8 – In case of a death

In Case of Death

The 8th of an 8 part weekly series on handling and preparing for problems.

No training on emergency procedures would be complete without dealing with deaths on a trip. The death of a group member is everyone’s worse nightmare but it does happen, even if the death was caused by natural causes. i.e. Heart attack.

  1. Treat as though alive until determined to be dead by a medical practitioner. The only real exception is when the trauma is so great it cannot be anything else, such as a decapitation.
  2. Do not move bodies except to protect them from further harm, but protect from scavengers that may arrive.
  3. Contact nearest Police authority and inform of the death
  4. Remove children from sight of bodies
  5. Grim as it is, photograph the scene – especially any technical equipment setups
  6. Keep occupied with tasks. It distracts you and the group
  7. Do not talk to the press. Only speak to rescue personnel and the police or embassy staff
  8. Arrange trauma counselling after the trip

Your trip leaders should be trained to deal with this eventuality, so follow their lead unless they are the person involved, in which case the above points will help you to deal with the situation.

Plan 10

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

7 – What if I lose the group?

What if I lose the group?

The 7th of an 8 part weekly series on handling and preparing for problems.

We are going to look at this specific scenario as it is the one time that group members may end up alone with no one else to discuss problems with. Injuries etc. generally occur where there are others to help, but if you have become separated from the group you need to know what to do.

Quite simply, when you realise you are on your own and do not know where the group is:

  • Stay put – if you do not know where you are or are going to, you will only get more lost by moving. Besides the leaders knew where you were last and will look there for you. You could also move out of the area being searched.
  • Make yourself visible – always have some brightly coloured items with you. Clothing, rescue kit etc. Stay in the open if safe to do so. If you have to take refuge from bad weather for example, leave visible markers in a place they will be seen and direct rescuers to your position. If for some safety reason you have to leave the area, leave a highly visible marker and a note explaining what your intention are, so anyone looking for you will know what your plan is. Stick to your plan, do not change it as this will confuse the rescuers.
  • Signal – Fire (if safe to do so), signal mirror, flares, whistle, shouting.
  • Have any gear you have with you packed and ready to go, so when you are found you do not have to waste time packing up.

Plan 8

In the next Blog we will look at ‘In case of death‘…

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

6 – Self Rescues

Self Rescues

The 6th of an 8 part weekly series on handling and preparing for problems.

Of course not all incidents or emergencies require evacuation from the scene of everyone.

Sometimes you can carry out a self-rescue to stabilise the situation, treat the problem and then carry on with the trip.Plan 7

A person who has fallen into a river for example, could be rescued by the group, dried out and any minor injuries treated and then carry on as before, just more carefully.

This is why it is generally up to the leaders or guides to make the decision to call for help. They will have the training and experience to make this decision as to whether the group can cope on their own or not. Obviously if something has happened that prevents people from continuing the trip, and the group is not strong enough physically or mentally to evacuate on their own, they will need outside help.

A few points to keep in mind if self-rescuing:

  • Sometimes larger parties (5+) can evacuate their own injured if they are strong enough and the injuries permit it
  • Sometimes patients will only need to be moved short distances (e.g. away from rivers)
  • Someone, usually the leader needs to assign roles and tasks
  • Watch group members for signs of fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, hypothermia or excessive stress

In the next Blog we will look at ‘What if I lose the group‘…

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

5 – Calling for Help

Plan 11

Calling for Help

The 5th of an 8 part weekly series on handling and preparing for problems.

There will be times when whatever has happened is beyond the ability of the group to deal with alone and outside help is needed.

This decision will be made by the group leaders or guides, but in the event they are the ones involved and cannot make this decision, it is good for group members to know what to do.

