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News: Q & A to WA Standards review (closed)

21-Oct-2016

Frequently asked questions on the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS)

In response to a number of questions from the recent WA AAS review process a series of questions and answers have been prepared. These cover the voluntary nature, the history and community development of the AAS and are designed to be read in conjunction with the relevant AAS that is being used for guidance. The WA AAS can be found here.

A)        What are the WA Adventure Activity Standards?

The Western Australian Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) are a freely available resource that describes common safe practice as identified by the outdoors sector. They benchmark the minimum industry requirements and responsibilities for organisations and leaders conducting outdoor adventure activities for commercial and noncommercial groups where the participants are dependent upon the activity provider. A full list of activities can be found freely on the Outdoors WA website.

B)        What is the history behind the WA Adventure Activity Standards?

In response to a number of incidents and deaths in the Western Australian outdoors in the 2000’s a ministerial taskforce was formed to look at ways to manage the risk of led outdoor adventure activities. In 2006 the Taskforce on Adventure Tourism handed down the ‘Serious Adventure’ report that recommended the implementation of Adventure Activity Standards into WA. The report came from the Ministry of Tourism but of course it would be irrational to have activity standards that only apply to tourists so the activity standards apply to all dependent groups/participants. Dependent groups are where the leaders have a legal duty of care towards the participants

These standards followed on from the Victorian Adventure Activity Standards project and were set against a background of rising public liability insurance premiums that threatened to stop adventure activities for clubs, organisations and commercial providers.

In a proactive response Outdoors WA took the lead with support from a state government grant and the Department of Sport and Recreation to establish a set of minimum standards and voluntary guidelines for organisations conducting outdoor adventure activity programs for groups.

The process to develop the WA AAS took two years and involved open presentations, forums and workshops in Perth and regional areas. Technical working groups were then formed to write and review the standards involving leaders from across the outdoors sector including clubs, individuals, community groups, schools, government and commercial operators. These individuals committed hundreds of volunteer hours in service of the sector. The standards were completed in two stages over 2008 and 2009. A further review to expand the recognition of multiple pathways for recognizing outdoor leadership was conducted in 2013. Once more members of the outdoors community committed their own time and expertise in supporting a system of standards for leading groups in the outdoors.

Since then states following WA and Victoria’s lead have developed AAS in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. There is now a collaborative project involving WA and the other states underway to create Australian Adventure Activity Standards.

C)        Are the WA Adventure Activity Standards voluntary?

YES, the standards are voluntary. There is no legislation that requires any person or group to follow these standards. They are entered into voluntarily. The standards are a resource freely available to everyone who wishes to head into the outdoors. How they choose to use the standards is completely up to them. As a voluntary system it is up to each group, organisation or leader to utilise the standards in the best way to suit their circumstances.

So there is no person, group, government agency policing the standards?

Correct, the standards are voluntary self-regulation. This means that an organisation chooses to use the standards and then regulates it themselves. If an organisation chooses to make parts or all of the standards compulsory then that is up to them to enforce. However Outdoors WA does support the use of the standards and has advocated for self regulation by the sector. The alternative would be rigid government regulation at a significant cost to all participants

D)        How can our club use the standard?

The AAS are developed for a club or any organisation to assist in the running of adventure activities they provide guidance on common safe practice in the areas of planning, leader responsibility, equipment and environmental considerations. They can assist in developing an organisations own operating guidelines. 

E)        Aren’t the AAS just for commercial providers?

NO, the AAS were developed by a broad group of outdoor leaders to address the safety and duty of care between a leader and dependent participants.

The context in which the standards are written is for groups with participants who are dependent. Simply if there are people in your group who you have a legal duty of care for then the standards are written for this context. It is acknowledged that there are also independent groups that operate in the outdoors, the AAS were not specifically designed for these groups. However the standards are useful for anyone who engages in an outdoor activity as they represent the current minimum standards for doing so safely and enjoyably.

The AAS were developed from an open community consultation process. This involved leaders from across the outdoors sector contributing hundreds of volunteer hours to developing the standards. This included clubs, individuals, community groups, schools, government and commercial operators.

F)         What are the advantages of the WA AAS?

  1. They are a freely available resource for any outdoor group to use.
  2. They are written by a broad cross section of the outdoors community by working groups of experienced and competent activity leaders.
  3. Any group or organisation can freely benchmark their practices to meet the minimum expectations for taking groups into the outdoors. If your organisation disagrees with a part of a standard then you are free to use your own.
  4. They can assist the community in decision making when making choices about quality outdoor adventure programs and providers.
  5. They promote consistency and benchmarking across the outdoors sector regarding the skill of leaders, preplanning, safety and emergency procedures and a commitment to environmentally sustainable practices.

It is worth considering that if the WA AAS project were to come to an end that would not be the end of standards for the outdoors sector. In the future the government may well wish to make standards compulsory through legislation and have it administered by a bureaucracy (think of a version of Worksafe) or a commercial organisation well removed from the industry. (think of a version of Standards Australia). Only financially well off groups will be able to lobby to have their interests represented.

G)        What is the cost of accessing the WA AAS?

The standards are available freely hosted on the Outdoors WA website. The expertise, wisdom and experience contained in the standards has been freely given by many highly experienced WA outdoor practitioners over the last seven years. There is no cost involved for organisations wishing to use the intellectual property contained in the standards.

H)         Why is first aid listed in the AAS?

The AAS identify many areas that should be considered when leading a group. First aid is considered a significant skill to enable a leader to deal with any first aid issues as they arise. First aid training also aids the group leader in identifying relevant risks for the group ahead of the activity. The AAS therefore encourage development of first aid skills so that a person can be capably cared for if a first aid incident happens.

I)        Do the AAS apply to non-dependent groups?

NO, the AAS do not apply to non-dependent groups. So if you are going walking with a group of friends, then the AAS have not been designed to cover those circumstances.

AAS identify common safe practice and are intended to be accepted minimum standards for groups where participants have a level of dependence upon the outdoor leader. As such they will not apply to persons recreating privately. AAS may however provide a useful resource for any informal group or individual undertaking the activities that the AAS describe.

For example…

The AAS apply to organisations such as clubs, community groups and commercial activity providers where there are dependent participants. It would be advantageous for individuals and other informal groups to refer to the AAS to assist their preparation for safe and environmentally sound participation in the activity.

J)        Why is there WA Adventure Activity Standards? Isn’t there a national project for Australian Adventure Activity Standards?

Yes, WA is committed to supporting the Australian Adventure Activity Standards Project and is involved in the development of the standards over three years. In the meantime WA, like each state, will continue to support the WA AAS whilst the Australian AAS are completed. Feedback from the recent review of four standards in WA is being used to enhance the development of the Australian AAS process. More details on the progress of these standards can be found at http://australianaas.org.au/

K)          What research is happening in the managing of adventure activities?

The original Ministerial Task Force on Adventure Tourism made a number of recommendations from its research into incidents and the AAS have been part of that development to improve participant safety.

Since then the outdoors sector in WA and across Australia has supported the Understanding and Preventing Lead Outdoor Accidents Data System (UPLOADS) project to develop a standardised, national approach to incident reporting and learning for the outdoor sector in Australia, and a corresponding national incident dataset. This project has shown the value in taking a systems based approach to managing risk in activities. The WA AAS are one part of a system including leaders, organisations and government policy working to ensure a framework of risk management in the outdoors. Further specifics on this project can be found at https://uploadsproject.org

The WA Adventure Activity Standards and additional Q & A can be found at http://www.outdoorswa.org.au/Industry/aas






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