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Hazard management in your business is critical to good safety and is a legal requirement.

A good hazard management process involves a structured approach to identify, assess, manage, communicate and record hazards in every part of your operation, and how to train your staff to use your system. Your hazard management process must be applied to all your operational situations, including when:

  • Running your standard operation
  • Beginning a new activity
  • Using different equipment
  • Changing your operational location
  • New hazards arise
  • Existing hazards change

Drugs and Alcohol

The use of drugs and alcohol can impair the ability of your staff to work safely. 'The Adventure Activites Regulations 2011' require that operators have an explicit part in their safety managment plan stating the significance of the drugs and alcohol hazard in their operation and outlining how they will manage it.

Managing the hazard

When developing your drugs and alcohol hazard managment system consider the recommendations in this section and the WorkSafe NZ guidance document for managing drug and alcohol related risks in adventure activities. To see the WorkSafe NZ document click here.


A crucial part of your hazard management system is developing a culture where your team are encouraged and trained to constantly identify, assess, manage and communicate about hazards by not only following agreed procedures, but also using their own judgement and initiative on a minute by minute basis. Everyone in your team must know that they can and should stop activities if they feel that things are not safe.

A Systematic Approach

While in practice experienced staff identify, assess and manage hazards intuitively, backing this up with a more systematic approach will help set new staff on the right track, and address gaps that often occur through a less formal approach.


Where to Look

Check every activity and every part of your operation; within each of these you must consider the following three categories for hazards:

The operational environment

Examples of things to consider include:

  • Location e.g. terrain, remote areas, accessibility or urban areas
  • The operational base e.g. power failures or areas where vehicles with heavily laden trailers often reverse
  • Unique environmental factors to your activity such as rock fall, traffic on roads, avalanche risk or river levels
  • Drinking water quality
  • Evacuation routes
  • Communication black spots
  • Weather e.g. it’s impact on temperature, length of trip, or equipment to be carried


"We’ve found the hardest thing has been to get our guides to report hazards – it’s incredibly frustrating when we have an incident and someone says “I saw that one coming” - then why didn’t you let us know!?"

Examples of things to consider include:

  • What equipment you are using: Is it fit for purpose and does it meet industry standards?
  • The potential for incorrect equipment use and its implications
  • The potential for equipment failure and its implications   


There are three groups of people to consider: Clients, Staff and the Public.


Examples of areas to consider include;

  • Technical skill ability
  • Age
  • Fitness and general health
  • Language and cultural issues


Examples of things to consider include;

  • Experience e.g. in total and/or within your operation
  • Competency in both hard and soft skill sets
  • Implications of incapacitation i.e. solo guides becoming ill or being injured
  • Numbers needed to adequately supervise  clients i.e. ratios of staff to clients
  • Factors such as health and behaviour e.g. fatigue or unpredictable behaviour


Examples of things to consider include;

  • Who else (commercial and non-commercial) could be in the area you operate?
  • What impact could other users have on the safety of your activity?
  • What impact could your activity have on the safety of other users?

How to Look

The culture of real-time hazard identification should be supported by a systematic approach that helps to ensure that your team are considering all three categories of hazards. When developing your hazard identification system you should consider:

  • Using  a form or checklist to help guide your team through the hazard identification process
  • Including reviews of past and current incident reports
  • Involving the use of as many sets of eyes as practical e.g. auditors, clients, other operators, and recreationalists



All identified hazards must be assessed to determine which are significant. The assessment result must be suitable to the nature and context of the activity, and be aligned with current industry good practice. Hazards assessed as significant should be clearly identified in the operator's hazard management system.

"Hazard management may be everyone’s responsibility, but we’ve found it needs to be driven by one committed person, constantly... "

Significant Hazards

A significant hazard is defined as a hazard that is an actual or potential cause or source of:

  • Serious harm (see definition in Health and Safety Act section of this site)
  • Harm (being more than trivial), the severity of which may depend on how often or how long a person is exposed to the hazard
  • Harm (being more than trivial) that cannot be detected until a significant time after exposure

Hazard Assessment Systems

When developing your hazard assessment system you should ensure that it:

