Published standards for outdoor activities

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Over the last 20 years, standards/guidelines have been published for various outdoor activities including bushwalking. The content of these standards is largely oriented towards  commercial tour operators.

Recreational bushwalking communities and clubs have expressed concerns about compliance with these standards being required for their activities.

The following concerns have been identified with published standards:

  • Assumptions that compliance with a standard is an adequate measure of safety assurance
  • Compliance can become an end in itself. The risk is that over time conformity to rules develops into a ritual disconnected from the resolution of the problem a standard was devised to achieve
  • The burden of compliance
  • No rule can adequately capture the requisite work of a prescribed action. On the ground, every standard is simultaneously over-determined and incomplete.  
  • The user must have sufficient knowledge and experience to make some assessment or appraisal of the standard.
  • A published standard could be based on minimum preventative measures rather than all reasonable steps, or common practice, or simply the set of measures a particular group could all agree on. 
  • Standards may reflect industry pressure. 
  • Standards may represent a sectional interest that issues a standard.  At least in some circumstances “regulatory capture” would almost be expected .

The Victorian government has provided assurances that recreational bushwalkers will not be required to comply with Australian Adventure Activity Standards (AAS).

The AAAS are designated “voluntary” and are not enacted or authorised by any Act of Parliament or other legislative instrument. The standards have no legal status. 

Guidelines associated with the AAAS provide some useful information. 

However, much of the content is more relevant to commercial operators.  Compliance is a condition of a Tour Operators License in Victoria.

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