In case you were unaware (which for anyone without experience of the adventure activities industry will be most people!), the 2011 Government-commissioned review into health and safety recommended the abolishment of AALA*. The new Coalition Government landscape back then was one of cutting ‘red tape’, which is of course a good thing if it restricts business without tangible benefit. However, AALA somehow got swept up in this review and it became the ‘baby in the bathwater’ and its abolishment appeared imminent.
But then came a consultation in 2012 and the devolved Governments of Scotland and Wales announced they wanted to retain AALA. This prompted the Health and Safety Executive to ‘pause’ the abolishment. Whilst some may say this was simply a reaction to having more pressing issues to consider, it could also have been due to good old listening to industry stakeholders.
Last week in a statement within its progress report on the health and safety reforms, the Government has announced that it is now to keep AALA after all.
“Ministers have decided that there remains a place for AALA because it is important that parents and other carers of children can have confidence that activity providers are following good safety practices. Therefore AALA will be retained, albeit that in the longer term its scope and future delivery mechanism may change. Any proposals for significant change will be announced with sufficient lead-in time to allow the licence holders to plan for change and, if required, will include transitional arrangements.”
From my experience, AALA has always been a fabulous organisation, providing excellent advice and support to activity providers. It might not be perfect (and what form of audit or inspection is?) but it certainly adds value in helping maintain standards in the sector, along with other external audit schemes. Was the whole thing a waste of time? Possibly so. One can’t help but wonder whether the same recommendation would have been made initially had the same level of consultation been undertaken at the outset. Questions of course remain, including how the scope and future delivery will change but for now, this appears to be a victory for common sense.
* The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) came into existence in April 1996. It is currently sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions. The Health and Safety Executive is currently designated as the AALA. The AALA’s role is to have oversight and responsibility for the efficient delivery of the licensing regime. It sets the strategic direction for the regime, publishes guidance and monitors the delivery of the licensing service.
To see the full report, please click here.