Do you feel that you could be missing out on essential information that can help you and your group have fun and safe experiences outside? This article mentions ten topics, which will help you to create a safe and solid outdoor activities.

Before leading an outdoor activity, there are a number of things to consider that will benefit individual experiences. Below are ten areas that will help you keep your group happy and safe.

Clothing

  • Winter clothing: Waterproofs/coats, fleece/jumper, hats and gloves
  • Summer clothing: Waterproofs, fleece, sun hat, long sleeved tops and trousers
  • Footwear: Wellies or strong/sturdy (waterproof) outdoor shoes & warm woollen socks (not cotton)
Our view is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing

It is important to have spare sets of waterproofs/shoes etc when for instance a member arriving without adequate protection. Parents/carers/group members need to think about the usefulness of the clothes whilst on nature-based/hidden curriculum activity, and to be aware that they are likely to take home wet muddy clothes after each outdoor experience.

Poor Weather

If you're subject to extreme weather (heavy winds, thunder storms etc) then it will be the leaders’ responsibility to find shelter for the group e.g. a nearby building or back at school. The leader may decide, if heavy rain is present, to find shelter and change their session to fit the situation (mud cakes/sensory activities). For more information regarding dealing with hazardous situations, please look at dynamic risk assessments.

Toileting

The code of conduct refers to using either; the school/home toilet or a toilet close to the site. However, in extreme circumstances, wild toileting will need to be considered.

Hazardous Plants & Fungi

A site risk assessment identifies hazardous plants and highlights them to the group, so that all members are aware of the dangers. If the group's needs are high then a change in venue maybe needed. In order to continue an activity in an area where hazardous plants are present, please consult the dynamic risk assessments.

Biting & Stinging Insects

Insect bites and stings are quite common and usually cause only minor irritation. In rare cases, members can have serious allergic reactions, which may require immediate medical attention.

If the member is aware that they have allergic reactions to bites and stings then they must inform their school and bring relevant medication with them.

Medication & Signing Out

Before the group have left their school, they will need their medication signing out. Members with care plans need to have them stored within their medication box.

Whoever signs out the member’s medication is responsible for returning it on arrival back at school. All members must be signed out for the session, with the time and destination recorded.

Individual Risk Assessments (IRAs)

These assessments must be undertaken for members of a group who have medical conditions or whose behavioural needs require this to be done. Leaders/volunteers need to be informed of members with IRAs when planning and prior to a lesson (session) starting.

Reporting Incidents and Accidents

Once an incident/accident has happened, the leader must immediately tend to the person in need. The incident is to be logged upon return to the school, and further forms to be completed if required.

Risk Assessment Guidance

Sites must be safe and accessible. During an assessment, major hazards need to be highlighted and actions or precautions need to be taken to reduce the risk to whomever enters the site. It will ensure that all staff/volunteers are familiar with the site, generic, and dynamic risk assessments.

If you have read the risk assessments (RA's) and notice a hazard, which is not on the RA's then inform the leader. The leader must then take steps to reduce that particular risk, which can be filled out on a daily risk assessment form. On this form you will see five actions to be considered, as noted below;

  • Look for the hazard/s
  • Decide who might be at risk
  • Evaluate risk/s and decide what precautions need to be put in place
  • Decide if any further precautions need to be put in place
  • Review the assessment and revise if necessary

Risk/Benefit Analysis

It is believed that, whilst there are risks that must be considered, there are also a wide range of potential benefits that can be gained by those involved. Taking risks is an important part of learning and developing, and providing a safe and supportive environment will help groups learn about risks, challenges and personal safety.

These considerations are very important and will make you more aware of how to keep the group safe and steer them towards having memorable experiences. It is always essential in keeping up to date with good outdoor practices, as 'living/working in a bubble' and becoming stagnant with practices could present unknown dangers. Having someone (external) observe your lesson/session, could be essential in helping to pick up on areas to develop.