Did the headline grab your attention?  Good.

Having recently attended an event in Edinburgh (the SYHA Youth Residential Experiences Conference, which was very good I have to say), I was wowed by some stats that Gavin Howat (Inspector, Health & Safety Executive, Scotland) offered in a presentation he gave, about taking the fear factor out of Health and Safety for youth residentials.

Some awful incidents that have happened in the past and scare stories do occasionally appear in the press and on the rumour mill.  As a result there is undoubtedly a fear amongst many youth residential organisers and parents alike, that kids are more likely than not, to be hurt, injured or worse when they go and spend time away from home at organised residential activity events or on activity away days.

This unhealthy view is unfortunately, having a detrimental effect on the opportunities being made available to youngsters, at a time when participation in properly organised outdoor activities can have such a positive and lasting effect on young people.  The lure of computer & console games, television and other non-active ‘distractions’ makes it ever-more difficult to get kids out exercising.  Unecessary fear about the risks involved in outdoor activities doesn’t help the case.

If you still don’t believe me check out these amazing stats showing the average number of fatalities per annum in the UK (over the last 10 years):

> 130,000 heart attacks

> 120,000 cancers

> 10,000 accidental deaths

> 4,000 asthma

> 4,000 accidents at home

> 3,500 road traffic accidents

> 3 to 4 on school trips (and these were due to traffic accidents or natural causes)

> Only 1 in 10 years was as a result of participation in an AALA licenced provider activity (Adventure Activities Licencing Authority). 1 death from an estimated 10-30 million activity days.

Source: HSE Scotland.

Things can and do occasionally go wrong, but the fact is that the benefits to young people of participating in properly organised activity programmes far outweigh the potential risks.  Opportunities to see parts of the countryside never-before visited, trying out new activities, developing self-confidence and independence and learning new skills are but a few of the potential benefits to mention.

It is important that organisers ensure that they use reputable activity organisers, and it does provide a greater sense of security if those operators are licenced under AALA (or whatever the future licensing scheme will be).  Regular checks by inspectors help ensure that the correct processes and procedures are in place to minimise the risk of something going wrong.  It would be wrong of me to say that there are no risks, because that just isn’t the case, but with risk comes reward in many guises.

So, what should you do?  With an ageing population there is a chance that the young people of tomorrow will be neglected. So get out there, get active and get as many young people as you can muster out into the great outdoors.  Scotland has a huge number of amazing outdoor experiences to offer…don’t pass on the opportunity if it comes along.

I hope you’ve found this interesting, but more importantly I hope you do something about it.  Please share it with your Facebook friends and others.