Firstly the priorities must be dealt with these are what we discussed in the previous section. Once we have dealt with our priorities and have determined we need to call outside help, we will use the plan we have made to do so. When sending for help there is always going to be some vital information the rescuers will need in order to make their own action plan. As a minimum you should be prepared to tell them:

  • What is your phone number if you are calling by phone
  • What has happened
  • Where has it happened (Where are you)
  • When did it happen
  • Who is in charge
  • Who is injured
  • What first aid is available, been applied and qualifications of the first aiders
  • How many are there in the party, ages and experience
  • What is the terrain like where you are?
  • What is the current and anticipated weather like?
  • Is there a clearing for helicopters to land?
  • How prepared are you to “Dig In” (Keep safe where you are)
  • What is the groups plan?

When sending for help, inform the rescuers if it’s your trip leader who’s been injured. This might impact things quite severely. Also inform them of the state of the remainder of the group.

How you get this message out will depend on the situation, so again think about what options you have for communications even if you are not the group leader. Remember do not try to call for help unless your trip leaders / guides have given the go ahead or are incapacitated and cannot make that decision.

What options do you have for calling for help?

These will depend again on what plans were put in place beforehand and where you are, but they could include:

  • Cell / Telephones
  • Shouting / Whistles
  • Sending a written message – Always write it as verbal gets mixed up
  • Two way Radios
  • Smoke signals… In conservation areas it will usually get a response
  • Flares – hand or rocket
  • Visibility
  • Satellite phones
  • EPIRB
  • Don’t forget having someone at home who will call if you are delayed.

While You Are Waiting For HelpPlan 12

We come back to the panic question – people with nothing to do in a stressful situation will tend to panic, so keep yourselves busy. It could take a long time for a rescue team to get to you, so you need to prepare to wait it out.

  • Know where everyone is: pair people up in buddy pairs
  • Get water, make a meal & eat
  • Keep spirits up, be positive, reassure, and make sure everyone has something to do.
  • Make yourselves big, easy to find.
  • Continuously monitor your patient. Continuously monitor everyone else in the group
  • Think about what important kit the person being evacuated is carrying that might be necessary for the rest of you (like half of the tent or the car keys to get home). Is the person being evacuated leaving a child behind?

Plan 5

In the next Blog we will look at ‘Self Rescues‘…

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

4 – Action Plans – What do I do?

Action Plans – What do I do?

The 4th of an 8 part weekly series on handling and preparing for problems.

The number of different things that could happen on a trip are too many to count and probably will not happen anyway, but when they do we need to have a plan to deal with it.

In any situation, we can follow some simple action plans to help guide us through the situation. If you are a group member, remember that the primary responsibility to deal with the problem is the leader or guide. But if they are the one affected, someone else may have to take over.

Everyone’s initial action plan in any incident or emergency should be:

Plan 1

This may only take seconds, but could take hours depending on the complexity of the situation.

  • STOP – Stop doing what you are doing.
  • THINK – Think about what is happening, and is what you were doing causing the problem
  • OBSERVE – What is going on around you? Who is involved? What outside factors are influencing what is happening?
  • PLAN – Decide on a plan of action that you feel will resolve the problem. Some things to think about:
    • Determine the possible problems
    • What will you do about them?
    • Who should deal with them?
    • How will you deal with them?
    • What assistance is available?
    • How do I contact them?
  • DOGet on with following your plan

Let’s look at a simple example:

You are stopped for a rest break near a stream in a remote area. You have just filled your water bottle from the stream and you hear a loud shout or scream. Immediately you should:

  • Stop what you are doing – filling the bottle
  • Think about what you heard – was it directed at you or someone else or everyone in general
  • Observe what is going on around you – is someone looking at you trying to attract you attention as the water is polluted and they are trying to stop you filling your bottle; Has someone fallen into the river and is calling for help, Is someone in the group just messing about with other group members etc.
  • Plan what to do next – Stop filling bottle and ask leader where to get clean water; Respond in a safe manner to assist the person who has fallen in the river; Ignore the group members messing around
  • Do what you have planned – carry on filling bottle, Assist person who fell in; Ignore whoever shouted/screamed

This entire process could have taken 1 to 2 seconds, or maybe longer. Essentially it should become an unconscious response to anything unusual around you. You must become spatially aware – that is aware of what is happening around you at all times and decide if you need to respond to it or not.

