Advice on Outdoor Risks

Based on an article in Safety Education: Summer 2010

"Nothing Ventured...balancing risks and benefits in outdoors" is a new publication aimed at teachers and other children's services professionals. Written by Tim Gill, it encourages readers to take a reasonable and proportionate approach to safety and reassures them that a degree of risk, properly managed, is positively desirable in helping young people to learn to manage their own safety.

A risk-averse approach is discouraged. Instead, readers are encouraged to balance the risks and the benefits from the activity.

RoSPA's chief executive Tom Mullarkey endorsed the publication in a lengthy foreword. He said "Developing confidence and risk judgement among young people is crucial if we area to structure a society which is not risk averse. We need to accept that uncertainty is inherent in adventure, and this contains the possibility of adverse outcomes.

"A young person's development should not be unduly stifled by the proper need to consider the worst consequence of risk, but must be balanced by its likelihood an indeed its benefits. Counter intuitively, the key to challenging risk aversion among leaders and decision makers is the application of balanced risk assessment.

"It is only by objective analysis that the benefits and opportunities of an activity can be weighed against their potential to go wrong. Indeed I feel that the terminology should be changed to 'risk/benefit assessment'.

"For the most part, as previous generations have learnt by experience, it is rare indeed that a well planned exercise leads to accident. It will instead be most likely to bring a sense of enterprise, fund and accomplishment, so vital for maturity, judgement and well-being, which must nearly always offset the residual and inevitable risk. Our mantra at RoSPA sums up this approach: We must try to make life as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible."

A number of myths relating to outdoor activities are demolished in the paper... For example, encouraging account of the current legal position shows that fears of a growing compensation culture are unfounded and that courts do in fact take a common sense view. The publication has also been endorsed by HSE. It will be very reassuring to teachers who wish to give their pupils an adventurous experience.

Published by the English Outdoor Council, it is a 28 page, full colour publication "High Quality Outdoor Education". A PDF is available at www.p-content/uploads/Nothing Ventured.pdf.

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