API Summer 2021

Global Views

Safety audits are de rigueur for aerial adventure operators in the UK, much like third-party inspections in North America. Here’s how they can add value to an operation.

SAFE AND SOUND By Emma Bell and Steve Woods, Vertex Training

When customers come to our parks and facilities, we all want to ensure they have the best possible experience in as safe an environment as we can create. So, how do you ensure that you are meeting this goal (and discharging your legal duties) while also following health and safety guidance and indus- try standards? For us in the UK, safety audits are the answer. In the UK, the duty toward employee and non-employee health and safety is codified through a series of legislative acts and regulatory standards, primarily the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, (HSWA), but also a number of other codes and practices set forth by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE recommends an approach called Plan, Do, Check, and Act. “Check” is a key component of ensuring an efficient and safe operation, and that’s where audits come in. Safety audits support an operation by looking at the quality and effectiveness of its health and safety systems, as well as identifying opportunities for safety improvements.


• session observations; • staff training and monitoring; and • accidents, incidents, near misses and rescues, as well as rescue proce- dures.

At Vertex, we’ve carried out nearly 100 audits for a wide range of clients, from small, independent single-site operators to large, multi-site nationwide operators. Operators undertake audits for a variety of reasons. Some have identified spe- cific problems and want the audit to go into detail about those problems and how they might be overcome. For oth- ers, the audit helps to identify strengths and weaknesses. For still others, an au- dit might measure the performance of staff, particular activities, or locations. Or, it may just be something the opera- tor believes is an important part of their health and safety culture and plan. In practical terms, an audit covers areas including, but not limited to: • operation and management of zip lines, ropes course, or adventure park; • PPE and at-height safety, including paperwork, equipment and storage, and its suitability and sufficiency; • structures and inspections;


Even at the strongest of operations, audits will turn up unrecognized issues and provide solutions. “No matter what experience you have, getting a second pair of expert eyes has always proved to enhance and improve what we do,” says Rod Baber, owner of Head4Heights in Cirencester, who has been working in the climbing, mountaineering, and high ropes world for more than 20 years. Protect your staff and prevent accidents. Audits help identify small process flaws that can create safety issues. For ex- ample, a Vertex audit at a climbing wall found that two instructors running the activity received high praise from guests and demonstrated excellent people skills, but in their focus on customer en- gagement, they had allowed key safety

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