"The following is a copy of the "Blueprint" submission to the Minister of the Marine and Natural Resources. This Blueprint has been developed as a result of the consultation process with the Irish adventure sports sector undertaken by the Association for Adventure Sports Consultation Steering Group."
Blueprint for the Safety Regulation of Adventure Sports Providers
The Consultation Process, which has resulted in this Blueprint, began following the report of the Government Interdepartmental Working Group, “A Review of the Safety Regulation of Adventure / Activity Centres in Ireland”. The Report recommended that wider consultation was necessary before a fully operational scheme for the regulation of adventure sports provision could be initiated.
The Consultation Process was designed and directed by the Consultation Steering Group, which comprised representatives of the outdoor adventure sports sector. Through regional meetings and written submissions, the Process sought to engage those involved in the provision of adventure sports in constructive debate.
The outcome of this Consultation Process, the Blueprint has focused on eight specific issues. These issues were identified as critical elements in the design of an effective regulatory scheme for the adventure sports sector. Working within a tight timescale it was beyond the scope of this voluntary group to become involved in the details of implementation.
Adventure sports provision has developed into an important part of the Irish sports and leisure industry. The report of the Interdepartmental Working Group found that generally high safety standards operate in this sector. Against this positive backdrop the Consultation Process was initiated. The level and quality of debate during the Process reflects the on-going commitment of this sector to effective and realistic measures, which enhance the safe provision of adventure sports.
With the Blueprint now complete, the Consultation Steering Group would like to express appreciation to the many contributors who attended the regional meetings or who made written submissions for their part in the Consultation Process.
On behalf of the adventure sports sector, I would like to thank the members of the Consultation Steering Group for their analysis, commitment and generous gift of time.
Consultation Steering Group
In February 1995, two young men drowned in a canoeing accident in Dunmore East after being swept out to sea in deteriorating weather conditions.
Michael Davies, whose son, Ros Davies, tragically lost his life in the Dunmore East incident embarked on a campaign, aimed at introducing statutory regulation of safety in adventure activity centres.
In March 1999, a Private Member’s Bill was introduced in the Dail. The Bill entitled the ‘Activity Centres Bill 1998’ proposed the licensing by the Health & Safety Authority of centres providing adventure sports/activities to persons under 18 years of age. The Bill was confined to centres providing watersport activities.
The general view of the Dail was that legislation was required and that any new legislation should extend to all adventure sports/activities provision and not just watersports activity centres.
In March 1999, the Minister of Marine & Natural Resources set up an Interdepartmental Working Group to consider the issues.
In June 1999, the Interdepartmental Working Group completed and published its findings.
The Interdepartmental Working Group found that while generally high safety standards operated in the adventure sports/activities provision sector there was a need for some form of statutory regulation of safety in the provision of adventure sports/activities.
The Interdepartmental Working Group recommended that regulation take the form of compulsory adherence to a set of safety guidelines and that providers be required to register with a statutory authority as providers of certain specified adventure sports/activities.
While the Interdepartmental Working Group recommended the enactment of framework legislation as a first step, it noted that a lot more consultation was required before a scheme could become fully operational.
The Interdepartmental Working Group considered that a wider consultation process than was possible for it to carry out should be initiated.
The Association for Adventure Sports (AFAS) was tasked with the organisation of this consultation process and a consultation steering group was formed.
The Consultation Process
In autumn 1999, the Department of Marine & Natural Resources tasked the Association for Adventure Sports (AFAS) with organising a consultation process on the introduction of statutory regulation of safety within adventure sports/activities provision. The Association established a Consultation Steering Group (CSG) which was broadly representative of the adventure sports/activities provision sector in Ireland. The Consultation Group established at its inaugural meeting that it would focus primarily on ensuring that the consultation process was as comprehensive and effective as possible. It was agreed that the ultimate objective of the Consultation Group was to present a working model (blueprint) for the statutory regulation of safety within adventure sports/activities provision to the Department of Marine & Natural Resources. A three phased approach was adopted to complete the Consultation Process.
During the first phase of the Consultation Process a database of Providers and National Governing Bodies of Adventure Sports was collated. Information regarding the process was circulated to those on the database. In the event that the database might not identify all those likely to be effected in the rapidly expanding adventure sports/activities provision sector, advertisements were also placed in the national press providing information and seeking submissions.