To assist with the Thinking and Planning stages we have a set of priorities which we will look at next.

In your Thinking & Planning stages, we need to ensure our safety. We do not want to put ourselves in danger unnecessarily, so remember our Priorities are:

Plan 2

  • Yourself (ME) – Am I safe? Can I approach the problem or help without getting into trouble myself? When personal safety is at stake, you should look after yourself first. Not only does this make you safer, but relieves this burden from your leader temporarily. If they see you are looking after yourself, they can concentrate on others. Also looking after yourself, means you are in fine shape to be able to help others as and when you can.Plan 13
  • Patient/Group (US) – Is the patient in any immediate additional danger? Can I mitigate the danger without putting myself in danger? Is the group in immediate danger? Will the group be in danger if they try to assist the patient? Will they be in danger if they stay where they are now doing nothing? Will they become in danger if they are left without immediate leadership? Once you are safe, you can then prioritise others in your group. They are family for the time being, and expect your assistance.
  • Others (THEM)Then you can then prioritise others in the vicinity. That is people not part of your group. Are there other people around who will be in danger because of what has happened to us or because of us?
  • POSSESSIONS – Your gear is the least important unless there are specific items critical for survival. If the building is on fire and it’s freezing outside – you will need to take warm clothing with you when you evacuate, but forget the backpack. Even your money is not important right now. Never put your or anyone else’s life in jeopardy to save a piece of gear.

There is a second set of priorities which must be considered at the same time in any situation and these are the priorities of survival. These are the four areas which humans need to survive and are considered in this order:

Plan 3

  • AIR – We need to breathe so access to air is the first priority. If you are under water, get out fast – forget your new IPhone, you can always get another.
  • SHELTER/WARMTH – Shelter from the suns heat; the cold snow falling, the avalanche coming down on you, the wind blowing, rain etc.
  • WATER – Humans in normal conditions can only survive up to 3 days without water – so once you have air and shelter, find a water source.
  • FOOD – Humans can survive up to 40 days without food, so this is the least priority, but is something to think about and plan for.

Plan 4

In the next Blog we will look at ‘Calling for help’

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

3 – Looking after myself on a trip

Looking after myself on a trip

The 3rd of an 8 part series on handling and preparing for problems.

Again we reinforce the concept of not blindly just heading off into the unknown, but taking some personal proactive steps to make sure you are prepared if anything does not go according to plan.

First of all do not be afraid to look after yourself and ask questions. Many people on trips think they will upset the leaders or guides if they interfere, but the opposite is true. In fact as one trekking operator in Peru told me about preparing people for trips, “ – always good to have a well-informed and prepared customer.

  • On arrival at the start of the trip
    • Verify emergency information with the trip leaders
    • Complete applicable rescue registers or intentions forms if they are available and you are asked to do so by the leaders. If you notice they are available but the leaders have not filled them in, ask why?
    • Check escape routes with your leader and mark them on your own map
  • Carry your emergency, first aid and personal medication kit with you. Do not send it with porters if you are using them. It does not help if your emergency kit is five kilometres ahead of you
  • Keep personal documents with you at all times
  • Monitor your own map during the day so you always know where you are on it. If things go wrong you want to already know where you are.
  • Keep an eye on group members for signs of trouble and tell the leaders if you suspect a problem
  • Each day, spend a few minutes thinking about potential issues that could arise that day and what your response could be
  • Act promptly and decisively in the event of an emergency
  • Remember to look at the view from where you have come from every now again. If you have to retreat on your own, the path always looks different going the other direction – get used to what it looks like.
  • If you are unsure or unhappy about anything, speak to your trip leaders or guides. They are used to being asked all sorts of questions and expect it. That red spot on your leg may be something more serious than just a mosquito bite. If you suspect you are getting a blister, ask the leaders to stop for a while whilst you dress it. The five minutes it takes now, may save hours or days later on if it gets worse and infected.
  • Don’t be afraid to call for rescue if the leaders are incapacitated
  • Sign out rescue registers before leaving at the end of the trip

