The views from the hills: fatal accidents, child safety and licensing adventure activities



McArdle D (2011) The views from the hills: fatal accidents, child safety and licensing adventure activities. Legal Studies, 31 (3), pp. 372-391.

Two recent fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) in Scotland have potentially far-reaching ramifications for educational provision across the whole of the United Kingdom. The deaths of two teenage children during the course of outdoor adventure activities led the Sheriff in one of those inquiries to recommend a review of the regulatory framework which governs those activities. This call for an across-the-board review means the outdoor education sector – which includes organisations which provide outdoor education for schools groups as well as those offering more adventurous experiences for children outside term time - is now likely to face a degree of scrutiny greater than any it has experienced since the 1993 Lyme Bay disaster. This paper draws upon research interviews with those who work in outdoor education in some of the more remote areas of Scotland. The data from those interviews indicates that some of the issues that ought to be considered in any such review will not be immediately apparent from reading either the fatal accident inquiries’ determinations or the literature which is available either on the Heath and Safety Executive’s website or otherwise in the public domain. In particular, it appears that some issues which have only reached a wider audience by virtue of these FAIs have actually been the source of longstanding concerns among the stakeholders, dating back to the mid-1990s when the regulatory framework that came into being in the wake of Lyme Bay was still under discussion. This paper therefore uses the interviewees’ responses to help develop a greater understanding of the issues that exist in this particular sector and to illustrate the legal and logistical challenges that it faces.

health & safety; licensing; fatal accidents; Scotland; education; outdoor activities; Outdoor recreation Scotland; Accidents Scotland

Legal Studies: Volume 31, Issue 3

Publication date30/09/2011
Publication date online24/02/2011
PublisherWiley-Blackwell / The Society of Legal Scholars

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Dr David McArdle

Dr David McArdle

Senior Lecturer, Law