Perhaps the scariest thing when on a student club committee is the sudden feeling of responsibility for your members who are participating in potentially dangerous activities. What if something happens? What if someone gets hurt? Could you be held legally responsible?
The BMC supports the principle that clubs can provide a framework for people to share skills and learn from each other, and this principle is reflected in the comprehensive combined liability cover that is provided to BMC club members. The ethos of climbing, walking and mountaineering in the UK that of personal responsibility and acceptance of risk, embodies in the BMC participation statement:
"The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement."
All of your members should be aware of and have understood this statement, and accept the risks involved. Despite accepting that accidents can happen, we all have a legal duty not to act in a way that might reasonably be expected to put others at risk. This duty of care applies proportionally according to a person’s knowledge, thus more experienced members of a mixed-ability group would be expected to make more informed choices based on their experience.
A simple rule of thumb when mentoring a novice climber/walker is to make sure the objective is well within your own ability & experience, as well as being reasonably expected to be within the ability of the group. Making these sensible choices and sustaining the principal of personal responsibility, by making sure members are aware of and accept the risks they take in their activities, goes a long way to fulfilling your duty of care.
This is a complex topic, and there is a great deal more information in the Club Guideline: ‘Risk, Responsibility, Duty of Care & Liability’.
It is good practice to formally review the risks for certain activities, for example training for novice climbers at an outdoor venue. This will help you provide a better experience for your novice members whilst also providing you with evidence that the risks have been formally considered in the event of an accident. The Risk Management guidance note contains a template risk management plan which contains pointers for areas to consider specifically when taking novices outdoors.
As a BMC affiliated club, you are covered by the Clubs’ Combined Liability Insurance. This protects your club and its members from negligence claims against them for injury, financial loss or damage to property, arising from the club’s activities and for individual club members when they are participating in mountaineering activities whether on a club event or not. This includes committee members performing their responsibilities as officers of the club. All the information and documentation for the policy is now available on a dedicated website - www.bmc-insurance-centre.co.uk/clubs and we’d recommend having a read through to familiarise yourself with what is and isn’t covered.
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