Risks and issues

How clubs can go about risk management

Risk Management aims to identify, assess, manage and review risks. A guide may be necessary to help clubs effectively carry out Risk Management. Bushwalking NSW has published Risk Management Guidelines to assist club management committees carry out their Duty of Care. In order to carry out their Duty of Care, clubs should emphasise that safety is the responsibility of everybody, and all participants in activities should be responsible for their own safety.

A club will need to define the responsibilities of leaders and walkers, and communicate these responsibilities to members.

An Activity Grading System will help members to know what to expect. Different grading systems will suit different clubs. There is no perfect system.

A club should determine whether:

  • minors (persons under 18) are allowed on activities and under what conditions
  • the club wishes to set minimum/maximum numbers on walks
  • non insured activities will be permitted and under what conditions.

Emergency procedures should be determined.

If an incident occurs on a hike or other club activity, the club’s Incident Form should be filled out and the incident reviewed by the club’s committee. Follow the insurer’s guidelines regarding claims:

Privacy of members’ information should be ensured.

Risk Management for Leaders – to cover with participants before a walk/activity

This information can be presented on the walks sign-on sheet, with the leader to tick each one when completed. The leader should sign the sheet to confirm that all tasks were done. The other side of the page should list participants and their signatures. Formalising this helps to ensure the Risk Management process is carried out before each activity.
  • Ensure participants understand the risks – details of the walk and its potential problems and difficulties (i.e. risks) should be outlined, including its location, distance from assistance in case of emergencies, degree of difficulty,  approximate duration, and the geographical nature of the area.
  • Does someone know where the walk is taking place in case of the non-return of the group? For many day walks, information on the program will be sufficient. For extended trips, walk details should be left with a contact.
  • Try to ensure walkers have water, food, first-aid equipment, clothing and equipment sufficient for the event. Try to ensure participants have the ability to safely complete the walk.
  • Ensure the leader has the skills to lead the walk and there are others in the group who can take over leadership if the leader becomes incapacitated.
  • Ask walkers to notify the leader of any medical conditions they suffer that may become a problem on the walk, e.g. diabetes. Walkers cannot be compelled to do this, but it is better for their own safety if it is known what problems they might have.
  • First Aid – identify how many first aiders there are and who they are, so everybody knows who can help.
  • Any special notes for the activity. Of course there will be different considerations for activities other than walking e.g. canoeing, liloing, caving, abseiling, cycling, etc.
  • List names of those present, with their signatures and the phone number of a relative or friend to contact in an emergency. For clubs who sign the insurer’s acknowledgement-of-risk form at each walk, they would probably sign under this. Visitors should also read and sign the waiver.

Managing risk in bushfire season

  • Create an official club policy on when leaders should cancel trips e.g. bushfire, park closures, reaching a particular fire danger rating, catastrophic fire rating, poor air quality, extreme weather conditions, days of total fire ban.
  • Communicate the policy to leader and members via email alerts, newsletters, discussion at club meetings.
  • It is essential that leaders check official alerts prior to departure including Fires Near Me, Bureau of Meteorology, Live Traffic, Park Closures, emergency radio broadcasts.
  • Ensure leaders plan emergency exit routes and safe evacuation places.
  • When planning extended hikes, consider investing in a two-way communication device, such as mobile or satellite phone, 2-way communicating GPS, or radio, to check daily fire status.
  • Take food that doesn’t require a stove.
  • Consider cancelling the event