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COVID 19 – Coasteering Update

An update on Coasteering 

The Govt Guidelines are clear…ish and we know that you are all trying to find ways to make them work for you.  We appreciate that Members are finding it frustrating only being able to take out small groups.  At present, albeit subject to change, in England, providers can only meet with up to 30 people for non-commercial reasons (funerals etc). Otherwise, you have to stick to the Government Guidelines so a maximum of 6 people (including the guide/instructor).  This leaves a group of 5 clients which can consist of a maximum of 2 lockdown groups.

The exception to this is that if there is a lockdown group that has self-isolated for more than 2 weeks previously, you can go to normal ratios.

In their guidance, the Government also says that if the NGB/Equivalent applies for an increase of group numbers, then they will consider it.  Surfing England have been successful in this, and last Thursday have increased their ratios to 1:8.  The NCC is also considering this and meeting to discuss so please keep an eye on their website for further information.

If you are in Wales, the position is slightly different and you can take up to 30 people out from different households!  Lucky Wales.

We hope this update assists.  As the situation develops we hope to provide you with more information.

Another Liability Claim Successfully Defended

Another liability claim successfully defended – but not without legal costs

This claim for damages arose from an accident which occurred during a coasteering activity on the Abereiddy Beach on the Pembrokeshire coast on 13 September 2008. The group members were invited to slide down a smooth two metre slab of rock, and it appeared that the claimant landed awkwardly and caught her foot on a projecting piece of rock at the foot of the slide, fracturing her right ankle in a shallow rock pool. Following a complaint by the injured party to the Licensing Authority on the appropriateness of the slide where she broke her ankle, the handling of the accident by the instructor and the after-incident care, an AALA complaint investigation inspection took place on 14th November. The report concluded that, whilst acknowledging that the 1-to-10 ratio had been exceeded (it was 1 to 12), the slab looked innocuous enough and the others in the group had completed the slide without incident, and that the immediate first aid and summoning of help was carried out adequately.

However, the claimant’s solicitors, MWR Solicitors of Preston, couldn’t wait for the AALA report and issued a letter of claim on 2nd December 2008 alleging that, inter alia, the provider exposed their client to a foreseeable risk of injury and failed to provide an experienced instructor. And they continued to press their case subsequent to the AALA report.

The wheels of justice turn slowly and in this case very slowly. Proceedings were issued in September 2011, four days before the three year limitation (or deadline date) and served in January 2012, seven days inside the further four month extension deadline and the case finally made it to the Southend County Court for the hearing on the 6th and 7th February 2014, before being adjourned to 23rd May for the judge to consider further written submissions.

Eventually, five years and two hundred and sixty nine days after the accident, the Circuit Judge ruled that the claimant’s injury was “a true and unavoidable accident for which the defendant should not be found liable”, a judgment pretty much consistent with the conclusions of the original AALA Complaint Report of some five and a half years earlier.

Although, subsequent to the ruling, AIM was entitled to recover its full legal costs from the losing claimant, as ever recovery didn’t turn out to be straightforward. So, following the “bird in the hand” principle, we accepted their offer of part payment to close the account, unfortunately leaving AIM some £22,500 out of pocket.

As a post script, following the Jackson reforms (see AIM Newsletter 2013), introduced last year to curb legal costs, we, as defendants, have forfeited our ability to recover any of our costs from the losing claimant’s side. In exchange for that, the claimant’s solicitors are no longer able to double their charges as “success” fees and bill us, and are no longer able to recover the cost of their ATE (after the event) insurance which covers their costs in the event that they lose.

 

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.

Summary

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

 

Lessons Learned – Location, Location, Location

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