This Article was published by Support Adventure in 2016. Many of the issues are still being observed in the field on audit.
What the Auditor Saw
Another year, another round of adventure activity safety audits. Or, at least, surveillance audits, to use that creepy auditing term. What did I see? Although operators have improved their safety planning considerably, I often saw review weaknesses – staff monitoring, incident trends, and safety management plan reviews – and some grumpiness too.
There’s some grumpiness around time and cost, and that’s understandable. However, I did find the grumpiest operators viewing their audit as a compliance exercise rather than a value-added exercise – ‘clipping the ticket’, not an external review of their practices. They were especially grumpy when they had voluntarily worked hard to gain qualifications and received little recognition for their efforts from the audit process. They wanted the focus on leader skills, not on system auditing. They’re right in believing that the leader competence signaled by their qualifications is a key to safety, and I encourage leaders to gain qualifications. It’s a clearer path to determining competence than an internal process, which was often hazy. However, it’s not the whole package. The big picture requires more than competent leaders as the safety audit standard spells out. It requires operators to plan for matters such as hazard ID and management (including drugs and alcohol), staff induction and ongoing training, internal communication, risk disclosure, leadership support, legislation compliance, emergencies, and continual improvement. Operators who had attended workshops tended to understand this better.
I often saw good induction and training procedures but poor monitoring records. New staff were deemed competent and then assumed to be working to the plan. The best plan on the planet is no use if staff don’t work to it, and often managers just assumed they did. Accident investigations sometimes found otherwise, but that’s a little late. Monitoring isn’t an easy matter for operators whose staff work alone. Sometimes client feedback was cited as evidence, but if clients know enough about safety to usefully comment, maybe they wouldn’t be clients. The cost of observing a leader in the field is real, especially for small businesses, but what is more important than assurance that your plan is live, well, and driving safety? Sometimes peer review works for operators, and that’s acceptable. Assuming it’s formalised and recorded that is, maybe a standard one-pager that focuses on whether each staff member is working to the standard operating procedures.
The safety audit standard requires operators to review a group of incidents, usually a season or a year’s worth. The idea is that a trend might emerge that wasn’t apparent when incidents were reviewed individually. This was generally well understood but not always well documented. Individually, incidents were usually well recorded and well analysed, although it was often far from clear whether that work resulted in change to the operating procedures. Better records of that process – record, analyse, change – is the next step. Analysing a block of incidents was not so well done. Sometimes I saw collated incidents only – no apparent analysis, no apparent change to procedures. The hard work had been done but the key learnings were not taken, or at least it wasn’t clear that they had. Not that the hard work always included recording and analysing near misses as well as accidents. Recording these free lessons is slowly becoming part of the sector’s culture, but nowhere as frequently as studies indicate they should be. If the operator’s safety culture doesn’t encourage recording near misses, the trend analysis will be short of data. The alternative is to wait for the accident….
Safety management plan reviews
Good plans need regular reviews, ideally involving staff, and certainly taking into account incidents and complaints, and relating performance to objectives. I saw a sector getting better at reviewing, but not always getting better at recording the process and updating plans, including their document control section. It is a requirement of the safety audit standard but the quality of safety management plan reviews remains variable. Conclusion Operators’ safety planning has improved. Numerous workshops, guidance from WorkSafe, and the SupportAdventure website have all played a part, not to mention the sanctions inherent in the regulations. The sector has come a long way in a short time but monitoring and continual improvement is a work in progress for some operators. They are key parts of the big challenge – building a positive safety culture.
Stu Allan coordinates the AdventureMark audit programme. He was a Tourism Industry Aotearoa Project Leader, an NZOIA Board member, and has worked as the Principal Advisor, Adventure Activities, to WorkSafe NZ.
AdventureMark™ has reluctantly accepted Jamie Simpson’s resignation as General Manager of AdventureMark. Jamie is leaving AdventureMark to focus on his investigation work with Kelvin TOP- SET. He’ll depart at the end of October but will remain available for quite some time should clients need his assistance. Jamie will also work for us as an auditor and as a consultant for the adventure industry and will still be heavily involved in adventure operations.
