Those involved in the tourism industry are far more in tune with risk management because of the nature of their product or service, so in some instances I’m writing to the converted.

However, there are some hidden ‘nasties’. In fact there are three areas where tourism operators are exposed. These are building ownership – how you and your team manage the risk; the fine print – specifically the lack of specialist advice or wording regarding your chosen policy; and incident management – your ability to determine best outcomes in the event of an incident. I will discuss each of these gaps in a series of articles. In this first piece, I will address building ownership to manage risk, highlighting five preventative measures you can take as a business owner.

Responsible business practice means managing risk, not just living with it. It is not up to your association, the government, or insurer – it’s up to you and your staff! It cannot be done by an individual, but needs to be part of a culture within your business that everyone embraces.  All staff members need to buy into risk management for their own safety and that of your guests.

Countless safety measures can be taken to ensure a safer environment for all, and all businesses need to follow local legislation, building standards, occupational health and safety guidelines, guiding regulations and the law of the land. Remember that is it not necessarily one form of compliance,  one specific act, sign or orientation chat that prevents an incident, but rather a combination of all. Do not believe for one second that you can comply with licensing requirements, have an indemnity form signed and forget the rest.

A fair amount of detail sits behind these, but the big five in preventative measures are:

1. Induction of staff

Not enough properties do this! The more familiar the staff are with their environment and accompanying hazards, the less likely they are to make an error and the better they will be able to assist in the event of an incident. You will have more eyes on the ground to identify and mitigate risk.

2. Guest orientation and indemnities

Awareness is the first step in mitigating risk. Let visitors know about the environment you are taking them into and what assistance services you provide. They themselves will be able to avoid hazards they encounter in many instances.

3. Conduct of activities

Make sure all guides, drivers and instructors are compliant and that regular appraisals are done. They must be aware of the inherent risks they are introducing clients to and not get blasé about their surroundings.

4. Develop a risk awareness

No one knows the business and its hazards better than your staff and your peers as they live it daily. Sharing of learned experiences and restless innovation are important to preserve this niche. Factors that need to be considered when building capacity and safety performance include the location, number of guests, the nature of the activities performed; the presence of potentially dangerous game or natural features; the type of injuries that are likely to occur at a workplace; the number and capacity of staff as well as the other available resources

5. Safety and emergency signs and numbers

Emergency signs and notices enable staff and guests to act quickly, getting guests and staff out of the area as quickly as possible. They are also important in informing guests and visitors of potential dangers. These can be subtly introduced in your environment without taking from the design or style of a place. I believe ownership this is the most effective form of transferring risk within our industry. It is something that you can do now, that you can control and that will ensure your business is here tomorrow.

The good news is that there are only three ways to mitigate risk: 1) remove, 2) manage and 3) transfer. You can remove the risk by not playing this game – find another profession to pursue. You can manage the risk as I’ve outlined above. Transferring the risk involves transferring the risk to a third party – traditionally insurers.

It is important to use a combination of managing and transferring risk. In the next issue we will discuss the importance of specialist cover and understanding the ‘fine print’.