The next step in the process focussed on gathering opinion on the introduction of statutory regulation of safety within adventure sports/activities provision. To achieve this goal, four public consultation meetings were held and written submissions invited. To ensure that the meetings were both effective and impartially recorded professional facilitators and raporteurs were contracted. The four meetings were held in Sligo, Galway, Mallow, and Dublin. The proceedings of the meetings as well as the written submissions were collated and summarised.
The aim during the second phase of the Consultation Process was to produce a first draft of a statutory regulatory scheme which was based primarily on the opinions that had been gathered to date. In producing the first draft it was inevitable that decisions would have to be made regarding what was to be included in the draft. In recognition that a new phase of the Consultation Process was beginning - the Consultation Group was expanded. This meant that more of those likely to be effected by the proposed new legislation would have a voice during this decision making phase. In addition some organisations asked to meet the Consultation Group to flesh out proposals made in their written submissions and these were facilitated. The opinions gathered were distilled into a first draft (or ‘Greyprint' as it became known) of a regulatory scheme by the expanded Consultation Group.
The third phase began with the presentation of the Greyprint at a major conference hosted in Dublin by the Consultation Group.
After the Conference, there followed a short period in which further submissions were accepted by the Consultation Group. These submissions along with feedback received at the Conference were then considered by the Consultation Group.
Meetings of the Consultation Steering Group
The Consultation Group met on six occasions in addition to the four public consultation meetings prior to the Conference. Following the Conference, the Consultation Group undertook two additional meetings to finalise the Blueprint.
The Chairman and members of the Consultation Steering Group would like to record its appreciation for the professionalism and efficient work of the Secretary to the Group, Humphrey Murphy. Mr. Murphy working to very tight deadlines, consistently produced very high quality work.
Terms of Reference
1. To ensure that the consultation process envisaged by the Interdepartmental Working Group and leading towards the statutory regulation of the provision of adventure sports in Ireland is widespread, comprehensive, and effective.
2. That the overall objective of the Consultation Steering Group is to present a working model for the statutory regulation of the provision of adventure sports in Ireland. This model to be broadly agreed by stakeholders and to take due consideration of existing arrangements and recent reports.
The following is a summary of eight critical issues considered and recommendations proposed by the Consultation Group
The activities to be included under the scope of the legislation would be specifically listed. Not all activities would be included in the first phase of implementation.
The categories of solo excursion and ‘genuine’ clubs would be excluded. Commercial providers of adventure sports/activities, equipment hirers, and a number of other types of providers would be included under the scope of the legislation. Each category would be clearly defined by the Authority. Further discussion would be required on the issues of educational establishments.
3. Adventure Activity Standards Authority
The composition of the Adventure Activity Standards Authority (AASA) would have a balance of NGBs, Providers, Instructors, and User Groups as well as representatives from relevant Government Departments and the Health & Safety Authority.
4. The Inspection/Monitoring Process
The Inspection/Monitoring Process would include announced and unannounced visits, and document inspection.
5. Criteria for evaluating the safe provision of Adventure Sports/Activities
This was the key issue of discussion during the Consultation Process. It was agreed that monitors would evaluate elements of providers’ operations such as staff, locations, equipment, procedures, and the nature of the courses.
It was further agreed that NGB Guidelines would be used as the benchmark for evaluating providers and that the Authority would decide on issues of flexibility of NGB Guidelines.
6. The Inspectorate
The Inspectorate would be an independent organisation employing monitors and technical advisors with sufficient technical and outdoor sector knowledge.
7. Phased Implementation
It was agreed that there should be a phased implementation process.
8. Additional Observations
The Consultation Steering Group noted that safety regulation could not be examined in isolation and that if it is to be effective there would need to be further exploration of issues such as: VAT, rates, European wide qualifications, cost implications for providers, training subsidies, the lack of a career structure for instructors, instructor conditions, mechanisms to enable suitability checks for those working with children.
The Activities - Activities to be included under the regulations
The activities listed below were considered by the Consultation Group.
1. It is recommended that a two phased approach be adopted to the regulation of the provision of the above activities.
During Phase 1, activities identified as core activities should be included in the initial regulatory scheme. During Phase 2 (Second year of the Scheme) activities identified as additional activities should then come within the scope of the Scheme. It is considered that Gliding and Bungee Jumping should come under the scope of alternative legislation.
2. It is recommended that all activities should be clearly defined by Technical Committees and that these Technical Committees propose to the Adventure Activity Standards Authority specific aspects of each activity which should be included or excluded under the regulations.
It was highlighted that here may be aspects of some sports that might not need to be included in the Scheme. For example, aspects of orienteering or hillwalking which might not need to be included could be parkland orienteering, low level hill walking, way marked ways.