We’re very fortunate and excited to announce that we have someone of the calibre of Stu Allan to step into the General Manager’s role. Stu has been involved for many years in the adventure industry and is one of the most experienced outdoor safety auditors in the country. Stu has acted as a principal advisor to WorkSafe on setting up the adventure activities certification scheme, and will be on hand to guide clients through the audit process.
Those who’ve worked with Stu really enjoy his pragmatic approach to auditing. Jamie and Stu have been working together very closely over the past few years, and this will ensure a smooth transition for our clients.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Jamie for all his hard work in not only managing AdventureMark over the last two and half years, but especially for the work he’s done raising its profile and growing the business. AdventureMark now works with over 250 operations and feedback from our operators and the wider outdoors industry has been excellent.
From 15 October, the contact for AdventureMark will be [email protected] and 0800 394 436
Hemi Morete- Managing Director AdventureMark™
Qualifications and Auditing
The Safety Audit Standard for Adventure Activities states that, to verify staff competence, ‘Nationally recognised qualifications should be used where relevant’.
Audit bodies need confidence that operators are working to a high level of safety standards, and qualifications are one way to evidence this. The alternatives are internal assessment and attestation, which can be cumbersome for the operator and less reliable for the auditor.
Qualifications are about individual competency
While some believe that qualifications should exempt operators from the audit process, this doesn’t really hold water. While outdoor qualifications benchmark you against an instructing or guiding standard, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can run a company safely. That is a very different skill set.
A good analogy is a taxi company: you may be a good, confident, licensed driver, but it doesn’t mean you can run a taxi company well.
The audit looks at a huge number of aspects, and staff competency is just one area we look at, even though it’s a very important area. As humans, we make mistakes and need good safety systems in place to back us up. I’ve seen very good instructors working in operations that simply don’t have good systems in place for them to operate safely.
Qualifications do have benefits
When an audit body carries out a site visit, qualifications do give an extra level of confidence. Qualifications have benefits and can save time onsite for the audit team and reduce the audit cost for operators.
If you run an operation with no qualified staff, you’re required to provide evidence that your competence has been verified by a technical advisor*. Your hazard assessment and risk management processes and annual reviews also need to involve a technical advisor. Technical advisors can be internal or external and shouldn’t be confused with the technical experts used by the audit bodies. The latter are independent, impartial, and aren’t allowed to allowed to provide specific advice.
Staff with the right level of nationally recognised qualifications and experience can act as a technical advisor internally. This saves operators the cost of bringing in external advisors or consultants. However, it’s still a good idea to have an external pair of eyes look over your systems because when you’re close to an operation you can miss things.
Qualified staff can also mean that your audit certification will cover a wider geographic scope. The audit body may be more confident in certifying you to operate in wider locations if staff have qualifications, particularly high-level qualifications.
For example, an operation with caving instructors who aren’t qualified may only be certified to operate in one local cave network. A company that uses NZOIA Cave 2 instructors may find that the audit body is happy to certify them for cave networks across New Zealand.
There will be more demand for qualified staff
Overall, qualifications give the audit team an extra level of confidence and should make the audit process smoother. It’s important that qualification bodies work hard with operators to develop qualifications that are relevant to the ever-evolving industry and are widely available across the country. As the industry grows and matures, there will be more and more demand for staff with professional qualifications.
* For the definitions of technical advisor and technical expert, please see the Safety Audit Standard for Adventure Activities 2017
Jamie Simpson is the General Manager of AdventureMark and also works as an investigator and trainer for Kelvin TOP-SET. Jamie and Stu Allan will be covering this topic, along with other areas of the audit process, at the NZOIA Symposium.
For more information please go to www.adventuremark.co.nz
Many industries use checklists but they are often viewed as a tool for the inexperienced. This is not so. Look at pilots, doctors and construction workers. It is a necessity for safe operations. I can almost guarantee you feel more comfortable knowing that your pilot is following a checklist when you next jump on a plane.
