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
At AdventureMark™ we are constantly working with industry partners to discuss and improve safety across the adventure sector. This week our Diving lead auditors and technical experts Brian Franks and Robin De Guess attended a PADI diving seminar discussing risk and incidents in the diving industry. Great discussions were held around learning from incidents. If you would like to hear more about our safety audits for the diving sector here in New Zealand and overseas please do contact us.
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.
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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