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What’s the future for the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA)?

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is reviewing the delivery and scope of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) on behalf of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The scope of the review aims to ensure that the provision of licencing of adventure activities is delivered in a sensible, proportionate and cost-effective manner, and encourages the participation by young people in adventure activities.

The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) was established through the Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995. It came into existence in April 1996 following the death of four young people during a kayaking activity in Lyme Bay in 1993.

Adventure Activities Licensing legislation is entirely separate from and additional to health and safety at work law, but the criteria by which adventure activities providers are assessed is the same as that required under health and safety at work law.

The aim of adventure activities licensing was to provide assurance to the public about the safety of those activity providers who have been granted a licence. In this way it was expected that young people would be able to enjoy exciting and stimulating activities outdoors without being exposed to avoidable risks of death or disabling injury.

A licence indicates that the provider has been inspected by the AALS on behalf of the AALA. The provider’s safety management systems for young people is reviewed and the provider has to demonstrate compliance with nationally accepted standards of good practice in the delivery of adventure activities to young people, with due regard to the benefits and risks of taking part in the activity.

The Adventure Activities Licensing scheme covers young people under the age of 18 and applies to paid provision of four categories of adventure activities: caving, climbing, some water-sports and some trekking.

Currently it does not cover activities provided by schools to their own pupils where the Health and Safety at Work etc. 1974 Act still applies. Nor does it apply to activities provided by voluntary associations to their own members, or young people accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.

So, why is the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority being reviewed?

In 2010, Lord Young’s report ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ was published. The report looked at the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture in Great Britain, recommended that the AALA be abolished.

The report stated that the licensing regime was a cost and burden on business that added little to the health and safety of young people undertaking adventure activities. It added that the HSE believed that effective enforcement of the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 was sufficient. It went on to point out that the licensing regime was narrowly focused on a limited number of outdoor activities and did not reflect the wide range of adventure activities now available.

Lord Young believed that the running costs of the scheme; circa £750,000 and the cost of a licence of £715 seemed to be a disincentive to new entrants to the adventure activity market, especially to small companies.

The report recommended that with abolition of the scheme, a code of practice be introduced, overseen and monitored by HSE. He also stated that removal of licensing would allow businesses to make financial savings and focus on management of the whole range of available activities. In addition, there would be savings associated with the dismantling of the licensing regime.

A consultation was carried out, but, Lord Young’s recommendation was not implemented as Ministers decided at the time that there was still a place for a licensing scheme. It was felt that the scheme should be taken out of HSE control, but in autumn 2016 after a period of uncertainty it was agreed by Government that AALA should remain with HSE, due to the complex nature of the legislation. It was agreed that the service should be reviewed to ensure it was fit for purpose going forward.

What’s the future?

Briefly there are three options which are being consulted upon:

Option 1 – Retain the AALR regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and increase fees
Option 2 Retain the AALR regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and increase fees and extend the activities in-scope
Option 3 Removal of the AALR regulations and move to an industry-led; not-for-profit accreditation scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, to provide assurance to users of outdoor activities

If you want to have your say you only have until 9 March 2018

Go to

CD286 – Review of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA)

Download the full discussion document and respond! Act now to make your opinion count…