Always look on the Bright Side of Life!
I believe that is what the Monty Python Team sang in one of their Films
I have taken this advice and since Archimedes started training leaders back in early 2002 our Policy on Risk is that the word itself conjures up negativity and a can’t do it attitude. We revoked this and began the mantra ‘Assessing for Opportunities’
As professional experience grows, the ability to be intuitive and almost unconsciously detect and be aware of potential hazards and evaluate the probability as well as the severity if the harm happening is undisputed. Its called ‘Longevity of Practice’
But we have to start from somewhere. Being able to break down the assessment and evaluation process, allows us as the Safety Officer, – as that is what we become if we are responsible for keeping others safe and well – to make judgements that allow us to put in place preventative measures – our Normal Operating Procedures and Emergency Action Plans.
When we have put preventative measures in place it is at this point that we know that ever precaution within our power has been taken so we are then free to offer the widest range of possibilities, opportunities and experiences to those we are caring for and whom we are actin Loco Parentis.
When we are covering all bases it is then and only then that we can begin to provide freedom for our children to explore and for them to learn through experience and self initiated investigations.
The Health and Safety Executive supports the concept of leaders, teachers, practitioners considering the benefits of the experience along side that of the considered risk.
Children need challenge and children need to experience hazards that can cause harm. Our job is to identify the benefits and make a judgement as to whether the benefit outweighs the potential harm from the hazard if it actually happens.
Ferre Leavers uses a measure of Challenge as an indicator of Well being in children and states that if the incorrect level is not provided, or children can not experience dealing with challenge, then they will not mature, will not feel ‘well’ and will not become engages with the opportunities or the experiences that you provide. Challenge adds a dimension to learning that is essential for holistic development to occur. Intact without challenge certain traits will be absent as children grow into adulthood. Without these traits there is a greater risk of harm, both physical as well as psychological. this can lead to mental health issues, stress, anxiety, antisocial behaviour as well as self harm and suicide.
Providing children with the right levels of challenge and exposure to the right levels and the right kinds of risk allow health development physically, intellectually, linguistically, emotionally, socially as well as spiritually.
The concept is becoming a greater prevalence and is becoming an acceptable process now in play, adventure and education, and through pioneers such as Tim Gill in his book, Nothing Ventured; Balancing Benefits and Risks in the Outdoors and Living in Risk Adverse Society the powers that be are allowing those with an urgent desire to allow our children to play outdoors, to do exactly that.
There are a number of very good places to look and to investigate when considering Assessing for Opportunity – A4O.
- Bath and North East Somerset Council developed the Tool kit for Benefits Analysis
- Health and Safety Executive Children’s Play and Leisure, Promoting a Balanced Approach
So when the process of Assessing for Opportunities commenced in 2000 through our process and procedures and a desire to look positively, to use a method concentrating on aspirational language and take away the negative connotations and biased view of Risk Assessments, I am pleased to see that it is now becoming common practice by outdoor professionals throughout the world and supported by the government and other official authorities giving us more freedom to explore and to create positive learning opportunities for out children.