RCD Health and Safety Guide for Ropes Course Owners and Operators

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1 RCD Health and Safety Guide for Ropes Course Owners and Operators

2 RCD Health and Safety Guide for Ropes Course Owners and Operators Index Introduction Page 2 Regulations Page 3 Duty of C are Page 4 Risk Assessments Page 6 Inspection Recommendation Page 7 6 Summary of Relevant Statutory and Regulatory Controls Page 8 7 F urther information Page 10 1

3 1 INTRODUCTION This document is intended to provide general information on some of the key health and safety considerations when owning and operating a ropes course. Whilst the advice is believed to be up to date at the time of publication it is for general guidance only and should not be relied upon. Any business considering the establishment and/or management of a ropes course should seek their own specialist advice on such matters. There is no substitute for detailed examination of the laws and regulations governing health and safety matters and there are businesses that can be engaged to provide specialist advice. The laws and regulations concerning health and safety are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive through the relevant local authority who have specific responsibility for the enforcement of health and safety legislation. Control is exercised in a number of ways including serving either a notice requiring a particular contravention to be remedied within a period or a notice prohibiting a particular activity from being carried out until the contravention is remedied. The principal legislation which is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 makes it a criminal offence for somebody to contravene health and safety legislation. Penalties for such contravention include fines and/or imprisonment and directors, managers or responsible officers can be personally prosecuted where they have either known of contravention or consented to it or somehow allowed it to carry on either deliberately or through neglect. Breach of health and safety legislation can also lead to civil action being taken where a person suffers personal injury as a result of that breach. It is important to note that it is not possible to exempt yourself from liability for personal injury, which results from your actions or omissions. Health and safety breaches may also constitute a breach of employee s contract of employment. 2

4 2 REGULATIONS Health and safety law is extremely complex and the regulations through which the controls are enforced are constantly being reviewed and updated. Regulations are introduced as a result of the enabling statutory legislation and they cover all areas of work activity including the duties that are owed to employees and non employees (i.e. members of the public). Employers are required to comply with the standards as stipulated in the Regulations which cover, amongst other things:- 1 Risk Assessment 2 The Work Place 3 Use of Work Equipment 4 Protective Equipment 5 First Aid 3

5 3 DUTY OF CARE There is an overriding duty imposed upon employers in the 1974 Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees. Furthermore the employer also has a duty to conduct its business in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical that persons other than employees (i.e. visitors to a place of business, clients etc.) who may be affected by the running of a business are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. Courses and equipment must be comprehensively inspected on a regular basis and appropriate records kept (this is covered in more detail later on) Accident and emergency procedures must be available and understood by all members of staff and basic instruction should be given to all participants. Instructors must have written procedures specifically for their course available for reference at all times You should never experiment new ideas on participants that might result in their injury A third general duty is imposed upon employees who, whilst at work, have a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of both themselves and of any other persons who may be affected by things that they do or do not do at work. This list is not exhaustive. It follows therefore that employers running a business and individual instructors owe a legal duty of care whilst running or assisting with ropes course sessions to participants who have a legal right to expect that they will not be subjected to an unreasonable risk of injury. Ultimately it would be for a court to decide what is reasonable and what is unreasonable by reference to statutory controls, recognised industry standards, expert evidence and decided cases. It has been suggested that those with a duty to discharge, must balance the risk to health and safety against, all of the costs (time, expense etc.) of implementing measures to avoid or reduce the health and safety risk. Unless the costs of implementation are grossly disproportionate to the risks then the implementation can be considered to be reasonably practicable. It is of course obvious that simply knowing the correct safety procedures is wholly insufficient unless they are correctly and properly applied. Risks can be minimised in the following ways:- Instructors being properly trained and competent to instruct on all elements Activities should be progressive 4

6 Unauthorised Access Part of the discharge of the duty of care imposed upon owners and managers of a ropes course area will include responsibility to take all reasonable care to prevent members of the public entering a ropes course area and using elements without consent. This is because owners and managers of a ropes course area owe a duty of care to trespassers! Simply putting up signs saying Private or Keep Out will not necessarily be sufficient. Of course much will depend on the geographical location of the ropes course with different steps having to be taken if the course is situated in a built-up area as opposed to one in the countryside. It may even be the case that in certain locations it is necessary to have elements that can be dismantled and stored in a secure place when they are not in use so as to prevent unauthorised access or vandalism. If a ropes course is on private land then owners/managers have a slightly easier task but if members of the public have any right of access (perhaps along a pathway adjoining the site or even through a site) then careful consideration has to be given as to how unauthorised access on to the course itself can be eliminated. Owners and managers are advised to consult with officers of their local Health and Safety Executive or the local authority Environmental Health Department. Specialist advice on the insurances that should be held in relation to the ownership, management and running of a ropes course should also be taken. Many specific steps can be taken with regard to each individual piece of equipment so as to discharge the duty of care. For a high element this would mean ensuring that access is not only prohibited but is not possible at all times when the element is not in use. This would usually be achieved by means of a removable ladder. 5

