Code of practice - latest update Dec 2011


A Code of Practice

Working Draft Version 4 for Comment


1. This version reflects the view of the meeting on 22 November 2011 to move to a much more direct and focussed style of presentation.

2. The L77 Appendix 2 (qualification matrices) is still a separate file at present (available on the community).

3. The document will go through edit and design processes before publication. These steps will address the general flow of the document and use of language so no particular consideration is given to this at this time; typography will be checked at the design stage.

4. A number of members have suggested the use of boxes or similar to emphasise examples or important summary points. This will form part of the editing and design process and is not considered further at this stage.


Status 1
Introduction 1
Who is this guidance for? 1
Background 1
What is required? 1
Glossary of Terms 1
Appendix 1 - Membership of the Working Group 1
Appendix 2 – Example Self-assessment Framework for Providers 1
Appendix 3 - List of NGB and other accreditation schemes 1
Appendix 4 - Technical competence – qualification matrices 1


This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive.

Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and Safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice. [NB – this is standard wording in HSE publications]

The Health and Safety Executive and a working group of representatives from the adventurous activities industry and other interested parties prepared Safety Management in Adventurous Activities jointly. Details of the membership of the working group are in Appendix 1.


Adventurous activities are a part of outdoor education, development training, tourism and expeditions.

People are generally very good at managing the risks of everyday life but there are occasions when we trust to others to manage risks to our safety. There is a balance between helping others to identify and manage risks and seeking to protect them from significant harm. This guidance is a sensible and proportionate approach to managing safety in adventurous activity provision.

People benefit from challenging, exciting and stimulating activities. For young people especially, the challenges inherent in adventurous activities helps develop vital life skills such as team working and self-reliance. Importantly, these activities help enhance an appreciation of the reality of the world - a world not free of risk but one where risk is ever present whether at work, at home or at leisure.

By understanding and following this guidance:

• Providers can be reassured they are doing enough to meet their legal obligations; and
• Participants can be reassured that risks to their safety are being properly managed; and
• Providers, participants, parents of those aged under 18 years and other stakeholders can see that there is a balance between safety and the benefits of activities.

Who is this guidance for?

It is mainly for providers of adventurous activities but also helps participants and others make informed judgements about a provider’s safety management.

How can a provider show they are following this Code?

There are different ways a provider can demonstrate they are following the Code;

• They can make a self-assessment. A self-assessment framework is provided at Appendix 2; or,
• They can chose to join an inspection and accreditation scheme run by one of the National Governing Bodies of sport; or,
• They can join a wider inspection and accreditation scheme. A list of organisations offering accreditation is in Appendix 3.

Providers are free to choose the way in which they demonstrate they are following the code.

There are several third-party schemes which look to provide further reassurance of good standards for both providers and participants. It is a matter for individual groups or employers of those organising activity visits to decide whether to seek this reassurance


Every year many, many people take part in adventure activities, whether as part of education or for leisure. The vast majority of these take place safely; however, incidents do very occasionally happen despite those involved taking reasonable care. Although there are a number of fatalities related to adventurous activities every year most of these occur during private leisure activities such as hill walking or water sport. The overall risk of death or serious injury is very low and is about the same as we all face in everyday life.

Although the risk is low, when something does go wrong and an incident occurs, particularly involving a young person, there is public concern. Sometimes, this concern is justified - on occasions safety standards have fallen below what is expected and society expects action against those responsible. On other occasions, an accident simply happens and no one is to blame.

This can create a risk-averse climate where risk is something to avoid or eliminate at all costs. This is not right and can lead to a loss of opportunities. This code sets out the main considerations when managing safety in adventurous activity provision.

It makes clear that:

• The focus should be on the significant risks; and
• Sensible precautions should be identified and implemented.

Those managing or providing activities should consider:

• Their duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1947 and other relevant safety regulations; and
• Any inadvertent negative impact that control measures may have. For example, measures to control a minor risk may be targeted and proportionate in isolation, but not be appropriate if they significantly reduce the opportunities for individuals to develop a fit and healthy life style and an understanding of risk and consequence in a real life setting.

This guidance supports the provision of, and participation in, adventurous activities by all.

What is required?


There are five key parts to managing safety;

• Your safety policy;
• Your plans;
• Your people;
• Implementing your controls and arrangements;
• Monitoring and reviewing your performance.

