Safety & Liability
March 01, 2005
Challenge and adventure activities can present elements of physical and emotional risk. The information presented at this website is for your reference, and you are ultimately responsible for judging the suitability of the material for your training.
The publisher of this website assumes no responsibility or liability for the use of the information presented. This includes errors due to misprinting or omission of detail.
No single source of adventure based experiential education can substitute for practical experience and education. While this website serves as an introduction to the use of adventure based experiential learning, training, and coaching it is only an introduction. Studying the material at this website is no substitute for professional training.
Understand this: I can’t tell you how to run a “safe” program because it’s not possible to run a safe program. Safe infers that there is an absence of risk. It’s impossible to remove all risk from adventure learning activities (the type of activities you read about in this website).
Adventure learning activities are adventuresome BECAUSE of the presence of risk. Eliminating all of the risk from the activities would render the activities useless.
Your job then is to make safety one of your priorities while managing the risk.
There are many benefits to the individual, the group and the program when safety is emphasized. These include:
- Trust is developed.
- Learning is enhanced.
- Likelihood of full participation increases.
The following list provides examples of strategies for the management of risk in adventure learning programs.
- Participants are encouraged to participate at the level they are comfortable with. Coercion is not part of the program.
- Participants are given a safety briefing before the program.
- All participants sign a “Participant Agreement, Release and Acknowledgment of Risk” form (for adults) or a “Participant Agreement, Indemnification and Acknowledgment of Risk for Minors” (for minors). These documents can be created with the help of a competent attorney.
- Participants should be led in stretching and warm up activities at the beginning of a program.
- Staff must be trained in risk management, CPR and first aid.
- Inspect all props prior to and after use.
- The location/site must be free of dangers or hazards.
- When activities call for lifting, participants must be taught proper spotting techniques (see below). Staff must always support and protect the head of a participant who is being lifted or lowered.
- Programs must develop a safety policy.
- A first aid kit and telephone must be easily available.
The Importance of Spotting
Some of the activities presented in this website require participants to lift each other off the ground. This can be dangerous both for the lifters and the person being lifted. For this reason, you as the leader must be able to convey the importance of proper spotting.
Spotting is the art of protecting a team member’s head and upper body from the impact of a fall. Spotting does not mean you catch a person when they fall. It does mean you create a cushion, effectively slowing down their fall.
Effective spotting requires all participants pay close attention to what’s going on. If the group or any member of the group is not ready to participate in an activity that requires spotting, choose another activity that doesn’t require spotting.
To be effective spotters, participants must have a high degree of trust. If participants have been into horseplay or are using language (or other forms of communication) that takes away from the feeling of trust, then you must reconsider any activity that involves spotting.
Spotting is a difficult task to teach because the potential spotter usually doesn’t recognize his importance until he actually has to support a falling body.
The following are pointers for teaching spotting:
- Explain the concept and meaning of spotting.
- Practice spotting with participants before they actually need to use the skill in an activity.
- Promote the attitude that teasing and joking about not catching someone has no place in your program.
- The activities described in this activity guide involving lifting require a minimum number of 2 spotters and depending on the skill and ability level of your particular group, more spotters will be necessary.
- Supervise spotters closely.
- The leader must model spotting.
- A good spotter shares the responsibility of spotting equally. It is easier and safer to work as a team when spotting.
- Spotters should stand in a balanced position, holding hands up in a “ready position”. The spotter’s focus must be on the participant.
- Spotters must cushion a fall, not catch and hold, and should move with the direction of force.
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