- Written by Dan Graham
We know we say it a lot, but as a holiday company and as coaches, YOUR safety is our priority. Unless you are safe, you won't have a good time. If you don't have a good time, you won't tell your friends, and you won't come back. So we work pretty hard at making sure we are doing the best we can possibly do at keeping you safe.
One of the organisations that we are pretty friendly with in a number of ways is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Both in terms of our water activities, but also in terms of our driving. Now, in years gone by, the guys at RoSPA have taken a beating from the open water swimming community. Anyway, moving on from dwelling in the past - RoSPA are now taking a very proactive interest in open water activities, and have recently published this post: 2013 - a year to make waves on inland water safety on their blog - called Safety Gone Sane.
We recommend that you go and read the whole blog post, but we are going to just pull out some comments for discussion here.
Public expectations have changed, and this is reflected in the civil landscape which to some extent has changed in the wake of the Darby v National Trust and Tomlinson V Congleton judgements. These, and subsequent judgements, have signalled a move away from overly paternalistic approaches, demonstrating an increasingly tolerant attitude towards public risk management from the higher courts.
This is critical, and we agree 100%. As a grown adult in a free country, we choose to go and do dangerous activities - whether that is skydiving, mountain biking, surfing, swimming, or crossing the road. We do these things of our own free will, and the person that is responsible for my safety is me.
Of course, we can pay for lessons, and we have an expectation that the coach or instructor will look after us as well - but they cannot stop us from doing stupid things. Dan has had some interesting conversations with some surf rescue guys in the USA recently, and they highlighted the big difference in our cultures - they felt in the USA that people were taking less and less responsibility for themselves, and expecting "someone else to do something" more often. Thanks to the work of the guys at RoSPA, we don't believe that we are in that situation in the UK. There is increasing pressure to just relax a bit, and allow folks to go out and play... and hurt themselves.
Unfortunately, we still see an often piecemeal approach to managing inlands sites, and the question of responsibility is still having a significant impact on our collective ability to manage these risks.
Although, the view from higher courts has, in the main, underlined personal responsibility and promoted the right to take risks, and protect landowners with good management arrangements in place. Wider perceptions may not have caught up. We still, unfortunately all too often, come across the opinion that “elf ‘n’ safety says no”.
It is simply the easy response for landowners. It's easier to say no, and not deal with the issue than it is to engage in conversation. We have certainly seen this from a couple of significant water owners in North Wales - who will remain nameless for the time being.
It's particularly irritating when sites are allowed to be used for activities such as canoeing, sailing, or SCUBA diving... However, thanks to some excellent analytical work by the guys at RoSPA - there is increasing evidence that these activities are really very dangerous in comparison to open water swimming (in reality, all the activities are fairly safe). The barriers to swimmers on grounds of "safety" are slowly being broken down.
So we agree totally with RoSPA - that 2013 is looking to be a good year for adverturous activities generally, and open water swimming specifically.