Your safety policy

Legal Requirement - You must have a safety policy (HSW s2)

Explanation - Your safety policy should state what you do to manage the significant risks associated with your activities. It should show your staff and others, that you have identified and assessed the significant hazards and risks and you manage them appropriately. It should show that you deploy competent people, with equipment that is fit for purpose and using techniques applicable to the chosen environment and activity. It should show how you implement your arrangements and monitor their effectiveness. Everyone, not just the provider or leader, even minors, has a role to play by acting responsibly and by paying attention to their own and other’s safety. Your policy will only be effective if you get your staff and others as appropriate, involved.

It is useful to think about four ‘Cs’:

• Competence – recruitment, induction, training and validation for particular tasks and activities, monitoring staff in the field, training and experience and accessing external advice as needed;
• Control – deploying the right instructors to the right activities, allocating responsibilities, supervision and keeping people focused, motivated and committed;
• Co-operation – between individuals, groups, and managers (programme managers, training managers, senior managers); and
• Communication – with staff and others whether spoken, written or visible.

Your plans
Risk Assessment

Legal Requirement - You must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of your employees and to people who may be affected by your work activities to identify the control measures you need to take to comply with your duties (Ref: MHSWR Reg3)

Explanation - Your risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient, nothing more and nothing less. For adventurous activities there is no need to do a risk assessment that involves tables and matrices or long and complex wording. Simple statements and conclusions about whether a risk is acceptable or unacceptable is enough. If a risk is acceptable, say so and implement your controls. If the risk is unacceptable, consider what you can do differently to make the risk acceptable. You need to assess the foreseeable significant risks, do not consider insignificant or trivial risks. The aim is to ensure the activity is as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible.

The law does not require you to eliminate every risk. You need to do what is reasonably practicable. In adventurous activities, an element of risk is tolerable for the benefits it brings as long as people are not exposed to unacceptable risks of death or permanently disabling injury. In most cases straightforward and commonsense, control measures are all you need. [Insert link to HSE risk perception site]

One approach is generic, specific and dynamic:

• Generic risks are common to the activity wherever, however and whoever you do it with. Normally written down;
• Specific risks are specific to a particular site, weather conditions and way of operating or to a particular participant group. NGB or similar generic training may not cover these risks. Commonly written down;
• Dynamic assessment is something that a competent instructor does all the time. They are looking out for changes in the environment, equipment or participant difficulties and react to these to ensure that a changing situation is under control. Not written down but reflect any learning points the written assessments for the benefit of others.

Control measures should be proportionate to your organisation and the activities offered. They may be very straightforward if you are self-employed and combine the roles of provider, safety adviser and instructor in one, perhaps little more than an aide memoire or checklist. If you are a large organisation with several activity centres and many seasonal or inexperienced staff then you will need more comprehensive and formal arrangements. If all your staff are highly qualified and very experienced you may not require a very formal system but will still need a record of arrangements and precautions.

The existence of a risk assessment never saved anyone. It is acting on the findings of the risk assessment by managing the risks that matters. Control measures must be based on a sound knowledge of the hazards, the risks and accepted good practice. Managing risks and ensuring safety needs competent people.
Health and Safety Arrangements

Legal requirement – you must make and implement your arrangements (MHSWR reg 5)

Explanation – Only by implementing your controls will your efforts on safety work and are effective.

Instructor/participant ratios – Specify the maximum number of participants you will accept per instructor and any arrangements you have to vary the number in the light of differing conditions or the capabilities or needs of participants. Instructor/participant ratios should be consistent with the risks, the environment, the ages, abilities and competence of the participants and the experience and competence of the instructor. Remember, adults accompanying young people may be participants too.

You may identify a need for one or more assistants for the group instructor. Any assistants should be under the direction of the group instructor and be competent to carry out their delegated responsibilities. Consider the status and role of a trainee instructor within the group when identifying ratios.

Role of participants - It is good practice to encourage all participants to be aware of the need to manage their own safety. Where older or more experienced participants are allowed to take a higher level of responsibility or a leadership role - for example helming a yacht or belaying a partner - the same approach applies so that responsibilities are defined, arrangements are understood, and limits explained. You should have suitable monitoring arrangements for peer led or remotely supervised activities so that you can intervene if necessary. Authorising and supervising participant-led activity may require a higher level of competence and experience than would be acceptable for a group accompanied by an instructor.

Site - You should have arrangements for defining an operating area for each activity session, appropriate to the level of ability of the group, such as an identifiable area of water, a particular crag or the start, intermediate and finish points of a journey.