3. It is recommended that the Authority should clearly outline criteria to determine activities to be included/excluded in the adventure sports/activities list. Suggested criteria to be used are:
5. It is recommended that the adventure sports/activities list be subject to an annual review by the Authority.
The Providers - Types of providers to be included under the regulations
1. It is recommended that all providers within the scope of the proposed regulations be required to register with the Adventure Activity Standards Authority.
2. It is recommended that the following providers of listed activities would not be required to register with the Authority.
Category A: Solo Excursion (Absence of 'Third Party')
Solo excursions exists where:
Category B: ‘Genuine Club’
Where a 'Third Party' provides leadership for a listed activity in a ‘genuine’ club or other informal situation, it is recommended that they would not be included under the regulations.
The Consultation Group recommends that the following criteria are included in defining Category B:
3. It is recommended that the following providers of listed activities be required to register with the Authority.
Category C: ‘Equipment Hirer’
Where a 'Third Party' provides equipment only and not instruction; and where equipment is provided for reward at a designated activity area.
It is recommended that the Authority establish guideline criteria for this category. The appropriateness of the location, the equipment used and its condition (CEN approval and Kite marks), and the competency of the equipment providers should be among the elements considered by the Authority in establishing guideline criteria.
Category D ‘Quasi Commercial’
It is recommended that this category should include the following types of providers:
Category E ‘Commercial Provision’
Where a 'Third Party' provides leadership and/or guidance on a commercial basis. The Consultation Group recommends that the following criteria are used in defining Category E:
Further Recommendations on Issue 2
The term provider should include any individual, body of persons, corporate or not, local authorities, limited companies, partnerships, trusts, societies and clubs.
The Authority - Composition of the Adventure Activity Standards Authority
1. It is recommend that the composition of the Adventure Activity Standards Authority include four representatives from Providers and four National Governing Body representatives.
It is further recommended that the Authority include one instructor representative, a user representative such as the National Parents Council or Scouts, three Government Department officials (Marine, Education, and Tourism), a Health & Safety Authority representative, and an independent Chairman.
2. It is recommended that the inclusion of Provider, National Governing Body, Instructor, and User representatives on the Authority be open to nomination from relevant bodies/agencies. These nominations to be selected and ratified by the Department of Marine & Natural Resources.
3. It is recommended that Provider, National Governing Body, Instructor, and User representatives on the Authority represent their area of nomination as against their specific organisation alone.
4. It is recommended that the commercial consequences of decisions made by Authority be monitored and highlighted to the Authority by the Provider and external representatives such as the Health & Safety Authority representative to the Authority.
The Inspection/Monitoring Process
1. It is recommended that the Inspection/Monitoring Process include:
2. It is recommended that the following text elements be included in the Inspection/Monitoring Process:
3. It is recommended that sample Operating Procedures templates are formulated by the Authority for providers' reference.
4. The Inspection/Monitoring Process should involve a meeting with staff.
The efficiency of any risk management system for adventure sports/activities provision lies in the system being designed by a provider with reference to the specific activity locations.
Criteria for Provider Inspection/Monitoring - Safety Code Structure
1. It is recommended that NGB Guidelines are used as benchmarks for the evaluation of providers' operations and that the mechanism for the site-specific flexible application of these guidelines be through the use of a monitor/technical advisor employed by the Adventure Activity Standards Authority's Inspectorate.
It is further recommended that where NGBs, Providers and Instructors can agree on guidelines through consultation, that this approach be encouraged and facilitated.
2. It is recommended that flexibility or otherwise in the application of NGB Guidelines be ratified solely by the Authority.
3. It is recommended that the Inspection/Monitoring Process evaluate providers against stated criteria. The criteria to be outlined by the Authority under categories and elements such as:
Nature of Courses
4. It is recommended that the application of ‘flexibility’ of NGB Guidelines be sequenced as follows:
(a) A provider on registering with the Authority highlights their flexibility requirements.
(b) A monitor as part of the Inspection/Monitoring Process, inspects the flexibility requirements and reports back to the Inspectorate. The Inspectorate subsequently reports to the Authority.
(c) A technical advisor may subsequently be required to visit the provider.
(d) The Authority makes a decision.
(e) The Authority’s decision is accepted or appealed by the provider or NGB.
5. It is recommended that an appeals process be incorporated in the Inspection/Monitoring Process.
6. It is recommended that provision for a visit to a provider by an independent technical advisor is contained in the Appeals Process.
