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The Rise and Fall of a Regulator: Adventure Sports in the UK

This research traces the history of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) which was set up post-Lyme Bay in response to the concern which that event raised, and which faced abolition as a result of recommendations by Lord Young’s inquiry into the conduct of health and safety. It was published here:

L Ball-King, L., Watt, J. and Ball, D J. (2013) 'The Rise and Fall of a Regulator: Adventure Sports in the UK,' Risk Analysis  33, Issue 1, 15–23,


Following a tragic accident in 1993 involving the deaths of teenagers while kayaking a new regulatory regime was imposed upon some adventure sports providers in the United Kingdom. In particular, a new regulatory body, the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA), was established to oversee the sector. Yet in 2010, a government-sponsored review recommended that AALA be abolished and this recommendation has been quickly accepted by government. This article explores the background to these developments through documentation, interviews with those affected by the AALA regime, and court cases. Evidence reported here, perhaps surprising, is that AALA itself is seen in a very positive light by many, even those it regulates. What may have happened is that AALA became caught up in a wider debate about the place and management of risk in life beyond the workplace, which has been simmering in the United Kingdom for a decade or more, and of which it fell foul.

It may also be that adventure sports, because they entail voluntary engagement with highconsequence hazards, starkly expose serious questions about the application of conventional, factory-originated risk assessment approaches to life in general.

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