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Risk, Challenge & Safety

Risk Management Resources:
How to manage risk in outdoor & adventure settings

James Neill
Last updated:
19 May 2004

Sources of practical information on how to manage risk in outdoor adventure education and recreation programs include:

  • Manuals of standard operating practices.  Available, for example, from:

    • Outdoor education organisations, some Outward Bound schools sell books about their practices, e.g., The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Book (Jeffrey Isaac)

    • Educational and recreational government bodies, e.g., many departments of education have written guidelines on risk management for outdoor activities, e.g., the Tasmanian government in Australia has produced these Outdoor Education Guidelines

  • Research studies via organisations, for example the Association for Experiential Education has produced incident data and narratives in "Adventure Program Risk Management Report Volume I" (1995)

  • Outdoor associations, such the American Camping Association (ACA) have produced manuals, articles and guidelines for risk management of various adventure activities, such as ropes challenge courses - see the ACA Knowledge Center

  • Risk management specialists in outdoor education.  For examples, consultants who provide risk education, safety reviews, etc.:

  • Books, particularly for example the Administrative Practices of Accredited Adventure Programs edited by Mike Gass and published by the Association for Experiential Education contains forms and procedures such as risk and liability release forms used by outdoor education programs.  These can be readily adapted.

  • Risk Management Conferences, especially the Wilderness Risk Manager's Conference, an annual conference in the USA organized by the National Outdoor Leadership School

  • Training Courses: In each country, there is usually a unique array of systems for acquiring professional and advanced understanding of how to effectively manage risk in outdoor and adventure activities.  For example, in the USA, there are wilderness first aid programs which include substantial components on risk management.  Go to a current list of wilderness first aid training courses on www.outdoored.com

  • Professional Listservs, especially for example the Association for Experiential Education listserv - join up, ask questions, discuss - there is a lot of discussion on best risk management and safety practices.  Go to Outdoor Education Listservs.

  • Public Record Documents, including coroner's reports and legal proceedings. When things go really wrong, there is a lot of analysis and recommendations made.

  • Chewing the Fat, One of the most critical and major ways that knowledge about how to effectively manage risk in adventure programs is improved is spending time reflecting on real experience, especially if this reflection and analysis can involve an "expert", an experienced practitioner, a trainer, a university academic.

  • Websites - see Recommended Links