Introduction to Practice

This section provides a framework for planning your approach to visitor safety, ensuring that it integrates with other management activities.

We build on the general principles set down in recognised management systems whilst taking account of the experience of VSG members and those who have attended our seminars and workshops. Whilst some of this chapter may be very familiar to those in occupational health and safety, it is intended to help the wider range of people involved in visitor safety management.

‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ flowchart

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This section provides a framework for planning your approach to visitor safety, ensuring that it integrates with other management activities.

We build on the general principles set down in recognised management systems whilst taking account of the experience of VSG members and those who have attended our seminars and workshops. Whilst some of this chapter may be very familiar to those in occupational health and safety, it is intended to help the wider range of people involved in visitor safety management.

‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ flowchart

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Whatever the size of organisation and resources available, establish a policy for visitor safety and have a strategy for its implementation. Set clear objectives and have a good management plan to achieve them.

Learning from experience is important. You should review the outcomes and, if necessary, make changes to improve things.

Visitor safety management is no different to other management processes that demand a systematic approach.

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POLICY AND STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT

Developing a policy for visitor safety management and promoting a strategy for its achievement will ensure effective use of your organisation’s resources.

An effective policy will:

  • demonstrate the commitment of senior management to visitor safety
  • integrate visitor safety management with other relevant organisational policies and management activities throughout the organisation.

An effective strategy will:

  • clearly set out how your organisation is structured to deal with visitor safety issues
  • show where you are now, where you want to be, and set out the steps to get there
  • identify the resources, both money and staff time, necessary to achieve the objectives.

PLANNING

Develop plans for visitor safety management at appropriate levels, depending on the size, structure and spread of the organisation.

This may result in plans at a higher organisation level as well as for individual sites or properties.

Outline the mission of your organisation and describe what kind of experience you are aiming to provide.

Discuss your attitude towards risk and the balance between management intervention and user self-reliance – making reference to the VSG guiding principles.

Some organisations have different categories of site, often defined by the number and type of visitors and range of facilities provided. Typically these will range from remote, unstaffed locations used for quiet enjoyment to popular ‘honey pot’ sites, where you have staff actively engaged with visitors. This sort of categorisation can help you determine priorities for management effort and direct resources to areas of greatest risk.

You might also be able to develop model risk assessments and recommended risk control measures for each category.

This approach can also be helpful on a single site, particularly if it is large and varied. You may be able to identify different zones (often reflecting activities or intensity of use) that need different levels of assessment and management within an overall plan for the site.

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ORGANISING AND IMPLEMENTING YOUR PLAN

Set out procedures for communicating with visitors, user groups and other stakeholders. An open and inclusive approach is essential to gain their support. Find out what they expect and learn from their experiences. They may be able to provide information about accidents and near misses and often produce useful codes of conduct for sports and activities.

DEFINE CLEAR ROLES

State who is responsible for carrying out each task, producing overall visitor safety plans, undertaking individual risk assessments and acting on their findings. Be clear who will audit the process and review progress.

RISK PROFILING

Record what you know about your visitors and the types of activities they undertake. Why and when do they come? What benefits does your site provide?

Are there seasonal variations? Do you get involved in organising visits or events? Do outside organisations or schools arrange group visits?

Identify the hazards that your visitors might encounter and assess the risk that they might be harmed. Risk assessment is at the heart of implementing visitor safety management and is covered in detail here.

It might be helpful to provide generic risk assessments for common visitor activities (for example walking and cycling), facilities (such as car parks and picnic areas) or structures (like stiles and footbridges).

For some activities, you can draw upon established good practice guidance. For example, the HSE has produced useful advice on managing events and crowds.

Take care when using generic risk assessments or guidance. You will need to adapt them for local circumstances. It is essential to use the knowledge of staff and users who are familiar with the site.

A good relationship with your stakeholders can provide valuable information. Click here to explore methods and opportunities for communication with your visitors.

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MEASURING PERFORMANCE

Monitor what you do. Plan a programme of inspection and keep clear records of your risk assessments and actions. Many organisations have a large number of sites, often unstaffed. As a result it may take time to fully implement a comprehensive visitor safety programme.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide on the most appropriate course of action. You may need to gather more information, make investigations or get other people’s views before a final decision can be taken. Some VSG members keep a list of such issues, developed from routine inspections by responsible staff or volunteers.

It helps to follow a written programme of priorities, keeping a record of what has been done and where and listing work planned for the future. You will then be able to demonstrate progress and ensure that the investigation and resolution of any outstanding issues is put into your work programme.

Learn from accidents and near misses. Getting information on visitor accidents and incidents in the countryside is not as straightforward as in the workplace. But accident data is a valuable indicator of risk and provides a measure of performance.

  • Set out how you will collect data. Are there ways to encourage visitors to let you know about accidents and incidents? Can you learn from surveys?
  • Have a procedure in place to investigate the causes of accidents and near misses.
  • Review your risk assessments, taking account of the accident information.
  • Let others know your findings.
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LEARN AND IMPROVE

Learn from the information that you have gathered and act to make improvements. Incorporate mechanisms into routine work that allow feedback to be used to improve services and safety for visitors, or to explain why no changes are being made.

REVIEW AGAINST THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Review is a key part of the management process. Check at each stage that decisions are consistent with the guiding principles. You should measure progress against plans, identify problems and instigate any corrective actions that may be necessary.

Take an overview across the whole organisation, looking for trends in issues and possible common solutions. Consider whether you need to change the overall strategy.

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In summary…

  • Have an overall approach to visitor risk management which links in with other policies on visitor engagement.
  • Have a clear structure with defined responsibilities at all levels.
  • Have a programme for carrying out risk assessments, starting with the sites or visitor events you think pose the greatest risk.
  • Keep records of assessments, reviews and implementation of risk controls.
  • Show when new risk control measures are planned to be carried out and demonstrate that resources have been allocated.
  • Make a note of issues that require further investigation before a decision on appropriate control measures can be made, and timetable the investigations into your work programme.
  • Review at local and organisational levels, and make changes in approach where appropriate.
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Introduction to Practice

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