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Having the right people on the right activity is an essential part of running a safe operation.You must also ensure that they are effectively supervised and that both you and they have enough information for them to participate safely.

Client Supervision

Minimum safety supervision levels ‘ratios’ should be developed for each of the activities you offer. These should represent ideal conditions, any other conditions should have higher levels of supervision. Specific supervision levels should be established before each trip; points to be considered include but are not limited to:

  • The activity's minimum safety supervision level as stated in company SOPs
  • Guide/instructor competence and experience in the activity 
  • The age, ability, experience and maturity of the clients
  • The degree of real risk inherent in the activity, and the frequency of exposure to real risks
  • Any medical needs of the clients
  • The standard and level of the equipment available
  • The contingency options and access to emergency services
  • Environmental factors such as weather forecasts 

Client Screening

Deciding who your target groups are and pitching your marketing to them is a key component of getting the right people on the right activity. The second stage of client screening begins when they start to book with your operation.  In order to screen effectively you should consider:

  • Current industry practice regarding who should participate in the type of activity you offer
  • Client expectations and needs
  • Technical skill requirements e.g. climbing or swimming ability
  • Physical aspects such as fitness, age or disabilities
  • Client participation parameters e.g. minimum age and technical skill requirements
  • Language and cultural issues
  • Screening procedures e.g. who gathers the information, when and in what way

Information From Clients

What to Collect

You should gather relevant information from clients on topics such as:

  • What they are wanting in an activity i.e. are they signing up for the right one?
  • Medical conditions – including allergies and medications
  • Age
  • Physical capability
  • Technical skills e.g. swimming or any applicable prior experience or licenses
  • Emergency contact information
  • Special dietary requirements

How to Collect

"It’s funny, but while giving briefings about the activity, the weather and what clients can expect, our guides are also briefing themselves..."

Collecting information can be done via various methods including:

  • Booking processes
  • Client briefings
  • Forms e.g. medical forms and waivers
  • Staff/client interaction

Information To Clients

What to Provide

The information delivered to your clients should be consistent and often forms part of your SOPs. Ensure  your clients receive and understand relevant information on topics such as:

  • The activity and what it actually involves e.g. giving a broad picture of the day helps clients to be sure the activity is suitable for them
  • Physical demands of the activity e.g. a difficult multiday hiking trip versus a half day coastal walk
  • Technical skills required e.g. ability to belay, roll a kayak or using crampons
  • The activity’s inherent risk e.g. Grade 5 rivers versus grade 2 or technical downhill mountain biking versus a cycle-way tour
  • Ways to participate safely and effectively in the activity e.g. Safety briefings, riding techniques or paddle briefings

How to provide it

You must provide information in a way that your clients will understand it. It is often crucial that the right person delivers particular information e.g. safety briefings should be delivered by a competent staff member. Your safety management plan should outline the information, who will provide it and how. Information can be delivered by a variety of methods such as:

  • Websites: consider multilingual if your market mix justifies this.
  • Verbal briefings: Seek ways to address language and cultural variations e.g. staff knowing key phrases in other languages
  • Demonstrations e.g. showing them how to hold a river board or belay a climber
  • Picture boards and cue cards (these are normally combined with verbal briefings)
  • Forms e.g. waiver forms. Bear in mind language and cultural factors which may justify creating forms in a variety of languages and styles
  • Videos

"Through bitter experience, we regard clients as our biggest variable; therefore anything we can do to inform them makes good sense!"

Checking Understanding

Client understanding should be checked, this can be done by a variety of methods such as:

  • Asking questions of your clients and checking that individuals understand your message
  • Requiring clients to demonstrate  key actions e.g. the ability to drive a quad bike or to complete a ferry glide on a river board
  • Encouraging clients to read forms i.e. a quick sign off does not check for understanding
  • Observing clients e.g. are they cocky or nervous?  This method is particularly useful when clients arrive at your office to book, and during the initial part of the activity

Record Keeping

Records are often kept of:

  • Client contact and medical information
  • Completed waiver or disclaimer forms
  • Any unusual situations and how you managed them e.g. what extra measures you took to manage a client with special needs