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Is the Outdoors too risky?

Young person climbing

At a time when the positive benefits, mental and physical, of outdoor activity are more and more recognised, it's sad to see an American College pulling back from promoting these activities. (

The news piece suggests that the College has undertaken a risk assessment of the activities, and found them unsafe, without fully consulting with those in the club, who could be more competent at assessing the risks?

Statistics, derived from incidents and accident data show that outdoor activities are typically 'safer' than many ordinary activities. This, usually is as a result of well managed sessions, being delivered either by experienced or qualified leaders or instructors, or with highly competent peer groups. To undertake an effective risk assessment, the College carrying that out would have had to had a competent person risk assessing or, undertaken good consultation to understand the hazards, risks and controls. Specific activity participants often have knowledge of how to manage risk in a way that a non-participant wouldn't understand.

One of the basic concepts behind outdoor activity is that if people are aware of the risks they face, then it is up to them to accept them. Of course no-one should put pressure on a participant to accept a risk that they don't like, but it is the personal management of these risks that adds benefits and transferable life skills beyond the actual activity. This is why adventurous training is very well regarded by many business organisations.

Basic knifeskills and bushcraft

In the UK the legal premise "Volenti non fit injuria" (Latin: "to a willing person, injury is not done") is well understood, and as a result, well organised sessions rarely have incidents, or further have a legal consequence for the leaders, or organisers.

Many participants wouldn't even think about the legal consequence of a twisted ankle when trail running, or a bruise or two from a game of rugby. If you are aware of the risks, then the sense of enjoyment that comes with participating, or experiencing the natural environment is significant. The evidence for removing barriers to participation in the outdoors is significant, and something that we are passionate about supporting.

Navigation Training

Young people will always seek adventure and some of this should be independent self-managed activity. There are many awards, such as the D of E scheme that actively encourage this, and its benefits. Where there are many potential participants believing that closing or restricting a club will make those activities safer flies in the face of common and good practice.

Quite apart from the social benefit that outdoor activities provide, how can we nurture value and respect for our finite outdoor resource if we seek to prevent people using it. To stop littering, to prevent damage to the wild places, people must value them first. That can't be done through a mobile, tablet, YouTube or Facebook - people should get out there and experience it for themselves to get the benefits and knowledge that is ultimately transferable to life more broadly.

Skills and canoeing

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