Rotorua Canopy Tours


To deliver a safe, outstanding experience, it’s vital to have the right participants on the right activity with effective supervision and all relevant safety information. 

Safety information



Safety information

Your SMS must outline what safety information will be gathered and provided, including who from and to, when, how, and by whom. 

Information from participants

Operators must have the right information to:

  • determine whether someone should participate in an activity
  • manage a participant's existing medical needs or injuries
  • determine operational requirements such as staffing, supervision, equipment, activity choice  
  • look after participants during an emergency.

Information that must be gathered includes:

  • participants expectations and needs - including why they are doing the activity e.g. for education or for an adventure experience
  • technical skill requirements, e.g. climbing, swimming ability
  • physical aspects, e.g. fitness, height, weight, age, disabilities, existing medical conditions or injuries 
  • psychological factors such as fears or phobias and the ability and likelihood to follow instructions
  • language and cultural factors

Information to participants

Participants must have the right information to:

  • understand the risk of the activity and make a choice whether or not they want to participate
  • follow the operators safety and operational procedures 

Information that must be provided includes: 

  • what the activity actually involves, i.e. give a broad picture of the day to help people decide if the activity is suitable for them
  • physical demands of the activity, e.g. a difficult multi-day hiking trip vs a half day coastal walk
  • technical skills required, e.g. ability to belay, roll a kayak, use crampons
  • ways to participate safely and effectively in the activity, e.g. safety briefings, skill instruction, emergency procedures

Pre-activity risk disclosure

You must ensure that you provide information so that people understand the risks of the activity before it begins and while there is still opportunity for them to change their mind. For adventure activities inform participants that: 

  • this is an adventure activity involving risk of serious injury or death
  • the operator can’t totally guarantee their safety
  • the activity may be mentally and physically demanding and requires them to ... (emphasise the points to suit the particular activity)
  • they must follow staff instructions at all times and understand that this is critical to their safety and that of others
  • describe any significant hazards that cannot be avoided e.g. challenging rapids that cannot be portaged, limited access to external emergency support
  • describe any 'extra' responsibility expected of them e.g. indirectly supervised activities, activities where participants perform safety critical tasks for each other.

For activities involving children, ensure pre-activity risk disclosure information is given to the correct people, such as parents and teachers. This may mean the information needs to be delivered twice.

Record that you have given people this information, that they have understood and remain willing to participate in the activity. This is often done via signing a risk disclosure form.

Ensure you have procedures for what to do if a participant chooses not to take part in the activity.

Providing safety information 

It’s important to provide information at the right time and in a way your participants will understand it.

Ensure it is simple to understand (don’t use jargon or technical language), available in the relevant languages, brief and to the point.

The information should be consistent and often forms part of your SOPs. Information can be provided by a variety of methods such as:

  • websites
  • verbal briefings
  • demonstrations, e.g. show them how to hold a river board or belay a climber
  • picture boards and cue cards, usually in conjunction with verbal briefings
  • forms, e.g. risk disclosure forms, medical forms
  • videos
  • social media
  • printed material
  • staff/client interaction

Checking participant understanding

Check that participants understand safety information. This can be done by a variety of methods, including:

  • ask questions
  • ask people to demonstrate key actions, e.g. drive a quad bike; complete a river board ferry glide
  • give them time to read the form, i.e. a quick sign off doesn’t check for understanding
  • observe their mood e.g. are they overly confident or nervous? This method is particularly useful when participants arrive at your office to book and during the initial part of an activity.

Record keeping

You should keep copies of completed risk disclosure forms, and consider keeping records of: 

  • participant names, ages and pre-trip medical information
  • any unusual situations with participants and how you managed them, e.g. what extra measures you took to manage a client with special needs


Your SMS must state who your activity is targeted at and how you will ensure that the right people are on the right activity. 

Use your risk management processes to help inform who should take part in what activities. Consider:

  • participants expectations and needs - including why they are doing the activity e.g. for education or for an adventure experience
  • technical skill requirements, e.g. climbing, swimming ability
  • physical aspects, e.g. fitness, height, weight, age, disabilities, medical conditions or injuries 
  • Psychological factors such as fears or phobias and the ability and likelihood to follow instructions
  • language and cultural factors

Check that your criteria meet industry good practice for who should participate in the activity and are within the limitations of any safety equipment e.g size and weight limits.

How and when to screen

Screening should happen before people sign-up for the activity, and be on-going during the activity itself. 

  • clearly state participant requirements in marketing and booking processes
  • include participant screening checks at relevant stages during the activity itself e.g. swim tests, belay checks

Office and field staff all have roles to play in screening participants - ensure your requirements are clear and being used consistently. 

Ensure you have procedures for what to do if a participant should no longer take part in the activity. 


Supervision systems are a vital tool for managing risks. They are usually documented in SOPs and involve more than just ratios of staff to participants. 

