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Rogue operators squeezed out

A Health and Safety Executive report on two years' inspections at outdoor activity centres has concluded that most providers are safe and meet legal requirements.

However, following visits to 311 centres throughout Britain, including the east of Scotland, the inspectors say there should be better risk assessments for some activities and improved written emergency procedures and accident reporting. Eight improvement notices were issued after initial visits.

Most centres, the report notes, are still vividly aware of the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy in 1993 which prompted the current tougher inspection regime. From this week, centres that provide commercially run outdoor activities for under-18s must be registered and licensed. Failure to comply will be illegal.

During their visits in 1994 and 1995, inspectors concentrated on the assessment and control of risks, emergency procedures, training and competence of instructors, maintenance of equipment, and monitoring of safety standards. They revisited 53 centres last year to check standards had improved.

The programme of visits was announced in November 1993 by John Patten, then Secretary of State for Education, as part of four-point programme to safeguard pupils. The Government later accepted stricter regulation of the outdoor industry, passing the Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Act last June.

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