HSE reviews climbing, hill walking and mountaineering provision

Posted by Jon Garside on 19/02/2018
Young people on a Mountain Training Hill Skills course. Credit: Jon Garside

BMC members are encouraged to submit their views on the review of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority.

The Licensing Authority came into existence over 20 years ago after the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations became law in 1996.

The regulations place commercial providers of specific adventurous activities under an inspection regime to ensure they are operating safely when responsible for children.

Since 1996, nothing has changed regarding what the Authority inspects; that would require another visit to parliament.

However, in the last 20 years, adventurous activities that fall outside the scope of licensing have become more popular, such as ropes courses and artificial climbing walls.

Commercial operators of these and other activities that fall outside licensing are not required to hold a licence.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) oversees licensing and has delivered a number of consultations. The current consultation provides the greatest opportunity to change how licensing could work in the future.

The Authority’s inspectors look at an operators’ safety procedures for the licensed activities they provide. The quality of that provision does not fall under licensing, unless of course the quality is such that it might impact upon safety.

The current consultation provides three options for people to consider:

  1. No change. Licensing to stay as it is, overseen by the HSE.
  2. An expansion of licensed activities. The HSE would still oversee licensing, but some activities not currently falling within licensing’s scope would be included.
  3. A non-statutory industry-led scheme. The HSE would no longer oversee licensing.

As operators are keen to demonstrate to the public that the adventurous activities they provide are both safe and of high quality, non-statutory schemes have existed for a number of years, such as the industry-led Adventuremark.

Many operators will have more than one inspection, such as one for their licence and one from Adventuremark, sometimes delivered by the same inspector.

As it is non-statutory, option three provides a system that can be flexible and change with any future developments. As the industry changes, so too can a non-statutory scheme. A non-statutory scheme would cover both the safety and quality of provision.

Options one and two are similar and would result in a system that is either identical or an expanded version to what currently happens. They would both look solely at safety.

A concern that people may have with option three is the removal of a statutory requirement for operators of licensed activities to hold a licence.

By law, operators must comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act. Removing statutory licensing does not remove that requirement. A non-statutory industry led scheme would ensure that operators complied with that Act.

BMC members are encouraged to read the discussion document about the HSE’s review of licensing.

The HSE consultation ends soon, and BMC members are encouraged to submit their views by March 9.

Anyone keen to find out more could consider attending the Wales Adventure Tourism Organisation and UK Adventure Industries Group hosted review of the consultation on the evening of 26 February at Plas Menai, Caernarfon. Please register in advance if planning to attend 

The consultation feedback received will inform the HSE Board’s decision on the future of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority.


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Adventure Activities Industry Advisory Committee
UK Adventure Industry Group
Scottish Adventure Activities Forum
Wales Activity Tourism Organisation
Adventuremark

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