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Are the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) Relevant to Bushwalking Clubs?

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:

  1. Safety for both participants and providers,
  2. Protection for providers against legal liability claims and criminal penalties, and
  3. 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:

    * Planning
    * Responsibility of the leaders
    * Equipment
    * Environment.

Changes Needed.

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)

Legal Implications

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

NSW  AAS
Victorian AAS
Western Australian AAS
South Australian AAS
Queensland AAS
Tasmania AAS

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

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Bushwalk Leadership Training | A Weekend Club Training Program

A Bushwalk Leaders weekend held at least once a year is essential so that all Club walk leaders can fulfill their duty of care. Aspiring leaders and those who have let their skills get a little rusty, will all benefit.

SESSION 1: Map Reading

SESSION 2:  Navigation

The following two sessions could be held on the  second day, basing it on the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS)

SESSION 3: Trip Planning (2-3 hours)

Prerequisites: knowledge of bearings and how to use a compass to plot a route

This could follow the outline given in the AAS p13-15,

1.1 Considerations for developing an activity plan …13
1.2 Pre-trip documentation …………………………………14
1.3 Risk management…………………………………………14
1.4 Emergency strategy……………………………………..15
1.5 Restriction to participation ……………………………15

but could be  supplemented by local examples, templates and a hands-on trial using a well known area. Online resources and access by blog (preferred option), phone and email to mentors willing to provide assistance on specific topics would be provided. Participants, working together in pairs, would need to be provided with maps and compasses.

SESSION 4: Role of Leader (1-2 hours)

This would largely follow AAS pp 15-21,

2 Responsibilities of the trip leader/assistant  (1-2 hrs) p15

2.1 Skills expected of a leader p16

2.1.1 Bushwalking Leader on ‘Urban walks’ p16
2.1.2 Bushwalking Leader on Tracked or Easy Untracked (Easy) p16
2.1.3 Bushwalking Leader on Difficult and Trackless (Intermediate) p17
2.1.4 Bushwalking Leader on Unmodified landscapes (Advanced) p18

2.2 First aid p18
2.3 Specific responsibilities of the trip leader  p19
2.4 Assistant to the trip leader  p19
2.5 Communication p20
2.6 Ratios of trip leader and assistant/s to participants p20
2.7 Group size  p21

but would be modified to suit your Club based on your knowledge of current practices and be developed in consultation with several senior club members, who have some empathy for the AAS. Online resources and access by blog (preferred option), phone and email to mentors willing to provide assistance on specific topics would provided.

The third session would work better if it were in a well lit environment where maps could be laid flat eg tables and chairs.

Additional Sessions

  1. Suitable for either day, a session on what to do if lost, from both the lost and the searcher’s perspective would be useful. This seems to be under emphasized or missing from the pre-walk briefing given by most walk leaders. Perhaps a few preventative measures could be presented. With the tendency for Club walks to have a long tail which is often out of contact with the leader, this is an obvious danger.
  2. With an aging Club membership,  you might like to include  a session dealing with heart attacks and managing your group after a serious incident such as this.

View other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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Does your Bushwalking Club Need a Training and Safety Officer?

 Does your bushwalking Club need a Safety Officer and what would their role be? Does your Club need a Training Officer? Can the two roles be combined?  Who could constitute your Training and Safety sub-committee? What could be included in the job description of a TSO?

I  believe that if your Club is going to take the training of leaders and new members seriously then you need a Training and  Safety Officer.  I believe the one person can and should fulfill both roles as the two are integrated; maintaining a culture of safety during walks benefits from a training program.

The Training and  Safety subcommittee could include:

  • the “Walks Secretary” or his/her deputy
  • someone who has had some formal bushwalk training or for South Australians,  a rep from Bushwalk Leadership SA
  • the “New Members Secretary” or their deputy
  • someone with recent involvement on a Training or Safety committee in another bushwalk club, preferably with knowledge of the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS)

This makes 5, but as you know it is rare to get full attendance at any Committee meeting.