As a final point on this topic – remember that all experienced trip leaders or guides have ‘heard it all’, they will not be embarrassed with your personal problems, as they have probably had the same issue before. Perhaps you have developed stinking foot rot, or your period has come early and you do not have sanitary towels, or you have picked up an STD, or you have run out of hearing aid batteries. Tell them, the safety of the whole group is at stake if you are not performing at your best.

Specifically 2

In the next Blog we will look at ‘Action plans – What do I do?’

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

2- Preparing before a trip

Preparing before a trip

The 2nd of an 8 part series on handling and preparing for problems.

Plan 15Once you have decided on your trip and made your booking or personal planning, you should start to think about the trip and how you would handle incidents or emergencies. We are not talking about detailed plans written down, that is not your responsibility unless you are the leader/guide, but it is your responsibility to do some basic research about where you are going, what you will be doing and how it may impact you personally. After all you are the best person in the world when it comes to knowing what you can cope with, and how you respond to problems. Your trip leaders or guides do not know you at all except what you have told them. Have you told them you are afraid of spiders and are prone to panic attacks?? Seriously though, they will be learning about you on the trip as you go along and cannot be expected to know exactly how you will respond to an incident. Help them by deciding for yourself that you will look after yourself first.

Everyone should have thought about what they will do in an incident or emergency. It is not expected that you plan in detail for every eventuality, but blindly putting your safety in the hands of another is never a good idea.

Simple possible scenarios you could think about include:

  • The Tea House / Refuge we are staying in catches fire – how do I get out? (Think about this before going to bed
  • All my travel documents get lost. (Where will I get spares?)
  • I know I will miss my flight home as we are running late. (What is plan ‘B?
  • I break my leg 2 days into the trek. (Where is the nearest medical facility? How will I get there?)
  • I break my glasses. (Can I cope without them?)
  • You wake up from a siesta and find your party has left without you and you are all alone. (Do you know which way they went and can you catch up?

There are many more, but this is just to give you an idea as to what everyone should think about. Which of the above are emergencies and which are incidents? Think about it…

More Practical Things I Can Do Before I Go

In the build-up to leaving on your trip – there are things you can do that are more practical which will not only prepare you for the trip, but set your mind at rest as it will know you are well prepared. The list could be endless, but a few examples of things you could do practically are:

  • Do an outdoors first aid course – this is useful anyway and should not be just for the trip you are going on.
  • Customise your personal first aid kit for the trip you are going on. What medications are allowed where you are going? What might you need specific to the area? (Anti malaria, Diarrhoea medication, Sunblock, etc.)
  • Ensure you have had any vaccinations you need
  • Prepare and double check any travel documentation is valid and up to date. (Passports, visas, foreign exchange. Have you told your bank you may use your bank cards out of your home country? Is your passport valid for 6 months after your expected return?)
  • Inform the trip leaders or guides if you have an existing medical condition requiring immediate care and where they will find the relevant meds in your pack. (Heart medication, Asthma pumps, Bee sting EPI Pens, Insulin etc.) Have your personal particulars on your person somewhere. They speak for you when you’re unable to.
  • Read up about the area and research anything which may cause a problem. (Monsoon season may block roads)
  • Start to get fit – walk as often as possible using the gear you plan to take with so that you can resolve any issues with gear before you leave.
  • Make copies of all your important documentation and place in online cloud storage. Also keep a copy in a separate part of your luggage.
  • Prepare an action plan and leave it with someone back home you trust to follow should anything prevent you getting home. This could be simple things like feeding your cat, or letting your boss know you have not arrived home as planned. But it could be more serious like reporting your non arrival home to the police. Or you could use trailnote.com An electronic watchdog for those whose friends might forget.
  • If you will be camping on your trip, and this is something new or infrequent for you, ‘camp’ on the lounge floor for a night or in the garden using the gear you are taking with. Make sure it all works and you know how to use it.
  • Prepare a few simple items which could assist you to cope with things that may happen…

Some Simple Things… Emergency KitsPlan 14

Statistics show that the people best able to weather incidents or emergencies are those who have planned and prepared themselves beforehand.

