Adventure Activities Licensing Authority

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The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) is the licensing authority for outdoor activity centres for young people in Great Britain. Since 2007 it has been part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the government body charged with overseeing health and safety in all workplaces. AALA inspect and issue licences to providers. These licences give an assurance that, so far as is reasonably practicable, participants and employees can be 'safe'.[1]

On October 15, 2010, Lord Young of Graffham, recommended that the AALA be abolished and the existing statutory licensing regime be replaced by a code of practice.[2]

The AALA was created following the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy in March, 1993 which involved a commercial organisation assuming responsibility for children's safety. A group of eight pupils and their teacher were accompanied by two instructors from an outdoor centre on the south coast of England. As a result of a series of errors, four of the teenagers drowned. The subsequent trial resulted in the prosecution of the parent company and the centre manager. The government initially resisted changing legislation until David Jamieson, the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Devonport, who represented the parents of the children who died, introduced a Private Member's Bill which in January 1995 became the Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995.[3] In January 1995 an independent licensing authority, the AALA, was created to bring the act into reality.

The activities within the scope of the licensing scheme are:[4]

  • caving (except in caves principally used as show-places open to the public)
  • climbing (climbing, traversing, abseiling and scrambling activities except on purpose-built climbing walls or abseiling towers)
  • trekking (walking, running, horny trekking, mountain biking, off-piste skiing and related activities when done in moor- or mountain-country above 600 metres and which is remote, i.e. over 30 minutes travelling time from the nearest road or refuge)
  • watersports (canoeing, rafting, sailing and related activities when done on the sea, tidal waters or larger non-placid inland waters).

Despite many providers falling outside the legal remit of AALA, the standards are widely regarded as applying to any organisation providing outdoor activities and would probably, according to Marcus Baillie (the head of inspection services) be used as “the standard” in any court case. It is not clear if provision has declined across the country as a consequence of the Act, but risk analysis and management systems appear to have increased. It is fortunate[why?] that the head of inspection services and the inspectors all have extensive experience in the field of outdoor education and are typically well respected within the outdoor community.[citation needed] This adds credibility to AALA and, one[who?] hopes, to the field of outdoor education in general. It is difficult to predict the future of AALA and the consequences of this on the field.[citation needed] One possibility is the expansion of the remit to increase the range of activities covered. Another possibility is to widen the remit to apply to all providers regardless of the age groups with which they work. Further options might be considered for voluntary organisations. This currently looks very unlikely, primarily due to cost. There is also discussion about a non-statutory scheme for those providers who are outside the remit of the licensing scheme, but again cost of implementation is likely to prove prohibitive. There is, not surprisingly, some debate regarding whether AALA has achieved its original aims following the kayaking tragedy (Loynes, 1996). One study, which focused on sea kayaking, suggests that AALA has had almost entirely positive effects on both quality and quantity of provision in sea kayaking (Woolven, 2004). Empirical data on other activities are not yet available and it appears that no one is currently conducting research in this area.

Although the AALA regulations appear to be working well[citation needed] and are typically well received[citation needed] they may have added force to the culture of over-protection placing, for example, an increased emphasis on safety and administration of risk assessments as opposed to a deeper discussion on educational practices.[citation needed]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Recommendation to abolish the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority
  3. ^ "Mum's anger at plan to scrap law brought in after four Plymouth children died". The Herald. 12 October 2011. Archived from the original on 2014-10-15. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  4. ^ Guidance from the Licensing Authority on the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004 The Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995