Health and Safety requirements for providers of Adventure Activities

Are you, or could you be responsible at some time, for choosing or participating in an adventure activity in which others (such as school children, teams, other groups) will participate? Are you aware of the safety standards required for adventure activities, including certification by an authorised assessor? Or are you the provider of an activity that may come under the Adventure Activity Regulations?

If you said ‘yes’ in answer to any of these questions, the following is important information for you to consider.

The information provided in this article is adapted from a larger Worksafe NZ document on Adventure Activities which can be found on their website and which should be read in full to ensure a complete understanding of the requirements, if you are a provider of adventure activities.

Safety Audit Standard for Adventure Activities

Regulations were designed to protect the health and safety of staff and participants engaged in adventure activities and to protect New Zealand’s reputation as a world-leading provider of adventure tourism.

  • The current regulations are the Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016. They were made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which is referred to as HSWA.
  • The regulations require commercial operators who provide adventure activities, as defined by the regulations, to pass safety audits and become registered by WorkSafe New Zealand (WorkSafe).
  • Safety audit standards include requirements to manage the risks of drug and alcohol use by operators and their staff.

Safety Audits

  • Safety audits are performed by safety auditors recognised by WorkSafe. Safety auditors are engaged directly by operators, to assess compliance with the safety audit standard that applies to the adventure activities provided by the operator.
  • If the operator passes the safety audit, the auditor must issue a safety audit certificate to the operator that specifies the adventure activities that were audited. Safety audit certificates are valid for a period specified by the auditor up to a maximum of three years.

Compliance with Standard

  • Having passed an audit, it is the operator’s responsibility to continue to comply with this standard. They must ensure their safety culture remains positive, the approved Safety Management System (SMS) is followed, and good practice is maintained. Additionally, they must review their SMS in response to new information, or as their business changes.
  • The operator must establish, document, implement, maintain, and continually improve an SMS in accordance with the requirements of the standard, and must determine how they will fulfill these requirements.

Safety Management System

  • The SMS must include an overarching safety management policy. The policy must express the operator’s commitment to: compliance with health and safety legislation; prevention of notifiable events; and continual improvement. The policy must state who is responsible for the SMS. The operator should have a document or statement summarising the components of their SMS and how they relate to each other.
  • There must be clear top leadership commitment including knowledge of the activities; the associated hazards and risks; and to provide the necessary resources to establish, implement, maintain and continually improve the SMS; and to verify the provision and use of those resources.

Safety objectives, Engagement, and Participation

  • When establishing safety objectives, the operator should consider: > hazards and risks > technology and usage options > financial, operational, and business requirements > the views of staff and relevant other parties. The operator must engage with staff in establishing safety objectives and the plans to meet those objectives. The operator must monitor and record the results of implementing safety goals and objectives.
  • The operator must ensure that specific authorities and responsibilities for safety requirements are assigned to competent staff.
  • As appropriate, such responsibilities should be recorded in performance agreements, contracts, or other documentation.
  • The operator must establish, implement and maintain procedures for communicating relevant safety information to and from staff, participants, potential participants, and other parties.

Risk management

  • The operator must have procedures for risk disclosure between the operator and participant, and subsequent acknowledgment. The operator must establish and maintain policies and procedures for receiving complaints and using any complaints about safety to review the SMS. Safety must be addressed regularly at internal meetings. Decisions and any action points arising from these meetings must be communicated to staff and implemented.
  • Staff must be inducted into the operator’s SMS before they take responsibility for others within an activity. Employees should have a training plan.
  • Note: Hazards and operating conditions that may increase risk include: > drug or alcohol impairment of any person involved in a safety-sensitive role in the activity > weather – directly and indirectly affecting the activity, including the effects of the weather on the environment > participant abilities that could affect safety management, including language comprehension, technical skill level, behaviour, and physical and mental fitness (including drug or alcohol impairment) > remote or isolated work. > fatigue and repetitive tasks > combinations of simultaneous risks.

Standard operating procedures

  • The operator must develop, implement and maintain SOPs for each activity. The operator must engage with staff when proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of workers. SOPs must conform to good practice for the activity, and address each of the following items under this section on SOPs.
  • The operator must develop procedures for responding to incidents, including communicating and recording incidents internally and reporting notifiable events to the relevant authority. The procedures for recording and reporting incidents must be communicated to staff.
  • The operator must establish a process for investigating and reviewing incidents, understanding the underlying causes, identifying improvements to the SMS, and analysing trends. Recommendations from incident reviews must be implemented and communicated to staff and relevant other parties.

Continued improvement

  • The operator must develop, implement and maintain a process to ensure continual improvement of the SMS and safety outcomes. This process should be conducted through internal reviews of adventure activities, reviews of incidents, and internal review of the SMS.
  • The operator must review at least annually the performance of the SMS against the SMS’s stated safety goals and objectives.


  • The Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016 deal with the provision of adventure activities.
  • The regulations include an exemption for registered schools, tertiary education providers, and clubs (or associations representing clubs) under specific circumstances.
  • WorkSafe will enforce the regulations where it considers a school or tertiary education provider (or club) is providing adventure activities to non-students / members for any purpose other than solely to encourage enrolment or interest in the school or education provider (or club), such as on a commercial basis.

All workplaces

  • All workplaces are required to follow the practices of risk assessment, risk management (including training and participation), and continuous improvement.
  • All PCBUs owe a duty of care to workers and clients.
  • There are no exemptions, only degrees of risk to be managed.
  • Psychosocial and physical risk have equal importance in managing the safety of everyone.
  • A good workplace ensures that inductions and training are prioritized so that everyone can go home safely every day.

Guidance from Health and Safety Northland will help you to find the best solutions for your workplace health, safety and wellbeing. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you!

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