Safety on Youth Trips | Adventure Alternative Expeditions

Safety on youth trips

Currently there is no binding legislation for companies offering adventure activities outside the United Kingdom. It is, to a large extent, a voluntary issue of trust between the provider and the consumer. This is because health and safety standards in the UK cannot be adhered to in a foreign country where a) those standards are below that of the UK, and b) where foreign country laws apply. 

However there is a British Standard 8848 which applies to overseas expeditions, field and school trips, and there is a rigorous independent examination carried out by members of the Young Explorers Trust. Currently this is the only proper and formal accreditation for expedition safety in the UK. We have been assessed and independently audited to the satisfaction of the Standard.

We also abide by the relevant rulings from the European Directive relating to tour operators, and the UK Package Travel Regulation regarding liability on holidays and our responsibility to all clients, plus we abide by the relevant sections of the Children and Families Act 2014, in particular part 5 relating to the welfare of children.

UK Outdoor Education 

At Adventure Alternative we want to show that we are taking the issues of safety and professionalism seriously. Below we have identified the relevant clauses from the UK Outdoor Education Legislation that are pertinent to the youth expeditions that we offer. We make the commitment to abide by those principles and to our best abilities in a developing country. In the text below we have taken quoted excerpts of relevant legislation to our trips to give you the definitive guidance in italics, and beneath we have added our comments to show how our commitment relates to it.

THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

The person 'in loco parentis' stands in the place of the parent and owes a duty of care to the child equal to the duty of care owed by a reasonable parent; that is a careful parent.

Every AA staff member is fully briefed about his and her level of accountability to all youth members of our expeditions, and they have all had more than 5 years experience of working with young people and have all had CRB checks.

The legislation introduces a licensing scheme, the aim of which is 'to give assurance that good safety management practice is being followed so that young people can continue to have opportunities to experience exciting and stimulating activities outdoors while not being exposed to avoidable risks of death and disabling injury.'

Adventure Alternative adheres to the principles contained within the licensing scheme, but because the licensing scheme only exists for commercial providers operating within the UK, we take this as a central pillar of our corporate promise to schools and parents. We then adjust it according to the specific needs and requirements of being abroad. 

WHO DOESN'T NEED A LICENCE?

Most schools and voluntary youth groups will not need a licence. This is because they will either be exempt, or be providing activities which are not covered by the Regulations......Although, in consequence, the great majority of adventurous activities will be provided entirely outside the regime introduced by this legislation, the maintenance of high standards of safety and competence in adventurous activities remains of paramount importance.

Adventure Alternative considers it our duty to conform to all the correct elements of leadership and instruction that we consider necessary to run our youth trips abroad, and to operate the highest standards of competence and responsibility.

THE REGULATIONS APPLY TO THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES:

Caving (underground exploration in natural caves and mines including potholing, cave diving and mine exploration); climbing (climbing, traversing, abseiling and scrambling activities except on purpose-designed climbing walls or abseiling towers); ...trekking (walking, running, pony trekking, mountain biking, off-piste skiing and related activities when done in moor or mountain country which is remote ie. over 30 minutes travelling time from the nearest road or refuge);

Our trips include trekking so therefore we would apply the regulation to that activity being done outside the UK. 

WHAT ARE THE LICENSING STANDARDS?

In particular, the licensing authority will look for:

Well implemented systems of risk assessment;

Yes, AA has risk assessments which are tried and tested and monitored annually.

Properly documented safety management procedures;

Yes, we have a safety management system which is available for reading and shows our internal hierarchy for dealing with an incident.

So far as the competence(s) that will be expected or required from instructors are concerned, the Guidance (but not the Regulations) includes a number of detailed tabulations of what would be regarded as appropriate. However, the Guidance also emphasizes that:

'experience is also important; a person who holds the right technical qualification but has little practical experience may not be competent to advise' and also that 'providers may demonstrate the competence of their instructors by externally awarded qualifications, in-house training, experience or any combination of these...the licensing authority should accept whichever means a provider chooses, so long as it is satisfied that instructor competence has been demonstrated.'

We employ qualified and/or very experienced staff for all of our trips which involve trekking or climbing. We train our local guides in first aid and mountain travel, and our western staff have received both first aid training and Mountain Leader training. Our staff have all had in excess of ten years experience managing groups in-country and are involved in both the organisation and implementation of trips.