It would be beneficial for every person in a group to carry some simple personal items which could assist. Again these will depend on where you are going. We are not talking a full emergency preparedness kit, jut some basic lightweight personal bits which could help you cope. All the following would weigh less than 1kg.

  • 2 meters of 5mm nylon cord
  • A couple of energy bars
  • A few cable ties
  • Duct tape – Wrap around trekking pole
  • Map of the area you are going to
  • Multi-tool. Just a small one is fine
  • Personal first aid kit suited to your training & abilities
  • Rescue bag
  • Rescue sheet/blanket
  • Small sewing kit. Include a sail-makers needle and dental floss.
  • Something to start a fire with, and perhaps a few solid fuel tablets
  • Spare boot laces
  • Torch
  • Whistle

If you are lucky enough to be in a cell/mobile reception area. Ensure the phone does not have a security PIN enabled, so that if you are incapacitated and someone else needs to use the phone, they can switch it on.

Just having the above and a bit of ingenuity can go a long way to making your situation much better.

Specifically

In the next Blog we will look at ‘Looking after myself on a trip’

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

1 – Emergency / Incident Procedures

Emergency / Incident Procedures

The 1st of an 8 part series on handling and preparing for problems.

There is no way to totally remove the risks of travel in remote areas, and things will go wrong from time to time, that’s part of the adventure. It’s how we personally respond to these incidents that makes the difference between an adventure and a misadventure.

This series is intended to instil all people on  trips how they could respond, and making sure we categorise emergencies correctly.

Emergencies differ from person to person. What may be regarded as an emergency to one person, may not to another. In addition, emergencies can be caused by a number of factors, but if we put some thought into them, we will discover that for a particular scenario to be truly regarded as an emergency, it needs to answer one specific question with ‘Yes’:

Will our / my situation continue to deteriorate so that significant loss will be caused unless action is taken right now?

Emergencies and ‘Incidents’ are not necessarily the same thing, but can be. An incident falls into the following definition:

Something unplanned for has occurred which has resulted in a loss, but the situation is now stable and even if we do nothing no further loss will occur even though there may still be actions we need to take to return the situation to normal.

Let’s look at a few comparisons between emergencies and incidents: (Try to think of why they are categorised as they are – explanations are given in the end notes.)

Plan 16

If we categorise incidents and emergencies properly, we can then apply the correct action to them. Treating an incident as an emergency unnecessarily can place you, the group and the rescuers in further danger.

How Does This Affect Me As A Group Member?

Simply put – think about how much you value your own life, well-being and possessions, and make a conscious decision to look after yourself. Your trip leaders or guides are trained to look after you, but they need your help. No matter how good the leader is, they cannot help 10 people running around in a blind panic. You have a responsibility to co-operate with the leaders instructions, take appropriate action to safeguard yourself, and act responsibly. Essentially look after yourself primarily which relieves some of the burden from the leaders so they can concentrate of the most important issues at hand.

In the next Blog we will look at ‘Preparing before your trip’

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

[i] Not life threatening, can be treated and stay on trip.

[ii] Femur breaks are life threatening due to massive internal blood loss.

[iii] As it is a large party, they can share tents with others. Incident is stable and not getting worse.

[iv] As they are out alone in the dark near major hazards, they could be lost or have already fallen over a cliff. Until you know they are safe, of if looking puts the group in danger, this is an emergency.

