HSE Review of AALA – SAPOE statement on latest consultation

Interested parties only now have until the 9th March to comment on the HSE’s discussion document on its review of AALA.  The document sets out the three options that the HSE board will be taking forward for consideration, and your input will help inform HSE of what the industry across the UK feels about each option. Furthermore, the responses will be collated for each Home Nation, so there is a chance to understand whether the needs or wants of each country are different.

The online information can be found here

The link to the discussion document is here

You can set up an account and respond to the document here

SAPOE representatives have attended various meetings, forums, and discussions over the last year in relation to this review, along with maintaining regular contact within the SAPOE network, and liaison with Local Authority representatives. Previous reviews of Activity Licensing have also been carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government, and the most recent review (March 2015) can be found here

In the past six months three specific options around the future of Adventure Activity Licensing have been worked on by HSE, as well as a body called UKAIG (UK Adventure Industry Group).  These options are;

Option 1 – Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and increase fees.

Option 2 – Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and increase fees and extend the range of activities that are in-scope of Licensing.

Option 3 – Removal of the AALA regulations and look to develop an industry-led, not-for-profit voluntary accreditation scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

SAPOE feel there are too many unknowns with Option 3, in that the scope, reach, or cost have yet to be clarified. Information to date suggests that any accreditation process set up through the adoption of Option 3 would lead to a scheme that accredited safety, but could also include quality of provision; transport; accommodation etc.

SAPOE feel that this widening of accreditation criteria could lead to two things – substantially higher accreditation fees due to longer and more complex inspections and reports, or reduction in time spent on safety critical aspects of inspection.

With a lot of discussion being given to the current/future cost of AALA governance, it is somewhat concerning that Option 3 has no detail of cost attached to it at all. Some providers may feel that with Option 1 and Option 2 likely to involve a fee increase, Option 3 may be better for them financially – however, no data or information is available to back this presumption up.

In terms of scope and reach, it is unclear as to what providers would engage with any new accreditation under Option 3. With it being voluntary, it would, however, be entirely down to any provider to decide whether to engage or not. Current information suggests that there may be the opportunity to amalgamate other voluntary schemes to prevent duplication of inspection. The concern for SAPOE is that this may lead to the safety aspect of Adventurous Activities being devalued – for example, it may be that two very different providers both end up holding the same accreditation, yet the safety systems each would be expected to have in place would be very different because of the activities they provide (indoor/outdoor, adventurous/educational, NGB qualifications/in-house training etc.).

Voluntary accreditation schemes for activity providers already exist within the UK, notably Adventuremark and the LOtC Quality Badge. Whilst both these schemes have had degrees of success in England and Wales, in Scotland neither scheme has more than 15 holders (most of whom hold both awards). This raises questions of the value Scottish providers and users place on a voluntary scheme, and whether any new scheme under Option 3 would be sustainable or desirable in Scotland.

Licensing came into being as a result of a lack of self-regulation and unsafe practice within the sector. Whilst the sector has made great leaps forward in professionalism since 1996, it is perhaps only due to the very existence of regulated licensing that this has happened, and the worry would be that without regulated licensing and ongoing inspections, unscrupulous or unsafe providers would again be able to operate under the radar until an incident occurs that warranted further investigation. A voluntary scheme cannot provide the same assurances that a statutory scheme can if providers do not have to sign up to it and are not inspected.

Whilst Option 1 would retain current levels of assurance, it is acknowledged that the Adventure Industry has moved on since the licensing act was introduced. New activities have developed, and the line between Adventure Activity and fun activity has been blurred. Option 2 would appear to offer the most likely opportunity to retain regulated inspection, whilst also allowing for the scope of activities to be developed to include those that currently fall outside of Licensing. In this way, current assurances could be maintained, and more providers would have the opportunity to engage with licensing.

The essential choice that all respondents will have to make is whether they are in favour of retaining statutory Activities Licensing (either in its current format, or with an update to scope), or whether they are in favour of deregulating Activities Licensing and replacing it with an as yet unknown voluntary scheme.

In conclusion, the SAPOE Executive Committee recommends that users and providers of adventurous activities in Scotland respond to the HSE discussion document indicating that they support the development of Option 2 – retain Licensing, but extend the range of activities that are in scope. Whilst we appreciate this may not be the view of all SAPOE representatives or Scottish LA’s, SAPOE meetings over the last 12months have shown that the majority of members are in favour of the retention of the Adventurous Activities Licensing Act, and the assurances that the statutory inspection process brings with it.

SAPOE Executive Committee, 6/3/2018