An update from AdventureMark™ certified operator The Offlimits Trust
Offlimits is a charitable trust that raises funds to support the wellbeing of members of the New Zealand Defence Force and their families. It raises funds by conducting motorbike trail rides, motorbike guided rides, 4x4 guided tours, mountain biking and guided horse treks on the 65,000 ha that comprises the Waiouru Military Training Area. The trust would never be able to operate on Crown Land if it did not hold its Adventure Tourism Operator certification. This certification gives the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) a degree of peace of mind that events will be conducted professionally plus it helps NZDF meet its obligations as the land owner.
23-25 March saw 1500 keen motorbike riders participate in the annual TUSSOCKBUSTER event. This is the largest motorsport event in Australasia. The event is entirely run by volunteers and approximately 70 helpers come together once a year to fill the roles of track marshals, sign on crew, administrators, command post staff etc.
Offlimits is a certificated Adventure Tourism Operator. David Greenslade- one of the Offlimits trustees indicated that due to the diverse range of events, its SMS is huge. However, we handle this by having good SOPs, job descriptions, good induction processes, a marshal’s manual plus an annual training weekend for helpers.
TUSSOCKBUSTER has approximately 300km of marked trails covering approximately 20,000 ha so there are significant geographical and logistical challenges with safety. This issue is overcome by having approximately 50 RTs on hand that operate via the military radio repeaters located around the training area. Additionally, marshals are despatched with military precision to ride the tracks and assist riders. Quad bikes with specially designed recovery trailers are positioned at key locations to quickly move to recover broken bikes or injured riders. Offlimits has a dedicated helicopter on site to quickly recover the more seriously injured riders and return them to the large medical support team at the Offlimits event HQ.
Motorbike trail rides are traditionally a high risk activity. Offlimits has always had an enviable safety record achieved via good track marking, well defined rules that all participants must follow, plus a high level of written and verbal briefing and explanation of the hazards. However, injuries still occur and the TUSSOCKBUSTER18 medical team (in this instance ProMed) sent 13 riders to hospital for a variety of injuries. This might sound like a large number but when viewed in the context of 1,500 riders participating for three days and covering approximately 400,000 km off-road, then the hospitalisation injury rate is only 0.0086% which is extremely low when compared to other motorbike trail ride events.
Offlimits is happy to talk with other Adventure Tourism operators about how it operates and share its experiences around how it keeps participants as safe as it possibly can. For more information on The Offlimits Trust please check out this link.
“Good judgement comes from experience…and experience, well that comes from bad Judgement”
Learning to Fail Safely
I was recently camping in the bush with my 5-year-old son. We had a small camp fire and as I ran off to collect some more wood, my son put his finger into the edge of the fire and burned his finger. I had warned him several times on the dangers of the fire but the situation got me thinking.
What could I do better in the future and what have we both learned from this. There is no point dwelling on the past and getting angry about the situation. (At least that’s what I told my wife when home). It would be best to look to the future and look at what I could have done better.
What have we both learned
In many ways, the second point has provided my son with a painful but useful lesson. Not ideal but probably more effective than his dad telling him over and over again about the dangers of fire. Ideally, we want outdoor instructors to gain hands on experience but perhaps failing in a safe way would be a better way of achieving this. They do need to be allowed to make mistakes to improve.
Traditionally having incidents has a stigma attached to it. People in the outdoor industry and many other industries analyse too quickly and make judgement too fast. If you are operating in dangerous activities it is very likely you will have incidents. It is how we react to them that is important. Safety should not be judged by the absence of incidents but by the absence of controls you have in place.
Working as a safety auditor in both the adventure industry and auditor and investigator in wider industries around the globe. I am often bombarded by people who see little value in safety. They see it as unnecessary red tape and systems that tend to slow down productivity. If implemented correctly it should do exactly the opposite.
Essentially good safety systems are based around constantly learning and constantly improving. Something that should be entrenched into outdoor instructor training on day one.
If you work in a shoe factory you are trained how to make shoes first and typically safety is a side-line to productivity. Outdoor Instructors learn about safety from day one. It is integral to running activities in dangerous environments.
What the outdoor industry are often not so good at is recording minor incidents, near misses and documenting the learnings from these incidents. We have lots of them. These are just free lessons.
Humans make mistakes. That is not only your clients but your instructors and the owner operators too. We can build systems around clients and instructors to allow them to fail safely. Car manufacturers realised this early on. We won’t stop humans from crashing cars but we can improve systems around them. Air bags, ABS, speed limits, seatbelts etc.
Formula 1 racing used to have a huge number of fatalities in Jackie Stewarts era. Today we can witness a formula 1 car crash at 200kms/hr and the driver walks away. This is due to the companies sharing data and learning from incidents. Something we need to get better at in the outdoor world.
Unfortunately there is a conflict between those that wish to learn from incidents and share data. Those that like to assign blame too quickly, and the commercial and legal pressures of keeping incidents confidential. The media play a big part in this too. This will hopefully improve over time as people start to realise incidents do happen when humans are involved. Its how we react and deal with incidents that is important.