[v] So they miss their flight, there will be others. Treating this as an emergency may cause other incidents due to trying to get home faster.

[vi] The diabetic could deteriorate or die unless they get insulin.

[vii] AMS is not life threatening so long as they do not continue to ascend.

[viii] HAPE is life threatening. Immediate action is required.

First Aid Levels – What’s Safe

First Aid Levels – What’s Safe

It is unlikely that anyone will contest the fact that Adventure Guides should have training in first aid, we all expect our guides or leaders to be able to provide efficient, timely first aid in the event of someone getting hurt, but first aid training comes in a huge variety of levels and focuses.

Take for example some who provides first aid in an office environment. Probably the worst they may handle is a paper cut, heart attack or someone spilling their tea over themselves. Generally professional medical help is only a few short minutes away so basic first aid would be deemed appropriate.

On the other hand consider an Adventure Professional, who may well be leading a group in a remote area, away from cell phone signal, hours if not days walk from any formal communication, and to top it all they are leading a group doing some activity they has a moderate to high risk that if something went wrong, the traumatic damage that could be caused is regarded as high. Would it be appropriate for the Adventure Professional to have only the same training as someone working in an office in the middle of a city? Definitely not.

It is also not only the fact that the level of training and hence number of skills needed may be higher for an Adventure Guide, but also the type of training. Adventure Professionals training should suit the conditions they are going to be in, that is remote or wilderness focused training. The luxuries experienced by the urban First Aider simply are not available to the remote Adventure Professional.

(C)  Copyright: AdventurePro

Duty of Care

Duty of Care

The concept of a duty of care is interwoven with the principle of negligence. But how does it relate to the adventure guiding industry?

When and how does such a duty arise?

There are various circumstances as well as contracts and statutes (laws) that can give rise to or impose a duty to take care of others.

Let’s start by considering whether an omission (something by law, i.e. common law or statute, you should have done but failed to do) can give rise to such a duty. It is said that ‘a mere omission’ does not give rise to such a duty as opposed to an omission in the process of performing a positive act: an example of the former would be a person not running to assist in putting out the fire to his neighbour’s tent when a stove fell over, whereas it would be a different story if his stove was the cause of the neighbour’s tent catching alight because it started a grass fire that swept across the campsite. However there is no absolute liability and the claimant must proof negligence on the part of the person who started the fire.

A duty may also arise when a guide is in control of a dangerous thing (motor vehicle, boat, belay rope, archery bow), whether moveable or immovable. The extent of any resultant damage must be considered in conjunction with the principles of contributory negligence and voluntary assumption of risk (see below). Water spillage on floors in the process of cleaning them places a duty of care on the owner to warn visitors (e.g. signs and announcements on the public address system) and to take precautionary steps e.g. place card board on wet areas.

The relationship between the parties may give rise to such a duty. A paddling guide will have a duty to ensure a customer is warned of a rapid in the river, before they get there.

Adventure companies also have a duty of care towards their customers: thus they must ensure that customers are fit a healthy to undertake a hazardous activity and must thus scrutinise health documents submitted to them with the required professional care and skill. However the courts don’t require them to ‘become amateur detectives or doctors’. The nature of this duty of care of course gives rise the professional indemnity (‘PI’) insurance taken out by e.g. medical practitioners, lawyers and guides, course travel agents and of course tour operators.

An interesting variation on the duty of care owed by the police came to the fore in a particular case.

The police had been called out to a drowning. Upon their arrival they observed a paramedic carrying out CPR which the one policeman ordered be stopped as he was of the view that the person (a child) was already dead. It transpired not to be the case and the child suffered brain damage. The Police were held liable on the basis of negligence: there is no duty on the police to save people from drowning but the intervention of the policeman in the CPR, given his complete lack of knowledge of CPR, was negligent. It is therefore important to act within the scope of your professional training and skills. Conversely if you have the applicable skill, the court may well find that you had a duty of care, even as a casual passer-by or observer and that you should have rendered the assistance required by virtue of that skill.

