Outdoor activity centre legal issues

Multiple people riding quad bikes in open field on cloudy day

Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to apply to your outdoor activity centre are listed below.

What licences does an outdoor activity centre need?

The Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations require certain outdoor activity centres that offer any of four broad categories of activity - caving, climbing, trekking and watersports - to children under the age of 18 to be licensed. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has responsibility for implementing the regulations and has contracted much of the operation of the scheme to Tourism Quality Services (TQS). After carrying out a review and consultation, HSE has decided to remove the AALA regulations and move to an industry-led, non-statutory, not-for-profit scheme to provide assurance to users of outdoor activities. The contract with TQS Ltd was extended until September 2019 to allow time to tender for a new provider and to consult on the implementation of the new regime. Until the decisions on implementation have been made, the current licensing requirement remains in place.

Regardless of what happens in England, the devolved administrations in the rest of the UK have decided to retain a statutory licensing regime. There is further information on the HSE AALA website.

Vetting and Barring Scheme

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) works to stop unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults. The DBS operates the Vetting and Barring Scheme, which background checks and assesses anyone who wants to work with these groups and bars unsuitable individuals. A similar scheme operates in Scotland, run by Disclosure Scotland. Anyone on the barred list can not work with children and it is an offence to employ them. You can find out more on the Disclosure Scotland website and the DBS section of the Gov.uk website.

Other licences

The following may also be relevant to your outdoor activity centre:

  • one or more television licence (a single licence covers 15 accommodation rooms and a further licence is needed for every additional 5 rooms)
  • if you show films or other video entertainment - for example if you put on a DVD for your guests to watch in the evening - you'll usually need a licence from Filmbank and/or the Motion Picture Licensing Company
  • if background music is provided in the centre you will need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website
  • if you keep computerised records of individuals' personal details or operate a CCTV system you may be required to register as a data user with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data

Adventure activities licensing

If your centre offers any of four broad categories of activity - caving, climbing, trekking or watersports - to young people under the age of 18, it's likely that you will need to get a licence from the Adventure Activities Licensing Service (AALS). You can find out more from the HSE AALA website. The AALA regulations are under review and will be replaced in the near future by an industry-led, non-statutory scheme.

BAPA Code of Practice

If you are - or intend to become - a member of the British Adventure Providers Association (BAPA), you will need to comply with their Code of Practice, which covers all aspects of running an activity centre. More information is available on the BAPA website.

Reporting accidents

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) require that accidents and 'near miss' dangerous occurrences that happen in the workplace are reported. Details of the requirements as well as an online reporting facility are available from the RIDDOR section of the HSE website.

Vetting and Barring Scheme

Before taking on a new employee or volunteer you must check that they are suitable to work with children or vulnerable adults and have not been barred by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or by Disclosure Scotland. You can find out more on the Disclosure Scotland website and the DBS section of the Gov.uk website.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for an outdoor activity centre

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider.

Due to the potential risk involved in the activities that you offer, it is essential that you have public liability insurance. One of the requirements of membership of the British Adventure Providers Association (BAPA) is having cover of at least £5 million.

Your other insurance cover may include:

  • premises and premises contents
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • employer's liability
  • motor insurance (for business vehicles)

When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form.

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