If I take 3000 people to the cinema over a year I would expect to have some minor incidents or close calls… just like if I take 3000 people over a mountain pass. It is just probability. No matter how small an incident we can always learn and always improve and always share our findings.
What we want is people to fail safely. You cannot control whether your client or instructor has a random heart attack or is stung by a bee. You can have systems in place to deal with these situations effectively and efficiently. Clear emergency procedures, staff trained in first aid, charged and tested communication devices. You can essentially set up to fail safely.
Incidents don’t just have to be safety based. If your booking system fails or a client turns up with the wrong gear then that is an incident. If your weather forecasting was off the mark for the day and you had to turn a kayak trip back… that is an incident. An Incident in simple terms is:- “something you did not want to happen”
You can review the situation as a team and improve your operation. The same process for an incident on the river or mountain can be used for a bookings failure in your company.
So, next time you have an incident don’t look at it as a negative. Learn from it, make improvements, share the findings and move on. It will make you a better more experienced instructor and operator. Sharing the information with other operators and competitors is key. A major incident in the adventure industry impacts everyone.
If you genuinely believe that you are at the top of your game, won’t have incidents and can’t improve anymore... then you are probably in the wrong industry. It could be time to hang up your climbing boots, sell your kayak and move on.
“If you want 100% accuracy get a machine. It is not possible from Humans” – Dr Todd Conklin
Jamie Simpson is General manager of AdventureMark™ . He also works for Kelvin TOP-SET around the globe investigating major disasters and teaching companies and individuals how to run effective simple incident investigations and learning teams.
We are very pleased to have one of the most experienced adventure auditing teams around the Globe.
Our team are constantly working at a high level here in NZ and around the World. Here is a shot just sent in from one of our lead auditors Hugh Barnard out working with a heli ski operation in the Himalayas this week. Next week he is of to British Columbia and Alaska for more of the same.
You can find out more about our team here
If you are an existing AdventureMark™ certified operator and your recertification date falls in October or November then you will have received a recertification email with a new contract for 2017. This must be returned to AdventureMark™ before we can start the recertification process. Please contact us if you have not received that email.
Clients with recertification dates in December and January will receive a notification email in the coming weeks.
It is important you return the new signed contract to AdventureMark™ ASAP. We can then appoint your auditor and start the document review process. The sooner you return your documents..... the sooner we can plan your on site visit. This allows our team to try and plan your audit with other operators in your region and keeps travel costs down. Your documentation review and on site visit must be completed at least 14 days prior to your recertification date. WorkSafe need at least 14 days to complete your registration. Please make sure you plan ahead so there is no disruption to your certification. There is very little leeway on recertification dates from WorkSafe. Please do Contact AdventureMark™ if you have any questions about the process at all. If you are thinking of transferring over to AdventureMark™ from another audit provider, please contact us as soon as possible so we can be sure to schedule your audit before your recertification date.
Recertification is getting close for a lot of operators. You can complete your recertification audit up to 3 months prior to your recertification date. It is important that you plan well ahead. We have started documentation reviews for a number of operators. We can start your document review immediately. Planning ahead will allow our team to keep travel costs lower. We will also try and schedule on site audits so you can share travel costs with other operators. The recertification audit requires a full document review and on site visit. We will need to sign a new contract and send you an audit plan so please get in touch as soon as possible to get the ball rolling and avoid any disruption to your certification. For more information and tips on recertification please see here
A recent safety update from WorkSafe on Scuba Cylinder approvals being withdrawn
If you are unsure whether your adventure activity is subject to the adventure activity regulations, you can have a look here to help you decide. If you are still unsure you can contact WorkSafe adventure activities desk to clarify on this link.
If your operation is subject to the regulations you will need to register with WorkSafe and will require A Full AdventureMark™ Blue Audit. You may find that some of your activities are subject to the regulations and some are not. If this is the case we can easily carry out a full audit encompassing both the AdventureMark™ Blue and Green Audits. For more information on the audit process check out this link. If you have any questions at all please do contact us and we will happily talk you through the process.
We often have requests from operators for advice on developing documents in preparation for audit. Unfortunately as auditors we have a strict set of guidelines which means we cannot consult. We need to remain impartial. However here are some really useful tips and tricks available from various sites
1. Activity Safety Guidelines
2. The New Legislation
3. The Health and Safety at Work Act
4. Overlapping Duties
5. Guidance for Operators
6. The 2017 Safety Audit Standard
7. Notifiable Events
8. Managing Drugs and Alcohol
9. Forms and Templates
QSI/AdventureMark™ Blue Certification is JAS-ANZ accredited.AdventureMark™ Blue certification is approved by WorkSafe under the WorkSafe adventure activities certification scheme.
New Zealand Adventure Tourism Safety Certification
Mobile (NZ): 0800 394 436
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