Consider this as a professional guide who sees someone doing something dangerous at the same venue you are using. You should at least warn them of the danger.

An example of a statutory duty of care is the duty placed on landowners to ensure that a fire occurring on their property does not escape its boundaries.

It is the breach of the above duties of care that gives rise to negligence, provided such breach involves an ‘unreasonable risk of harm to others’. Conversely there can be no liability if there is no duty of care owed to the claimant.

The law will not hold any person liable for such harm that was not foreseeable, even if caused by such breach. Conversely, if the harm is not foreseeable, there is no duty of care. What is the degree of prudence required? The courts apply the reasonable man test.

The law does place limitations on the foreseeability concept.  Firstly, even if it is foreseeable it must be of such a nature that it was likely to come to fruition. Hence the need to do risk assessments for activities.

A court may hold that the reasonable man must consider both the ‘slightness of the chance that the risk would turn into actual harm’ as well as the ‘probable lack of seriousness of it were to occur. Secondly courts will not award damages if not resulting from physical injury to the person or property of the claimant. What in principle is excluded is so-called ’mere pecuniary loss’ or ‘pure economic loss’.

The above concept of the duty of care linked to negligence must be distinguished from the concept of wrongful intent which is constituted by an intentional act with the full knowledge that the act will cause harm to others and nevertheless proceeding or not refraining from committing an act: the duty to refrain from intentionally and knowingly causing harm to person or property. Allied to this principle is the concept of gross negligence.  Not holding the rope to answer a phone call when belaying a climber is a case where it is known that the act will cause harm if the climber falls.

A properly drafted exclusion and limitation of liability clause and indemnity will provide the party being sued protection against a claimant. The courts uphold the exemption clause on the basis that such clauses are commonplace and furthermore commenting on the sanctity of contracts and public policy demanding that fair contracts be honoured. The courts will however interpret such clauses narrowly and where there is any ambiguity, it is likely to be interpreted in favour of the claimant.

It should be noted however that the liability landscape has changed due to the  recently enacted consumer protection act, i.e. (1) abnormal risks must be brought to the attention & explained to & acknowledged by visitors/trainees; (2) you can no longer exclude liability for or limit your liability to gross negligence; (3) you cannot exclude liability for injury or death due to your act or omission; (4) you can be exposed to unlimited liability due to defective products/equipment and/or inadequate instructions!  Accordingly all terms and conditions, indemnities/waivers, signage & insurance cover must re re-assessed

Contributory negligence is worthy of an article in its own right and so is voluntary assumption of risk. Once the breach of a duty of care, negligence, causality and damage is proven, these two factors are considered in apportioning blame and thus the award of damages. The former is when the claimant has also been negligent e.g. in a motor accident where both parties drove too fast and the latter when the claimant participates with the full knowledge of the dangers involved e.g. bungy jumping or white river rafting.

© ADV LOUIS NEL – BENCHMARK – OCTOBER 2008 (Adapted and shortened by AQN and approved by Benchmark)

So in summary we can see that:

  • Guides have a duty of care towards their customers and should provide all necessary help when needed.
  • You can be exposed to unlimited liability due to defective products/equipment and/or inadequate instructions! Using equipment you have failed to check or that you know is worn is a breech of the duty of care.
  • The help you provide only needs to be within the scope of your training and skills.
  • You as a trained and competent person have a duty of care even to other groups using the same site as you.
  • Properly drafted indemnity and exclusion contracts will protect you to some extent but you can no longer exclude liability for or limit your liability to gross negligence.
  • You have no protection if you do or fail to do something which you know will cause harm.
  • Professional Indemnity insurance will provide some protection.
  • Abnormal risks must be brought to the attention & explained to & acknowledged by visitors/trainees.
  • You cannot exclude liability for injury or death due to your act or omission.