General information on the Adventure Activities Licensing Scheme
This guidance outlines the requirements of the adventure activities licensing scheme. If you wish to see the full text of legal requirements, they can be found in the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004 (Statutory Instrument 2004 No 1309) obtainable from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office or their local agents or visit their website. They are reproduced along with further guidance material in the HSE booklet L77 - Guidance from the Licensing Authority on the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004.
Aim of the licensing scheme
The aim of the adventure activities licensing scheme is to give assurance that good safety management practice is being followed so that young people can have opportunities to experience exciting and stimulating activities outdoors while not being exposed to avoidable risks of death or disabling injury.
Who operates the licensing scheme?
Adventure activities licensing has been in place since April 1996. It is currently sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Health and Safety Executive was designated, by Parliament, as the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) in April 2007. HSE operates the administration of AALA and contracts the inspection services to Adventure Risk Management Services (Adv-RMS), who employ qualified and experienced outdoor professionals to assess applicants’ safety management systems.
Who needs a licence?
The statutory scheme is aimed at those who sell adventure activities to young people. Anyone who provides, in return for payment, adventure activities within the scope of the Licensing Regulations to young people under 18, is required by law to hold a licence.
You will need to determine whether the legislation applies to your undertaking and the extent to which it applies (e.g. multi-centre undertakings will usually require a separate licence for each centre).
In cases of doubt, the Licensing Authority can assist you in determining whether you need to hold a licence.
The following activities are within the scope of the licensing scheme:
- caving (underground exploration in natural caves and mines including potholing, cave diving and mine exploration), excluding show caves or tourist mines open to the public, or parts of mines which are still being worked
- climbing (climbing, traversing, canyoning, abseiling and scrambling activities except on purpose designed climbing walls or abseiling towers)
- trekking (walking, running, pony trekking, off-road cycling, off-piste skiing and related activities when done in moorland, or any terrain over 600m, which is remote, i.e. over 30 minutes travelling time which will be never more than 2.5km from the nearest road or refuge)
- watersports (canoeing, rafting, sailing and related activities when done on the sea, tidal waters, or large or non-placid inland waters)
There are a number of specific exemptions from the need to hold a licence within the Regulations. These include:
- provision by voluntary associations to their members (or by arrangement to members of a second voluntary association)
- provision by educational establishments to their pupils; or provision of any activities for young people who are accompanied by their parents or legally appointed guardians
People made temporary members of a voluntary association for the duration of a course of instruction sold by the association are not treated as members for the purposes of the licensing scheme. Such associations may however, hold taster events for the purposes of encouraging interest in their activities, but this is limited to three days for any young person within any 12-month period.
Educational establishments are required to hold a licence if providing to young persons other than their own pupils and receiving payment.
Local authorities are required to hold a licence for adventure activity facilities offered for payment in the same way as other providers. They must also hold a licence for activities provided to educational establishments, regardless of whether payment is required.
Full details on the providers and activities in scope of the licensing scheme are given in the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004, and further guidance is given by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority in Appendix 1 of L77.
A separate licence is required for each activity centre operated at the same time by the same individual or organisation throughout a period of at least 28 days, and which offers designated adventure activities at any time during this period. A centre is defined as an establishment which, at the time in question, is primarily used as a base for the provision of instruction or leadership in sporting, recreational or outdoor activities.