  • Involves your team
  • Takes in to account the skill level of staff and the expectations and skill levels of participants.
  • Takes in to account the potential severity of the harm resulting from the hazard e.g. minor or severe injuries
  • Rates hazards for their significant e.g. the National Incident Database severity scale
  • Takes in to account how likely it is that, during the activity, harm will actually result from the hazard i.e. is it likely to harm people often, occasionally, seldom? Note: A hazard that has a high harm severity should be rated as significant even if it is seldom likely to occur
  • ‘Double checks’ that the hazards rating is in line with the context and nature of the activity e.g. for mountain biking: on a beginners cycle way tour a narrow rocky section of trail may be assessed as a significant hazard (and walked around), and the same type of terrain on an advanced cross country tour may be assessed as a moderate hazard


The strategies you use to manage the hazards within your operation should reduce the risk to acceptable levels .What these acceptable levels are will depend on the nature and context of the activity and on current industry practice.

Who to Involve

Who you involve in your hazard management will impact greatly on how effective it is. Your strategies should include:

  • Working with your team to decide on the best method for managing each hazard
  • Policies on who can make independent hazard management decisions in the field e.g. what level of experience and qualifications they need
  • Briefing clients on any responsibilities they may have to manage hazards e.g. using safety gear as directed, listening to instructions, or staying away from certain areas
  • A system that ensures all the right people are kept up to date with any changes to hazards and hazard management methods. e.g. a hazard update board that must be checked before running the activity, or verbal hazard updates before a trip
  • Reviewing any client feedback on hazards and making changes to your procedures as appropriate
  • Checking that your processes are aligned with current industry practice e.g. referring to activity specific guidelines or codes of practice, checking with an industry expert or using a peer review

Managing Significant Hazards

Significant hazards must be managed according to the Eliminate, Isolate, Minimise hierarchy of action:

  1. Eliminate by ensuring that the hazard no longer exists, and/or is no longer part of, or involved with the activity e.g. do not take people under a certain age or without a certain skill set.  
  2. If elimination cannot reasonably be done, isolate by putting in place a process or mechanism that keeps people away from the hazard e.g. establish a no-go zone or portage a rapid.
  3. If neither elimination nor isolation can reasonably be done, minimise by doing whatever can reasonably be done to lessen the hazard. This should be to a point where you no longer consider the hazard to be significant.

Management Strategies

 Hazard management strategies are something you develop with your team. They should include:

  • How you will ensure that your strategies are aligned with current industry practice
  • Clear evidence of dealing with significant hazards according to the correct hierarchy of action i.e. eliminate, isolate and minimise
  • Monitoring of significant hazards on a daily basis and through regular formal checks, then changing hazard management procedures as needed e.g. using different sections of a trail after a wash-out, or changing a line in a rapid after a boulder has moved
  • Processes you will use to deal with new operational situations, new hazards arising or changes to existing hazards
  • Information on when you will re-look at hazards assessed as not significant to ensure that they have not become significant over time
  • Lessons learnt from incidents and how you ensure these lessons are incorporated into your operation
  • Regular reviews of the hazard management strategies themselves

Record Keeping

"Complacency is our biggest fear – we push the philosophy of ‘when everything is going well, take a look over your shoulder’..."

Your hazard management system is a legal requirement and should be recorded. Choose a method that works well for you, your team, and the degree of hazard involved in your operation. Options could include: hazard maps, photos, hazard registers, trip notes, a hazard area on the whiteboard or videos. Records should cover:

  • Results of hazard assessment e.g. significant hazards versus minor
  • Hazard management methods; including evidence of "eliminate, isolate and minimise" priorities of action
  • Hazard management responsibilities; including who is able to make independent hazard management decisions in the field 
  • Team and/or individual hazard management training
  • Safety meetings; records of these must be made available to all relevant staff, show recommended actions and when/how  they will be actioned


Staff must know how to use your hazard management system; induction and on-going training should:

  • Include the hazard management system, clear expectations of its use and ,where relevant, why certain systems have been put in place e.g. due to learning from previous incidents
  • Reinforce the fact that you cannot plan for everything and staff must always be  ‘heads up’ and on the alert for the unexpected
  • Make it clear that all staff can, and should, stop the activity at any time if they feel it is unsafe
  • Make it clear who can make independent hazard management decisions in the field e.g. some staff may need to defer to a more experienced or qualified person
    • Be regular  enough to ensure that everyone is using the system correctly, and that the system is working for them