations are managed. These visits are invaluable to our long-term relationships and afford us the opportunity to provide the necessary services to better meet our clients’ needs.”
From Congressional’s standpoint, an important part of being a leader in safety management is recognizing that no mattter how much you may already know about a specific area, you can always learn more. A. J. Marshall says the time spent in April with the insurance experts was valuable and yielded some specific ideas to consider, such as how safety equipment like eye-wash stations might be repositioned in certain parts of the property, or how infrared scanning could be used to confirm the efficiency of electrical systems. “It makes sense to have a new set of eyes look at the things we live with every day,” Marshall says. “It was a very beneficial exercise.”handbook