Following on from this is the principle of ‘volenti non fit injuria’ literally a willing man cannot be injured. A person willingly taking part in a known high risk activity takes responsibility for himself. It is interesting to note that although hill walkers have a moral responsibility to assist other people in difficulties, they have no legal obligation. (Long, 2003.) Leaders should always give priority to the safety of their charges and make this their primary consideration when helping others.
To protect the freedom to enjoy climbing and mountaineering activities and to continue to introduce people to the sport one must understand the law of negligence and liability and must also constantly remind all participants about the hazards and risks, and actively promote the culture of personal responsibility and self-reliance. (The British Mountaineering Council, 2003b.) Legal requirements aside, a leader should follow the guidelines for good practice laid out by both the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), and the Mountain Leader Training Board (MLTB).
These guidelines are there to assist leaders in maintaining a high level of safety awareness in order to protect not only the members in their charge, but also the leaders themselves. (Sports Coach UK, 2002.) Climbing and other mountaineering activities are all at risk adventure sports and as such have an inherent level of danger. (The British Mountaineering Council, 2003a.) All guidelines and requirements already set in place have been done so in order to lessen the risk to individuals of serious injury or even death.
The paradox is that people climb and participate in mountaineering activities often because of the danger factor involved. (Cronin, 1991.) To eliminate all risk would go against the underlying reason why people want to participate. The responsibility of the leader therefore is to ensure that members of a group experience the thrill of this adventure sport, that they are challenged, motivated and most of all that they enjoy it, but that they do so as safely as is reasonably possible, without taking any unnecessary risks. (Langmuir, 2003.)
Working with novice or intermediate groups often means working with young people, whether as a professional or as a volunteer. It is important in such a situation to promote a safe and comfortable environment. (The British Mountaineering Council, 2003e.) The BMC provides comprehensive guides to assist one in these matters, such as ‘Promoting Good Practice for Coaching Climbing’ and a detailed ‘Child Protection Policy’. Other informative sources include the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) who can provide advice for professionals, and Sports Coach UK who provide ‘The Coaches Charter’.
All these organisations emphasise a few core principles when working with children and young people to safeguard their welfare. Good practice is essentially common sense; however, it is important to remember that in such a situation one is acting in ‘Loco Parentis’ and must act as a reasonable parent or guardian would. (The British Mountaineering Council, 2003e.) The well-being and safety of the participant must be placed about the development of performance. It is important therefore to remember that an effective leader considers the needs of the individual members in the group, rather than their own needs or wants. Not only this, but a leader should focus attention on bettering the person, rather than merely achieving the task. (Martens, 2004.)
One should treat all young people with respect and develop an appropriate working relationship based on mutual trust. (Sport Coach UK, 2003.) Always work in an open environment and avoid one to one situations and as far as is practical, physical contact should be avoided. If this does occur it is important that the child consents and that it is done in an open way. Ensure that there is parental consent for both the participation in the activity by the young person and, if the need arises, that all necessary medical help can be administered. (The British Mountaineering Council, 2003e.)