Equipment – Ensure sufficient and appropriate personal and other safety or technical equipment is available and used and that it is fit for purpose and kept in good order. Where applicable, it should meet an appropriate national, European or international standard, for example, UIAA standards are an appropriate standard for climbing equipment. Brief and train the participants on the correct use of any personal safety equipment and check they have understood it.

Maintenance – Check and maintain equipment and keep suitable records. Consider the manufacturer’s recommendations. A competent person should identify and, if appropriate, withdraw and dispose of equipment that is not safe or inappropriate to use. These maintenance arrangements will normally satisfy the requirements for inspection and maintenance under provisions such as the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER).

Your people
Competent advice

Legal requirement – you must have assistance from a competent person (MHSWR reg7)

Explanation - A range of people can advise and assist on safety matters. These may be centre managers, instructors, technical advisors or other members of staff. You must decide if this knowledge is sufficient or whether you need specialist advice on some or all matters. You may need specialist input to help with a thorough assessment of the condition of a ropes course, whereas day to day maintenance and checking may well be something you can do yourself. Larger organisations are likely to need people with general health and safety management skills and knowledge as well as those with activity knowledge. See appendix 4 for details of who is suitable to give specialist advice. The most important consideration however, is that those who provide advice, from whatever source, are competent to do so.
Competent instructors and leaders

Legal requirement – providers must have competent leaders or instructors in place (ref HSW s2 & 3, MHSWR reg5)

Explanation - The safety of participants their own or under peer leadership is down to their own experience, knowledge, competence and judgement. Where these are limited, then the experience, knowledge, competence and judgement of you and your staff becomes more important.

Appendix 4 identifies appropriate qualifications for instructors and their trainers or assessors. Where an instructor holds the relevant NGB award or a signed statement of competence from someone with the experience and qualifications to asses that award, they can be considered to have appropriate technical skills.

Ensuring you have competent people in place requires suitable arrangements for recruitment, induction, training (as appropriate), validation, deployment and ongoing development, assessment and management of staff. This provides reassurance that leaders are working within their proven competence.

Demonstrating competence may involve externally awarded qualifications, local validations, in-house training, experience or a combination of these. Someone who has the experience to be an assessor for the appropriate NGB, where one exists, should do the assessment of in-house training. Technical advisors should be actively involved in in-house training and assessment and not just oversee it. In-house training may provide the required level of competence but reassurance here comes from having full, open and transparent statements of instruction and assessment that include a clear syllabus, and details of the assessor. In-house training is not automatically transferrable to other providers or locations.

Finally, for example, the training and assessment of staff to lead rock climbing needs to be done by someone with the expertise to do that.

Experience is also important. Someone who holds the right technical qualification but has little practical experience may not be competent to lead. On the other hand, someone with extensive experience but without a relevant qualification may be competent lead.

The level of qualification and experience should be appropriate to the activity and the circumstances - high-hazard locations and carrying out the activity at night for example will require a high level of competence and experience. Working in a well-controlled and limited site will not need such a high level of competence.

Some qualifications, experience and competences may be transferable between activities. For example, a caving qualification may be quite appropriate for activities like gorge walking. A kayaking qualification can be suitable for supervising some open canoe sessions. Some activities may require competences that a single qualification cannot cover - providers of pony trekking may have to show their instructors are competent to deal with risks arising from being in rugged and remote country as well as those from the use of horses.

Instructor training and induction should be relevant to the findings of your risk assessment. Simply requiring instructors to read these documents is unlikely to be sufficient. Induction and training needs to prepare staff to deal with specific groups and venues.

Implementing your controls and arrangements
Emergency arrangements

Legal requirement – you must have arrangements to deal with emergencies (MHSWR reg. 8 & 9)

Explanation – You must consider your operations when making emergency arrangements, including first aid provision. Most NGB or other leadership qualifications require the holder to have a current first-aid certificate for the qualification to be valid. Where groups are unaccompanied in the field, at least one member of each group should be trained in emergency procedures and carry appropriate equipment.

You should have criteria for abandoning or modifying activities to ensure the well-being of participants and their withdrawal to safety in the event of, for example, bad or deteriorating conditions or changes in the group’s circumstances. You should maintain written procedures for accidents and emergencies.

Your emergency arrangements activities should not rely solely on mobile telephones, radios or other devices to call for assistance unless the operating area and foreseeable deviations from it are free of blind spots or that these are identified. Where they are used, they should be in good working order and protected from loss or damage. Where activities take place on the sea or some large inland waters, a VHF radio may be the most appropriate means of communication in an emergency – you will have to comply with other legal provisions relating to the use of VHF radios.

