Managing Risk



Pay particular attention to premises and equipment used by participants, as well as those that are subject to wear and/or the elements. Develop forms and procedures that address all the components and subcomponents to be reviewed. The forms should spell out the frequency of such inspections and who is qualified to perform the inspection. These inspections (and accompanying documentation) are important to triggering such activities as maintenance, decommissioning of equipment, opening and closing of attractions, etc.

Industry standards require all elements to be tested, inspected, and the results recorded by competent persons prior to opening each day. More thorough inspections should be scheduled and conducted per OEM requirements, or as required by the code for the local jurisdiction.

Personal Protective Equipment

Consider the use of PPE for activities that include travel at heights or the potential for falls from heights. Depending on the scope of the activity, such equipment might include the application of flexible lifeline systems, fall protection, and/or participant restraint. Carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of specific PPE systems in regard to longevity, costs, supervision and staffing, participant requirements and training, and documented losses.

Which type of PPE (helmets, harnesses, gloves, eye protection, clothing, footwear, etc.) are required for participants and staff should be clearly defined by the OEM/builder, along with systems for inspection, maintenance, record-keeping, retirement, and replacement. Don’t make decisions about the substitution of PPE without consulting the OEM or a qualified, professional vendor.

Plans, Policies, and Procedures

The development and implementation of operating documents and their contents is critical to providing as safe and legally defensible an operation as is reasonably feasible. If a potential incident or loss is “foreseeable” by a knowledgeable operator, then it ought to be addressed in one of these types of documents.

In contracting with a professional installer/designer, pay particular attention to the quality of support documents that accompany the installation, and the operating experience of the designer. Professionally developed plans, policies, and procedures specific to your park design, along with tested staff development systems, can represent a significant cost savings and mitigate long-term exposures. It is especially important to address in the contract with the vendor the specific standards to which the course will be designed and installed. As more and more jurisdictions begin to regulate adventure parks, these jurisdictions may well dictate what standards you and the vendor must meet.


It is extremely important to document all risk management activities as part of a comprehensive risk management program. Whether it be training and education, or the daily, weekly, or annual inspections that are regularly performed, keep a written record that clearly indicates what was done, when it was done, who it was done by, and whether there were any outcomes or comments.

As documents are often admissible in court, pay particular attention to their design, and seek their approval by the complete risk management team. That might include legal counsel and your insurer as well as your park managers. Operations aligned with a larger organization, such as a resort or museum, may have a head start on developing proper documentation. Independent operations can obtain additional guidance from a human resource professional, employment labor consultant, or professional vendor.

It is important to invest in managers, staff, and continuing education to ensure that your plans and procedures are properly and consistently implemented—and to then document those actions.

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About Author

Mark is the founder and president of AlpenRisk Safety Advisors, LLC, a risk management and safety consulting practice serving the snowsports, high-risk recreation, and hospitality industries, and has more than 30 years of experience in risk management, insurance, safety, loss control, regulatory compliance, and employment practices. He has been involved in creating many of the risk management, loss control, incident investigation, mountain safety, and terrain park guidelines used throughout the snowsports industry today. He currently serves as chairman of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Risk Management Committee, the New Hampshire Tramway Safety Board, and ASTM’s F-27 Committee. Mark can be reached at

Michael has more than 20 years of experience in the aerial adventure business as a practitioner, builder, trainer, tour operator, and business consultant. He has helped design and launch 16 commercial zip line canopy tours and aerial adventure parks in North America, and consulted on more than 100 other commercial projects. He currently works as the managing partner of ArborTrek Canopy Adventures with tour operations at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in northern Vermont and Fall Creek Falls State Park in central Tennessee, and serves on the Association for Challenge Course Technology Board of Directors. Reach him at

1 Comment

  1. all your documentation, releases and waivers along with plans, policies, guidelines and procedures especially when written are more fodder for litigation

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