Have you noticed that most accidents in our industry don’t involve failures of gear or structural course components? Platforms don’t typically just fall down, and harnesses don’t spontaneously fall apart. The overwhelming majority of incidents and accidents (our insurance professionals estimate over 90 percent) are primarily a result of human error. Of the remaining accidents, many of them are a combination or human error and other factors; guides or guests make a mistake because the course design didn’t do enough to promote best practices, facilitators don’t get enough training and they improperly fit or use critical pieces of equipment, or a brake system fails because the operator didn’t have the knowledge to install or inspect it properly.
When people get hurt, there is a huge emotional and financial toll for everyone involved, and lawsuits often follow. So how do you validate the effectiveness or your policies and procedures and in particular, the day-to-day operational practices at your facility? Well, you probably have been hearing more about Operational Reviews and they are quickly becoming one of the best ways to identify and mitigate risks for at-height operators.
An Operational Review, as mandated in Chapter 2, B.2.7. of the ACCT standards, is a third-party assessment of your facility’s risk management strategies, program quality, and operating procedures. This thorough, hands-on review identifies systemic and potential operational hazards and provides objective feedback and specific, practical recommendations for improving your operations. This information is critical to identifying and addressing deficiencies in your operational practices before they lead to an accident. The standards require that an organization engage in a review by an external qualified person(s) at least once every five (5) years. But “being required by the ACCT standards” isn’t the only reason your organization should consider an operation review.
An Operational Review is designed to identify flaws and deficiencies in operational practices that increase the potential for an accident due to human error. This is achieved with a thorough review of company policies and procedures for training, inspection, maintenance, staffing, supervision, risk management, emergency responses, and documentation. Experienced reviewers like those at Challenge Towers will have a breadth of knowledge and experience with a wide variety of challenge course, aerial park, and zipline tour operations. Following their in-depth assessment, reviewers work with the operator to help ensure that each policy, procedure, and practice aligns with corresponding standards, that they are thoroughly written and documented, that they are communicated accurately to staff, and that day-to-day operations are carried out with consistency.
As operators ourselves, we’ve noticed a few additional benefits and resulting advantages of completing the operation review process. Our industry has always had a collaborative spirit and working with outside professionals is an opportunity for vital insights and new perspectives that have significant value. The review process also helps to reinforce your company culture and the value it places on safety. By opening your organization and management practices to review, you show that risk management is an evolving process that requires consistent critical analysis. It helps to support open and honest dialogue around operation-based issues and makes your staff better risk managers. Operational reviews are not just about critical feedback, they also highlight many of the things that you are doing well, validating the efforts of your team and reinforcing good practices.
And finally, your operation review can now be used to apply for ACCT Operations Accreditation. When you hire an approved reviewer (we have those!) and your review goes well (we can help you with that!), you can include the report in your application for accreditation to ACCT. Then you can utilize your accreditation to demonstrate to your participant and guests that you have achieved specific distinction for your operational practices. Ready to learn more? We are here to help!
Learn more about Challenge Towers Operations Reviews here.