7. It is recommended that there be no in-house approval mechanism for assessing instructor competency. All competency assessments should be external.
8. It is recommended that the Authority appoint technical advisors from a panel of technical advisors recommended by relevant bodies/agencies.
9. It is recommended that any deviation from NGB Guidelines should be site specific and cannot rove.
10. It is recommended that deviation from NGB Guidelines should only be approved if there is was some aspect in the provision of an activity which allows for a safe deviation, such as equipment, location, staffing issues.
11. It is strongly recommended that there be speedy introduction of the proposed statutory staff-vetting scheme for suitability to work with children. The Consultation Group recommends that staff employed by adventure sports/activities providers are required to undertake such vetting.
12. Monitors may with NGBs and Providers agreement undertake a technical advisor role.
13. Technical advisors must outline to Authority the reasons for their recommendations.
14. Technical advisors should have sufficient and specific adventure sports/activities experience/qualifications.
1. Technical Advisors may recommend if there can be deviation and the degree of deviation from NGB Guidelines.
2. The Duty of Care is an important consideration in the regulation of adventure sports/activities providers.
1. It is recommended that the Inspectorate should be an independent relevant organisation with a specified inspection and defined interpretation role in the monitoring, inspection, and technical advisor process. The monitors and technical advisors employed by the Inspectorate are to have a sufficient technical and operational knowledge of the adventure sports/activities sector.
2. It is recommended that the following apply to the Inspectorate.
(a) The Inspectorate to be tendered.
(b) The Inspectorate to be sufficiently independent of NGB’s, Providers, and Instructors.
(c) The Inspectorate to be answerable to and guided by the Authority.
3. It is recommended that monitors be
(a) Expert in one activity with industry knowledge of others.
(b) Hold at least one appropriate instructional qualification.
(c) Expert in the operation of the adventure sports/activities sector.
4. It is recommended that monitors are used to ensure the implementation of NGB Guidelines and that they interpret and assess providers’ safe application of NGB Guidelines.
5. It is recommended that the onus be on the organisation(s) applying for the role of inspectorate to prove that it can provide competent and independent monitoring.
Strategic Phases of Implementation
It is recommended that a five-stage strategic implementation process be adopted for the introduction, inspection, and development of the regulatory body.
Issues requiring additional consideration
It is proposed that issues, in addition to those included in the model, which are pertinent to the effective introduction and operation of the regulatory scheme but which require additional consideration, are highlighted for future deliberation as part of a strategic implementation process.
Additional Issues for Consideration
The Consultation Group recognises the relationship between operating costs and safety in the provision of adventure sports/activities and recommends that an advisory group be established to consider cost issues such as rates and public sector subsidies.
The Consultation Group recognises the impact of competent staff on safety and that the availability of such staff is directly linked to the training, employment and career opportunities in the sector which are at present perceived to be inadequate.
The Consultation Group recommends that the Authority undertake a formal feedback process with the sector regarding the effects of the regulations and that this be published in an annual report.
Due to the inflexibility in the application of VAT, the Consultation Group recommends that the Authority consider the grant aiding of essential safety equipment and training.
The Consultation Group encourages the development, recognition and use of EU wide qualifications and equipment standards.
The Consultation Group recommends that an advisory group be established to consider the issues of instructor passports, modularisation of training, and the design of a broad focus vocational safety module.
It is recommended that the Authority have the scope to monitor relevant incidents/accidents in the adventure sports/activities provision sector.
It is recommended that the Department of Marine & Natural Resources have a body to examine, report and publish on relevant adventure sports/activities provision incidents/accidents.
The Group recommends a Triennial review of the regulatory scheme
For clubs the future likelihood of ‘subsidised volunteerism’ may bring them under scope of the legislation.
The Working Group is grateful for the submissions received from the following:
Achill Outdoor Education Centre
Bord Oiliúna Sléibhe
Bray Sailing Club
Burren Outdoor Education Centre
Cappanlea Outdoor Eudcation Centre
City of Waterford Vocational Educational Committee
Comhairle Fó Thuinn – Irish Underwater Council
County Offaly Vocational Educational Committee
County Wicklow Vocational Educational Committee
Galway Mayo Institute of Technology
Irish Association of Adventure Centres
Irish Dive Centre Association
Irish Instructors Association
Irish National Sailing School
Irish Sailing Association
Kerry Education Service
Mountaineering Council of Ireland
Outdoor Education Ireland
Outdoor Education Ireland Instructors
Schull Watersports Centre
South West Walking
The Steering Group benefited from consultations with: