What is the National Coasteering Charter (NCC)?

In November 2010 after nearly 12 years of discussion and meetings, over 80 coasteering providers from across the UK made their way from areas including the Isle of Man, the Channel Isles, Scotland, England and Wales to unanimously vote that they be represented nationally. The vote taken was to create the National Coasteering Charter (NCC).

The remit of the NCC is to:

1. Represent Coasteering Providers at National Level

2. Continuously improve Coasteering safety and practices

3. Report, learn and share information from accidents and near misses

4. Sustainably run Coasteering provision for future generations to enjoy the special places that it takes place in

5. Support its members by being a place of Coasteering expertise through a body of peers to go to when needed (e.g. with access issues).

To ensure a minimum level of good practice the NCC has written and agreed three documents as its Industry Standards. The three documents are written around the topics of:

1. Best Practice Safety Guidance for Coasteering Providers

2. Base level Skills and Competencies for Coasteering Guides

3. How to sustainably run Coasteering for future generations

This body has been supported and is recognised by AALS, ROSPA, the MCA and the RNLI to name but a few. The documentation can be found currently on the NWSF website, although it is about to be moved to the NCC’s own website at www.hse.gov.uk.

Since November 2010, a Constitution has been written that is to be voted in at the next National meeting in November 2013, and a website has been designed and is about to be made public (maybe by the time you read this article the website will be up and running – type into Google ‘National Coasteering Charter’).

Why is the NCC important?

Most coasteering providers across the UK aim to deliver a safe, enjoyable and sustainable experience for their clients. Unfortunately this activity is perceived to be a high risk activity, and is easily sensationalised by the media, especially when linked with ‘tombstoning’ in the wrong context.

Also unfortunately, there are a growing number of companies that are branching out into delivering Coasteering that have not necessarily had the training or gained the experience that they should have before taking clients out – this has a huge potential to harm the public perception of Coasteering if/when something goes wrong.

This is why the documentation was written, so that it can support minimum levels of competence to ensure that Coasteering is delivered in a safe and correct manner. For example, the advice in the documentation not to let clients cliff jump above the height of 10m, and not to let them jump anywhere near this height until they have been seen to jump well at a much lower level initially.

How can I get training to run Coasteering or be a Coasteering Guide?

As well as ‘in house’ training that delivers site specific guide training, there is currently one course running in the UK that trains Coasteering Guides – it is run through the British Rock and Water Association (BRAWA). To find out more about BRAWA courses, please contact the Chair, Andy Spink, also of Hebridean Pursuits, at Andyspink01@aol.com.


By being an NCC member, Coasteering Providers are showing that they work to the minimum level of Coasteering provision as written in the documentation to ensure a safe, enjoyable and sustainable level of Coasteering experience. This level is the level that AIM has confidence in, as it is recognised by both the internal Coasteering provider community, and by external bodies such as AALS.

By John-Paul Eatock

Chair of the National Coasteering Charter 

With thanks and credit to Andy Spink of Hebridean Pursuits www.hebrideanpursuits.co.uk


Reducing your Business Risks in a Crisis

AIM offers crisis management service

Following a successful workshop in October 2012, AIM has launched, in partnership with risk management specialists, Pharos Response, a service to help our Members better prepare and protect themselves for critical incidents that, although thankfully rare, can significantly affect an organisation’s ability to continue operating. Members who sign up to this service can now access 24/7 expert advice in the crucial hours immediately after a critical incident.

AIM is committed to helping to reduce the likelihood of, and better prepare for, major incidents in advance of the possible occurrence. Pharos can be used to help prepare for the situations we all dread through crisis planning, training and simulation exercises, as well as being on call should the worst happen.

AIM Members signing up to the service will receive the following benefits:

  • At the outset, members complete an online crisis management audit which Pharos will review and draft a report which will include recommendations for improvements where necessary.
  • Upon renewal in succeeding years, a similar tool will be provided in order to help ensure that the development of proactive preparation continues as part of Member’s overall management plan.

A number of Members have already taken advantage of the heavily discounted annual subscription, (an average of £100, prices vary slightly according to the scale of operation), particularly valuing:

1. Immediate access to advice and support should an incident happen, not having a nerve-wracking wait for usual office hours to speak to someone.

2. Team of experts specialising in the crisis aspects of subjects, such as HSE, the press, social media, stakeholder communications and trauma counselling.

An AIM Member who recently experienced a serious incident explains why…

“In June 2013 my company experienced its first accident after many years of trouble free delivery. Pharos were available from the outset of the incident and had the expertise on hand to support my company, myself and my freelance staff in dealing with the difficult aftermath.

They provided exceptional support and advice on dealing with the general incident, the media, the family of the injured person and staff involved with the incident and had a number of experts on hand. I was told to ‘think of Pharos Safety as an extension of my team’ and they certainly delivered on this statement. I would strongly recommend to any AIM member to have membership of this service as part of their strategy to manage such incidents.”

Julian Penney, MD of Pharos said “Our experts from across the outdoor industry, and beyond, are on call to help organisations deal with major incidents immediately after they happen, whenever that may be. These sorts of specialist skills may not be present in many organisations or are not often used due to the obvious infrequency of such situations”.

Members don’t have to wait until renewal to get access to this service. To find out more, please contact us.

Julian Penney leads the Pharos team and has a wide range of practical first-hand experience in managing emergency situations, first as an officer in the British Army and more recently as Operations Director of World Challenge.


Lessons Learned – Location, Location, Location

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Lessons Learned – Common Sense Prevails

Common sense prevails in Court following a slip in a mining museum

Judge rejects claimant’s premise that because he slipped and sustained an injury on a visit to a heritage site, the site owner is to blame, and that it must have been due to “an act or omission by the defendant which it should reasonably have remedied”.

Clearwell Caves, a long standing member of the mutual, is a natural cave system which has been extensively mined for iron ore and operates now primarily as a mining museum, also providing caving activities. The caves are part of a Natural England designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

This was a case brought by a retired publican who had slipped or stumbled and fallen whilst on a family visit to see the cave’s Christmas Fantasy Display. Although the claimant’s injury seemed slight at the time, it subsequently transpired that he had sustained a broken right ankle, from which he has made a more or less full recovery after 12 weeks in plaster.

The accident occurred in an underground passageway on a slight incline. Taking into account the damp conditions, the surface was covered by compacted ragstone gravel, recently replenished, providing a suitable non slip surface with drainage channels down each side. As is required by the Mines Inspectorate, there are recorded inspections of the mine’s walkways at least three times each day at no more than four hourly intervals.

The claimant’s expert, a Mr Petherick, argued that the mine, which is subject to Health and Safety at Mines Regulations 1993 and 1999, should also be subject to the Building Regulations and legislation covering buildings and constructed public places, such as sports stadiums and supermarkets.

The judge ruled that it was incorrect to equate a mine, with its inherent and unique character, with a supermarket or an office and that building regulations do not apply. He found that the ragstone gravel did indeed provide a suitable non-slip surface for the walkway in dry or wet conditions and that the mine’s recorded inspection and maintenance regime was systematic, regulations compliant and effective.


Common sense prevailed here in Court. Even in a case of little apparent merit, documented records evidencing risk assessment, good management and a regular inspection and maintenance regime are required to counter a claimant’s argument that because there’s an injury, the facility is to blame and compensation is due.




Chairman’s Message – A Positive Outlook

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Adventurous Activity Licensing

It is reasonable to reflect back 2 years to the announcement in Lord Young’s report ‘Common sense common safety’, that Licensing was going to be withdrawn and ask the question ‘so what’s changed?’  On the face of it, very little.  Providers of certain adventurous activities to young people are still required by law to hold a license, which they can obtain from the Adventurous Activity Licensing Authority (AALA) following an inspection.

Further to a statement by the Health & Safety Executive in July 2012, I’d like to take the opportunity to outline what I think is likely to happen in the near future and to reflect on what has actually changed in the past two years.

The statement from the HSE in July 2012 was pretty clear.

“We have decided to pause with the proposal to abolish the AALA while we consider further how we develop a regulatory regime that reflects the level of risk whilst taking part in adventure activities, yet ensuring that users are reassured about a provider’s safety management arrangements.” 

The HSE went on to say that they will be consulting further on the two issues; how to reassure users of providers’ safety standards and inconsistencies arising from some activities requiring a license and some not.  Encouragingly there was also a commitment to work with the Scottish and Welsh Governments in developing future arrangements, as the legislation behind licensing is a devolved matter.

So what are the immediate known and likely implications of the HSE statement ?  It is clear that legislation requiring a provider to hold a license will not be substantially changed or withdrawn in the next 12 months.  Given the commitment to a consultation, which is likely to take place in 2013 it is reasonable to assume that by the time a bill has passed through parliament and received royal assent we will be well into 2014, possibly 2015 and in danger of becoming entangled in a change of government.  On a positive note it seems the sector is more likely to have a consistent regime across the UK, though it is difficult to predict what shape that will take.  It could be new legislation or a sector specified approach with the backing of the HSE.

So is there any point in looking for alternatives to Licensing now?  The answer has to be yes.  Representatives of the adventure activity sector have been working with the HSE over the past 18 months seeking to influence the UK Government’s approach to developing a post AALA regime.  Those representatives made it clear that the vast majority of providers and users wished to retain some form of 3rd party accreditation of safe practice and recommended to the HSE that any new regime must be consistent across all home nations in the UK.  Prior to July’s HSE statement a UK Government solution looked unlikely to contain these features.  As a result earlier this year a temporary group was established (the UK Accreditation Transition Group / UKATG) to keep working on a sector based solution.

UKATG has broadened its representative base since the work with HSE and is recommending the establishment of a register of adventurous activity providers who hold a recognised form of 3rd party accreditation.  Such a register would be designed to be open to all (not just providers of activities to young people), recognise a wide range of adventurous activities and provide a single point of reference for users.  The register would need to accommodate the differing 3rd party accreditations that may exist in different home nations. SkillsActive, the sector skills council, have secured funding from the UK Commission for Employment & Skills to help set up a register, the aim of which would be to increase participation and maintain safety in adventurous activities.  An annual registration fee will probably apply.

UKATG is recommending that AAIAC (Adventures Activities Industry Advisory Committee) evolves to become an appropriate organisation to run the register.  It is recommended that such an evolution would involve the formation of a Congress of significant bodies in the adventurous activity community to provide strategic guidance and accountability for AAIAC.  It would also require the formation of a new Accreditation Managing Forum to oversee the register and the associated standards of provision.

So the last two years have not been a standstill for Health & Safety in adventurous activities.  It is my personal opinion, given the potential need for all young people’s providers to hold a License for the next 2 – 3 years, that sector based solutions like a register will need to incorporate the Licensing inspection regime if they are to be commercially viable.

Note: the UKATG is continuing to meet.  If you wish to contribute to its work please contact me at andy.robinson@outdoor-learning.org.