When Adventure Sports Go Wrong

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The Law Of... staying safe during summer holiday activities

Following multiple news stories of adventure sports resulting in serious injury, Associate Solicitor Ruth Magee explains the dangers of adventure sports and advises how you, and your family, can stay safe during your summer activities.

How safe is Zorbing?

Family Fun Day Meets Distressing End

A freak accident at a kids' climbing wall saw a day of family fun end in a trip to Accident and Emergency, as a helmet strap became caught and tightened around the neck of an 8 year old.

Designed as a day of fun activities for the summer holidays, the incident resulted in the girl losing consciousness after hanging from her neck after being pushed away from the wall by a harness.

After becoming caught, the strap throttled the girl, who was taken to Accident and Emergency by her mother after staff at the activity centre did not call an ambulance.

She was immediately placed in a neck brace at Southend hospital, as it was suspected that she suffered whiplash as a result of the accident.

In the aftermath of the accident, the girl's parents are asking for a change to safety equipment, to ensure that such accidents do not occur again.

Explaining the law of wall climbing, Ruth said:

"While activity centres that offer outside climbing activities must be licensed under the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004, climbing walls are not subject to the same requirements."

"Despite this there are stringent guidelines and requirements that have been published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which outlines risk assessments and safety equipment requirements for indoor wall climbing centres."

"The Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC Walls) also publishes a code of practice, which is designed to ensure that all wall climbers are safe at member centres."

"It seems as though the activity has risen in popularity in recent years, and with sports climbing's inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games it's likely that this increased popularity will continue well into the next decade."

Zorbing Accident Highlights Importance Of Health And Safety Standards

In a similar freak mishap, a British teenager suffered multiple arm breaks in a 'zorbing' accident whilst volunteering in Romania.

Zorbing, an activity that involves being placed in a transparent plastic orb (referred to as a zorb) and rolled downhill, has risen in popularity in recent years, with adrenaline seekers enjoying the exhilaration of extreme velocity and high G-forces.

While it is not clear how the teenager's injuries were sustained, it is claimed that an investigation into the incident found many irregularities, which suggests that health and safety procedures may have been ignored by staff.

Due to the extreme nature of the adventure sport, strict safety guidelines should be followed, however acquaintances of the victim claim that even basic health and safety standards were ignored and the staff did not seem to know how to safely set up the zorb.

The safety of zorbing was called into question 3 years ago, when a Russian man was killed taking part in the activity after his zorb careened off course and rolled down a steep drop.

Discussing the zorbing phenomenon, Ruth explains:

"Zorbing is one of many new crazes that are becoming increasingly popular, especially with holiday makers who attempt the sport on land abroad – it is important to note that the sport is mainly observed on water in this country."

"Again, there are a number of safety guidelines and requirements for zorbing in the UK, with the HSE responding to the popularity of aqua zorbs by publishing common safety problems with single-skinned aqua zorbs."

"With this incident taking place overseas the same safety guidelines may not apply and from the report it seems as though the teenager in this case signed a safety waiver that was written in Romanian, meaning she may not have understood the safety rules of the equipment."

Being Cautious With Adventure Sports

It is important to note that most adventure sports of this kind do not result in injuries, however there are some simple steps to follow to ensure that you stay safe whilst taking part in adventure sports, as Ruth says:

"The most important thing to look out for is a stringent health and safety policy, if the activity centre you have visited does not explicitly outline health and safety guidelines before you undertake activities then you should proceed with caution."

"Always ensure that staff brief you on safety guidelines, if safeguards are not explicitly stated to you then you should not go ahead with the activity, no matter how fun or exhilarating it may seem."

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