Are the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) relevant to bushwalking Clubs? What are the benefits of adopting the AAS for bushwalking Clubs? What changes would need to be made to Club organisation to do so? Are their legal implications if AAS were adopted? How do the AAS mesh with Club risk management?
“The Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) are voluntary guidelines for undertaking potentially risky activities in a manner designed to promote:
- Safety for both participants and providers,
- Protection for providers against legal liability claims and criminal penalties, and
- Assistance in obtaining insurance cover.
These AAS are NOT statutory standards imposed by law.” (Recreation SA, Bushwalking AAS 2006)
What could be more relevant than that to a bushwalking Club?
Two key statements appear in the AAS:
“The AAS ……reflects minimal acceptable standards of behaviour expected when planning and undertaking outdoor adventure activities with inexperienced and dependent participants.”
This statement makes it clear that the AAS are minimal standards which all Clubs should already have adopted when leaders are taking inexperienced walkers and therefore dependent walkers, on Club walks. Dependent does not mean school age, it means having to rely upon others for their safety and well being. In most Club walks there are dependents, whose safety is sometimes ignored by leaders, simply because the leader thinks that as adults they are responsible for their own safety. The AAS makes it clear that this is not the case.
“Regardless of the extent to which the AAS is adopted, each organisation, guide and leader has a duty of care to its participants to have completed a risk analysis of the activity, and developed a risk management approach to address potential and unexpected situations.” (Recreation SA, Bushwalking AAS 2006)
Many Clubs don’t take this seriously, with few leaders skilled in making a risk analysis for a bushwalk and even less having the necessary experience to anticipate risks. Pre-walk documentation is often sadly lacking and there is sometimes little vetting of this documentation where it is provided.
Benefits of AAS
I believe adoption of the AAS by Clubs will provide a framework and focus for upgrading the skills of leaders, which will in turn make walks more enjoyable and safer for participants. The AAS have a focus on risk management and hopefully this will provide the impetus for each Club to develop their own risk management policies.
Each AAS has been developed in the following key areas:
* Responsibility of the leaders
To adopt the AAS, your Club will probably need to do some of the following:
- fine tune your Club walks (group size, leader; assistant: participant ratios, communication)
- both broaden and deepen your training, both external and internal, to meet the needs of any proposed leadership structure that you decide to adopt (eg first aid, clothing, group equipment, environment)
- document the informal procedures your leaders already follow and do very well (eg activity plan, pre-trip documentation, risk management, emergency strategy)
- more formally and transparently map your leaders and participants skills and experience with the walks they are allowed to lead and partake (eg restrict participation, devise a participation grid)
- better inform participants of their obligations (eg voluntary assumption of risk, inherent risks)
- review the legal implications of your Club’s Constitution and Mission statement (duty to warn, waivers)
If you can show that you have a transparent and public process to approve leaders and participants for walks based on their skill level and experience, then current advice is that you should be safe from legal claims and penalties.
Are the AAS a liability? Read more from an alternative viewpoint
To download the relevant Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) click on one of the links below
For a less positive viewpoint on the value of the Adventure Activity Standards visit the Adventure Victoria website
Visit other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series
This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.