In high hazard industries where expertise is respected it can be difficult to implement something as simple as a checklist. There is a kind of expert audacity that the use of a checklist may be below them. When the World Health Organisation implemented checklists for surgeons they faced huge criticism and kickback. However the mortality rate has dropped significantly globally. Large construction projects simply would not get off the ground without checklists and project management tools.
Pilots use them all the time even for mundane tasks. They are used especially in emergency situations. It allows the pilots to focus on problem solving.
They can be very very useful in outdoor adventure operations.
Here are a few situations checklists may be of use.
The sign of a good checklist is one that is simple to use, efficient, and to the point. It acts as a memory aid. It should not slow down your procedures. If you have been involved in an emergency situation in an outdoor setting, you would likely agree that panic almost always sets in. Even with the most experienced instructors. A checklist keeps you on track.
I used to encourage all of my guides to have a small laminate of the safety brief in their buoyancy aid pockets. The most experienced guides can forget things. We are human and humans make mistakes. A simple checklist can help you keep on track.
As an adventure business owner it is another tool to ensure that your safety systems are being followed by your team.
Would you want a pilot to fly or surgeon to operate on you without a checklist?
Jamie Simpson is General Manager of AdventureMark™ and also works globally for Kelvin TOP_SET running major incident investigations around the globe.
Our Lead Auditor and TE for Rock and Abseil Stu Allan has recently returned from a climbing trip in the Arapiles.
In April, we made our annual pilgrimage to Arapiles in western Victoria – New Zealand’s best crag they say. Actually, it may be the best crag in the world. Once it was home to the world’s hardest climb, but now the big boys and girls seek out steeper stuff. However, for moderate and low-grade traditional routes (placing your own protection), Arapiles’ multi-pitch climbing is as good as it gets. The quartzite rock is 400 million years old, which explains why the holds tend to stay put.
We camped and climbed with a bunch of other NZers and ventured over to the nearby Grampians too. There we got happy (and a little scared) on yet more stunning routes that just quietly wait for climbers to come by.
Last week AdventureMark auditors Jamie Simpson and Simon Reynolds attended the Annual Quad Bike Hui organised by Tourism Industry Association and hosted by AdventureMark certified operator Wellington Adventures. After a great afternoon ride through stunning country it finished up with a BBQ and opportunity to meet other operators in the sector.
Day 2. The operators reviewed the revised ASG's for Quad biking. A vital part of ASG's is that they are owned by operators and all parties in the industry have the opportunity to contribute. AdventureMark ran presentations and discussions on the auditing process and common issues that arise in the sector. We looked at how to deal with incidents along with the likely course of action from the regulator should you have a major incident. It was a great opportunity to meet a group of really active operators from the Quad biking and motorsports sector.
AdventureMark Technical Expert Grant Prattley has just been out exploring Holt Creek an undiscovered Canyon on the West coast. For a full article and photos check out this link
AdventureMark Auditor and Manager Jamie Simpson has just been refreshing his swift water rescue skills on the Rescue 3 White Water Rescue Technician course. It was a really wet weekend in trying conditions which was ideal for the course. The Kaituna river was in flood on day two and the course covered lots of really practical simple techniques for recreational and commercial river users. Its a great course and widely recognised around the globe as a benchmark in swift water rescue training. For more details on the NZ courses contact Rescue 3 Assessor Dan Manzano on this link
AdventureMark GM Jamie Simpson has just been attending some of the PADI regional Risk Management forums in New Zealand. Its been great getting insights into incidents in the diving sector in the Asia Pacific region. Jamie has been meeting with the Quality Management Team and discussing the Adventure Activities Audit process for dive operators.
When not running Adventure Audits in NZ our team can be found working in high hazard environments around the globe. Our Lead auditor and Diving/High Ropes TE, Robin De Geus is currently in the Middle East working in 40 degree heat on a rescue operation from a crane. For more info on our team click here
Integra/AdventureMark Blue Certification is JAS-ANZ accredited. AdventureMark Blue certification is approved by WorkSafe NZ under the WorkSafe NZ Adventure Activities Certification Scheme.
New Zealand Adventure Tourism Safety Certification
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