7 4 RISK ASSESSMENTS The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 came into force on 29th December They provide that every employer (there are separate provisions for self-employed persons) must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:- 1 The risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work 2 The risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment because of his conduct of business The purpose of the assessment (meaning a careful examination of what might at work cause harm so as to evaluate whether necessary precautions have been taken) is to identify the measures the employer should take to comply with the relevant statutory and regulatory controls. There are special matters that have to be taken into account as part of the assessment where persons under 18 are employed. Any employer who employs 5 or more persons must keep a record of the significant findings of the assessment and any groups identified as being especially at risk. There is no substitute for taking advice on the obligations arising out of these Regulations and the Health and Safety Executive have published a five step assessment plan namely:- STEP 1: Look for the hazards STEP 2: Decide who might be harmed and how STEP 3: Evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done STEP 4: Record your findings STEP 5: Review your assessment and revise if necessary Details of these guidelines can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive. A good starting point would be their website which is found at:- There is a specific obligation to provide employees only restricted access to areas identified as being of particular health and safety concern and to ensure that those persons who do have access receive adequate health and safety instruction. 6

8 5 ROPES COURSE DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED ( RCD ) SAFETY INSPECTION RECOMMENDATION It is very important that inspections are carried out regularly. The nature and frequency of such inspections would depend upon factors such as location and intensity of use. As a guide, RCD recommends the following in order to assist those responsible for their ropes courses. Daily Inspections: Instructors should look for the following before the commencement of a session:- (a) Signs of vandalism or malicious damage Monthly Inspections: (a) Integrity of belay cables and zip wires - this involves instructors traversing or descending cables to look for any broken wires or other significant damage. On zip wire cables the greatest area of wear is generally at the lowest point where the greatest degree of oscillation occurs. On a belay cable it is normally under any fixing to the belay cable from which people are lowered (e.g. maillon rapides) or the point from which people are lowered (normally equidistant from each end). (b) (c) Platforms and other wooden structures should be examined. A thorough inspection of all personal protective equipment associated with the ropes course should be made Professional Inspections: (b) (c) Integrity of belay cables, belay ropes, belay trolleys, maillon rapides and shear reduction devices Particularly after high winds (on a ropes course in or near trees) instructors should look for any hung-up branches, root heaving or other structural damage This must be carried out at intervals recommended by the ropes course manufacturer or annually (whichever is more frequent). Tree courses also require an annual arboricultural inspection. You can arrange this locally or through RCD contact. RCD make no charge for this contact. 7

9 6 SUMMARY OF RELEVANT STATUTORY & REGULATORY CONTROLS HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK ACT 1974 Requirements include: 1 Safe systems of work, safe equipment, proper maintenance 2 Employee training, instruction and supervision 3 W ritten statement of safety policy, organisation and arrangements 4 Protection for non-employees (e.g. clients) who may be at risk from the undertaking MANAGEMENT OF HEALTH & SAFETY AT WORK REGULATIONS 1999 Requirements include: 1 Risk assessment 2 Health and safety assistance 3 Procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger area 4 Information to be provided to employees 5 Capabilities and training 6 Employee s duties 7 Temporary works 8 Protection of young persons PROVISION AND USE OF WORK EQUIPMENT REGULATIONS 1998 Requirements include: 1 Selection of suitable work equipment (broadly defined) 2 Maintenance of equipment and marking of work equipment and use of warnings PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AT WORK REGULATIONS 1992 Requirements include: 1 Suitable personal protective equipment for employees 2 M aintenance 3 Proper use of personal protective equipment WORKING AT HEIGHT REGULATIONS 2005 HEALTH & SAFETY (FIRST AID) REGULATIONS 1981 Requirements include: 1 Adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment and facilities 2 Provision of first aiders 3 Training of first aiders 8

10 7 FURTHER INFORMATION The following publications may be of help: An introduction to health and safety INDG FREE Essentials of health and safety at work ISBN X 1995 but now reprinted with amendments in September 1999 Personal Protective Equipment at Work: - Guidance on Regulations L25 ISBN (1992 but revised in 1995) All of these publications are available from:- HSE Books P.O. Box 1999 Sudbury Suffolk CO10 6F Tel: Fax:

11 RCD Health and Safety Guide for Ropes Course Owners and Operators Contact us today for a free site visit anywhere in the UK: RCD Health and Safety Guide 1_NOV06

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