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Adventure activities

England and Wales, Scotland
As a result of the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy in March 1993 in which four teenagers drowned and the subsequent prosecution of the organising company and its centre manager, Parliament passed the Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995 under which the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (“AALA”) was created as an independent licensing authority for outdoor activity centres for young people in Great Britain.

The AALA was made part of the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) in 2007, the government body charged with overseeing health and safety in all workplaces. The detailed regulations are now contained in the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004 (2004 No. 1309).

AALA logoA provider of facilities for adventure activities as defined below must have a licence issued by the AALA. Tacit consent: it appears that the authorities consider that tacit consent does not apply.

There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State against refusal of a licence or the imposition of non-standard conditions.

Adventure activities

Facilities for adventure activities are any facilities which consist of, or include some element of, instruction or leadership given to one or more young persons (under 18) in connection with their engagement in an adventure activity (other than instructions given solely in connection with the supply of equipment for use in such an activity), An adventure activity includes any of the following:
* Caving: the exploration of underground passages (other than those principally used as show-places open to the public) in parts of mines which are no longer worked; or in natural caves where the exploration of those passages requires, in order to be carried out safely, the use of rock climbing or diving equipment or the application of special skills or techniques. Caving is sometimes also known as pot-holing.
* Climbing: climbing, traversing, abseiling or scrambling over natural terrain or outdoor man-made structures (other than structures designed for such activities) which requires, in order to be carried out safely, the use of equipment for, or the application of special skills or techniques in, rock climbing or ice climbing.
The most commonly encountered climbing activities are rock climbing, abseiling, ice climbing, gorge walking, ghyll scrambling and sea level traversing. Climbing walls are exempt from licensing, as are abseiling towers and ropes courses.
* Trekking: trekking is journeying on foot, horse or pedal cycle or skiing over terrain which is moorland or more than 600 metres above sea level; and from which it would take more than 30 minutes travelling time to reach any accessible road or refuge; but it does not include skiing on a prepared and marked-out ski-run. The most familiar trekking activities include hill walking, mountaineering, fell running, orienteering, pony trekking, off-road cycling and off-piste skiing.
* Watersports: watersports are the use on specified waters of:
- canoes, kayaks or similar craft propelled or steered by paddles held in the hand (but excluding rowing-boats propelled or steered by oars);
- rafts (including those which are inflatable or which are improvised from various materials but excluding those propelled by means of a motor or towed by a motor-boat); or
- sailing boats, windsurfers, sailing dinghies or other craft whose principal means of propulsion is the wind but excluding craft whose construction, equipment and use of which require a certificate in line with the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 or any regulations made under it.

The most familiar watersport activities include canoeing, kayaking, dragon boating, wave skiing, white-water rafting, improvised rafting, sailing, sailboarding and windsurfing. This list is not exhaustive. For any of these activities to be licensable, they need to be done on “specified water”, i.e. the sea, tidal waters (e.g. estuaries), inland waters more than 50 metres from the nearest land excluding any island or on turbulent inland waters.

Proposed abolition of the AALA: the Young Report on Health and Safety (“Common Sense, Common Safety”) published in October 2010, recommended that the AALA be abolished and the existing statutory licensing regime be replaced by a code of practice. The HSE has conducted a consultation exercise on the proposal. Legaleze does not know when any changes will be implemented.

For further information, the HSE has pages on Adventure activities licensing

Legaleze what's new items:
14/08/2012: Activity company not liable for welly throwing injury
Blair-Ford v CRS Adventures Ltd [2012] EWHC 2360 (QB)
The claimant, Glenn Blair-Ford, was Head of the Design & Technology Faculty at Wilmington Enterprise College ("the college"). In April 2007, he was one of five staff and about 40 pupils who attended on a residential adventure activity course operated by the defendant company at an outdoor pursuits centre operated by the defendant at the River Dart Country Park (the country park) in Devon. The defendant held a licence pursuant to the Adventure Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Act 1995

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