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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Adventure to 8848 

Had the press release been a few weeks earlier, many might have thought that a newly announced British Standard was an April Fool joke. The standard in question BS 8848:2007 Specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the United Kingdom, is a 45 page document developed for adventurous activities abroad with the laudable aim of reducing the risk of injury or illness. It was conceived because of (British) consumer concerns about the risks associated with adventure holidays, fieldwork, expeditions and other visits, and the variable levels of competence, training and fitness of participants.

However, the standard's strategy is to specify requirements that should be met by an organiser of adventurous trips, in order to conform to good practice. Of course, the definition of 'good practice' was decided by the committee that produced the standard, but that aside, the key words are: 'specify requirements' and 'good practice'; what is being offered is a checklist of items that can be used by British nationals, or anyone else, planning adventurous travel outside the UK, and is particularly aimed at expedition organisers; universities, further education colleges and other organisers of field work and field research; gap year travel companies; providers of adventure holidays or vacations; and voluntary groups organising adventurous travel. Helping them to identify and manage risks when planning their ventures and therefore reducing the likelihood of serious harm or injury to participants.

I guess that the value of the standard will depend on the definition of 'good practice' and the way in which it is applied. The provision of such activities within Britain is governed by UK Health and Safety guidelines, and various consumer protection laws, but presumably the same 'good practice' is relevant, whatever and wherever the adventure. Participants can use the new standard, BS 8848:2007, to gauge levels of risk applicable to them and get answers to the 'what if' questions. Hopefully, the advice is universal.

By the way, the reference number for the new standard '8848' corresponds to the height of Mt. Everest in metres, the International Standards Organization unit of distance.

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