There must be a staff member responsible for managing the supervision system. This person should be experienced and able to exercise good judgement.

Operations where participants perform safety critical tasks*, such as belaying or driving a quad bike, will have more complex supervision systems than others. 

*Safety critical tasks are those where if a mistake is made it will likely result in serious injury.

What to take into account

Factors to take into account when developing a supervision system include:

  • general risks and hazards of the activity and it's environment
  • good practice standards for client supervision ratios
  • participant age, ability, experience and maturity
  • whether participants perform safety critical tasks
  • if they do perform safety critical tasks; their competence at the task, the likelihood that they will follow instructions, and their acceptance of responsibility for managing risk
  • the complexity and margin for error of the safety critical tasks
  • the number of people exposed to risk at any one time, including those who are waiting or have finished an activity
  • the number and competence of staff
  • the nature of safety tasks being performed by staff, including the number of people they are managing and over what period of time - consider hazards such as task repetition and fatigue
  • degree of real risk inherent in the activity and frequency of exposure to real risks 
  • type of available equipment
  • contingency options and access to emergency services
  • weather and other environmental factors on the day.

What to include 

All supervision systems should include:

  • maximum client numbers and minimum supervision levels for the site and its activities - these should represent ideal conditions. Less than ideal conditions must trigger higher levels of supervision
  • identification of safety critical tasks and how they will be given particular attention
  • distinct staff supervision responsibilities where relevant e.g. different areas at a site, activities or groups
  • ways for staff to maintain the level of focus required to supervise effectively e.g. timely breaks, moving from one area of responsibility to another, buddy systems, and minimising distractions
  • procedures for ensuring supervision levels are maintained during unplanned staff breaks such as toilet stops
  • procedures for managing participants who are waiting to participate in an activity or who have had their turn
  • triggers for when the supervision system may need adjustment, eg a change in competence of clients, a change in the number of young children, an increase in the level of distraction, a change in environmental conditions, or less experienced or confident staff.

Operations requiring differing levels of supervision

For these operations ensure that:

  • the requirements for each area or activity are clearly understood e.g. safety briefings, signage, color coding, barriers
  • where participants themselves require different levels of supervision ensure they are clearly identifiable e.g. different groups stay in different areas, use of colour coded safety equipment
  • participants are clear on what they’re approved to do, and on what to do if they change to an activity requiring a different level of supervision.

Operations with repetitive tasks or a high number of participants

Staff performing repetitive safety tasks or managing a high number of participants present additional risks. Adjust the supervision system to manage this e.g. use simple and consistent systems, checklists, backup safety checks, and a safety supervisor to monitor staff.

Establishing the type and level of supervision

Supervision levels are an important part of your supervision system. They describe how closely participants will be supervised (directly or indirectly) and the number of staff to participants (ratios).

Clearly state supervision levels for each activity and site, these are usually included in SOPs.

Ensure that participants know the level of supervision they will have.  

Consider the same points as you do when developing the rest of your supervision system but pay particular attention to the complexity and margin for error of the safety critical tasks.

Ensure there are triggers for increasing supervision levels when operational situations are less than optimal. These should include:

  • staff who lack confidence or are less experienced 
  • participants who are less physically able, younger, less confident, or less likely to follow instructions
  • activities that involve long wait times where those waiting are exposed to serious risks. 

Direct supervision

Direct supervision is when staff are able to physically intervene and manage risks. This could be by supervising a participant if staff feel they are unlikely to perform the activity safely or who has yet to be approved for indirect supervision. 

Indirect supervision

Indirect supervision is when staff are not close enough to physically intervene and manage risks. 

Participants must be approved as suitable for indirect supervision. Clearly identify what they must be able to do and pay particular attention to safety critical tasks.

Approval could be by:

  • assessments under direct supervision in a low consequence
  • an appropriate staff member can verify that they have previously observed them perform the skills competently e.g. during a recreational climbing session at another location
  • the operator has a record that they have already been approved for indirect supervision - this record must be recent enough to assure skill currency
  • the client has a recognised national qualification relevant to the skills to be checked. 

Different levels of indirect supervision

Indirect supervision can be proactive by actively monitoring a participant and being close enough to intervene verbally, or reactive where the staff member is not monitoring the participant and will only provide assistance if it is sought.

A participant under proactive indirect supervision, must be one who staff are confident will, in the normal course of events, participate in the activity safely.

A participant under reactive indirect supervision, must be one who staff are confident will participate safely in the activity in both normal and adverse conditions, e.g. in a distracting atmosphere, or while establishing initial familiarity with the activity.

Supervising participants with qualifications

If a participant holds a qualification that is current and covers the required skills for a task, as outlined in the operator’s SMS, they may not need to be supervised.

If allowing someone to participate unsupervised, ensure they understand that they won’t be supervised and have agreed to operate independently. 

A participant having a qualification does not absolve the operators' responsibility to share relevant non generic safety information.