Monitoring and reviewing your performance
Measuring your performance

Legal requirement – you must monitor your safety arrangements (MHSWR reg 5)

Explanation - You need to monitor performance. You need to know what it is, what it should be, whether there is any difference – and why. Actively measuring and monitoring performance takes time but acts as an early warning system for emerging problems and so is generally time well spent.

Reactive monitoring can be useful too to identify mistakes or near misses and allow lessons to be learnt. You should review your operating procedures regularly and if an accident or incident occurs which suggests your procedures are not right. Incident records might show accident trends or clusters, which may prompt a review.

Accident recording and reporting

Legal requirement – you must report certain incidents and accidents (RIDDOR 95 reg 3)

Explanation – You must report certain incidents and accidents. An accident or dangerous occurrence should always prompt a review of the incident and the risk assessment together with determining whether further action is necessary to prevent recurrences. It is good safety management practice to record and investigate near-miss incidents as these can provide valuable information and so help prevent an actual accident. You can report online [link]

Glossary of Terms

Adventurous Activity – for the purposes of this code, this is an activity done for sport, recreation, learning or development and not for necessity, with participants who are not otherwise able to undertake the activity safely without support or supervision. An adventurous activity will generally have one or more of the following attributes:
• It is assessed to have a perceptible risk of injury to the individuals involved from immersion in water, falling, contact with heavy or moving equipment used in the activity, contact with falling or fast moving rock, debris or snow, exposure to extreme environmental conditions or as a consequence of injury sustained during the activity which is exacerbated by remoteness;
• It involves the use of specialist equipment or requires specialist knowledge or skills to be done safely;
• It may be carried out indoors or outdoors and may use either natural features or man-made structures.

This code applies to those who provide* support and supervision for people who are not able to undertake the activity independently.

Participant – a person of any age participating in an adventurous activity.

Employee – someone employed, whether full time, part time or on a one-off or freelance basis to perform work for a provider in connection with the delivery of an adventure activity. This would include trainee or voluntary staff even if not paid or subject to a contract of employment.

Instructor – a generic term for an instructor/leader and assistants

Participant – someone of any age who is taking part in adventurous activities

Provider – a person subject to the general duties (S2 – 4) under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure the safety of others during adventurous activities. Generally, private members clubs and voluntary associations who offer adventurous activities to their members will not be subject to the Act, although they may find the principles in this Code useful.

Hazard – something with the potential to cause harm, for example being at height or immersion in water.

Risk – the likelihood, high or low, of harm being caused by the hazard.

Appendix 1 - Membership of the Working Group


We gratefully acknowledge the help of the Working Group and all those who contributed to the guidance. Group members were:

Randall Williams - EOC
Barry Edmonson – Abernethy Trust
Peter Thompson – Skills Active
Dave Faulconbridge - OEAP
Kevyn Burns – Skills Active
Andy Beveridge - SAPOE
Andy Robinson - IOL
Martin Hudson/Paul Kenwright - PGL
Sarah Lyons - NUT
Chris Gosling – Scottish Government
Anthony Jordan – Welsh assembly Government
Mike McClure – Sport Northern Ireland
John Lawrence - LGR
Alex Minajew - YET
Martin Elliott - DfE
David Butler - NCPTA
John Cousins - MLTUK
Amanda van Santen - RYA
Clare McNicholas - HSE
Gavin Howat - HSE
Richard Broughton – HSE

Put in sector grouping so everyone can who they were representing
Appendix 2 – Example Self-assessment Framework for Providers

Providers of adventure activities who wish assess how their practice maps to the requirements of [title] may find this outline framework helpful. You are free to use any format you wish as long as it is clear to the reader what you do. You should use clear and unambiguous language.

This self-assessment does not deal with matters out with the scope of [title] such as food safety, insurance or child protection. Clients may require separate information on these topics.

Notes to help you complete the framework are in the footnotes.

Our Details

Name of centre:


Contact details: (phone, web etc)
Competed by:

About Us

About Our Arrangements for Safety

Our People

Our Risk Management

First Aid and Emergency Arrangements

How we monitor what we are doing

Our equipment

Other Accreditations


I declare that the information above is accurate.

Signed: Date:

Appendix 3 - List of NGB and other accreditation schemes

AHOEC Gold Standard

Appendix 4 - Technical competence – qualification matrices

NB – this appendix is not finalised and working group members have been asked to consider Appendix 2 of L77 as the basis