Summary of the Role of the Training and Safety Officer

  • chairing the Training and Safety subcommittee,  
  • ensuring compliance with AAS
  • attending Committee meetings.
  • auditing current leadership practices
  • development of a leadership development program
  • encouraging a change of culture if needed 

Template Job Description: Training and Safety Officer

  • encouraging a culture of safety, with all members and all leaders walking within their capabilities
  • promoting ongoing training as a requirement of membership renewal
  • organising training for potential leaders and those seeking updates
  • establishing a database of training resources to assist members seeking to improve their skills and knowledge
  • establishing and supporting a mentoring program for potential leaders and new members
  • auditing, reviewing and recommending changes to current bushwalk documentation and procedures, taking into consideration the AAS
  • maintaining an Incident Register. Assess and report on appropriate action.
  • chairing the Training and Safety sub-committee and making recommendations to the Committee

More specifically the responsibilities could include

  • utilising internal and external resources to improve the skills, knowledge and hence the enjoyment of members while walking
  • liaising with existing training providers to provided customised courses for Club members
  • publicising existing courses at meetings, on the Club website and in your magazine
  • negotiating group discounts for Club members attending courses eg first aid
  • providing training and documentation for walk leaders so they can effectively mentor new members on their walks
  • encouraging leaders to offer the opportunity for self reflection and feedback at the conclusion of each walk
  • monitoring the progress of new members, through a log book system, so that they progress through a series graduated of walks
  • encouraging and advising members wishing to be involved in accredited training, with a system of internal recognition and benefits
  • developing guidelines for internal accreditation of leaders, with an ongoing re-accreditation process
  • encouraging, facilitating and mentoring experienced members to share their skills and knowledge with others
  • developing a database of “go-to” people within the Club with particular skills or knowledge
  • encouraging and facilitating Club “go-to” people to document their skills and knowledge for sharing with others
  • developing  online resources to assist members wishing to gain leadership skills (PowerPoint’s, brochures, podcasts, web links)
  • developing a culture of sharing knowledge and skills with others 
  • developing recognition of the need to continually updating personal skills and knowledge,
  • developing a membership renewal requirement that each member attends one skill or knowledge update training session per year.

View other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 3

Using Some Web 2.0 Technologies to Improve and Retain Club Members (Part 3)

Blogs (online diaries like this)

Do you want your Association/Club’s web page to be easily found in a Google search by potential new members?

 One of the best ways is to have new content appearing on your website regularly and what could be easier for your webmaster than having a member’s blog. Even better, good content will encourage others to link to your blog, positioning your website even higher in web searches. The more “followers” your blog has the better so offer the opportunity for people to choose to get automatic updates when you add to your blog.

Do you want greater ownership and participation from your members?

A blog encourages interaction between members and it is this interaction that is more important than the content itself in retaining members. Younger members are familiar with and welcome this high level of interaction that is missing from most conventional club websites. Your club leaders should take the opportunity to browse you club blog and to interact with new members

It is possible have contributions and comments automatically ranked and use this as a guide to what is popular and to respond and provide more of the same.

Why have a boring website that no one reads?

Sharing Photos and Videos.

Improve Club spirit by encouraging members to add photos and videos to your gallery. Organise an annual club photo and/or video competition using free web 2.0 photo sharing sites such as Flickr,  Picassa and YouTube. Don’t just upload members photos to your gallery, but ask them to comment and rate the photos posted. Offer prizes for the best in a variety of categories, using online voting.

Improve Participation by Improving Communication

Do you struggle to get “new blood” on your Committee? Have you thought about running Committee meetings online for those who can’t make it due to other commitments? How can members be reminded of Club events in a way that can’t easily be ignored?

 There are many programs around which allow you to chat with others and  to share good quality video and audio free of charge.

SMS is universal – nearly everyone has a mobile phone; it’s instant – messages are normally delivered in 10 seconds or less; and it’s reacted to by most people, more so than letters, emails or phone calls.

Why not try some of the ideas above? 

Don’t expect  to see a rapid uptake as it takes time for inhibitions to be overcome and for web 2.0 technologies to be accepted by those who are only familiar with the old paper copy or fax. Many people are happy to read a blog but feel embarrassed about commenting.

“Seed” your blog  by asking Committee members to regularly contribute until momentum takes hold.

Other posts in this series can be found by clicking on the membership tag on the right of this page
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Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 2
Tackling an Ageing and Falling Club Membership Part 1
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