Guidance for Orienteering Leaders

  • Planning
  • Clothing and Equipment
  • Ratios (Qualified Staff to Students)
  • Safety Procedures
  • Water Hazards
  • Preperation for Participants
  • Recommendations
  • Environmental Considerations

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

  • The person in charge must have the competence and experience relevant to the area that is to be used and to the prevailing conditions.
  • Course planning and control sites must be related to safety, particularly in regard to length of course, the terrain involved and the ability of the participants.
  • Dangerous areas must be avoided and any dangerous aspects of a competition or training area must be clearly marked on all maps. Particular hazards such as quarries, crags, deep ponds or marshes should be marked ‘out of bounds’ and taped off.
  • Due regard must be paid to weather and season.
  • Emergency procedures must be appropriate to the situation.
  • A search and rescue procedure for missing participants must be in place prior to an event.
  • Individuals must carry a compass and be fully conversant with the use of safety bearings.
  • Individuals or pairs must carry a watch and know the ‘course closure’ times.
  • Individuals must carry a plastic whistle for emergency use only and know how to use it (6 short blasts) and what to do if they hear an emergency signal being given.
  • Full body and leg cover should be worn at all times. In winter warm and/or waterproof garments are essential. Footwear should be sturdy with good tread.
  • Equipment should not be carried on strings around the neck.

Leaders should ensure that a first aid kit and group shelter are available during all orienteering events and exercises.

Orienteering is generally a relatively non hazardous activity when carried out at low level, however it still requires careful management and supervision and participants will often be supervised remotely. A maximum ratio of 1:12 should not normally be exceeded since this will reduce both educational outcomes and overall safety. In all situations it is desirable for a second adult to also be present.

Optimum supervision ratios will often be less than 1:12 and will be informed by the site specific risk assessment and consideration must be given to the nature of the group, terrain, conditions and experience of the supervising staff, and also to the potential impact on the environment and other users of the area.
The size of any group and the strategies used must always allow the leader to remain in effective control of all the group

Orienteering demands properly structured organisation and appropriate briefing of participants with regard to behaviour, area boundaries and potential hazards.

Leaders should ensure that:

  • they have considered the level of preparation and fitness of the participants for the course being attempted
  • there is a record of all individuals out on the course.
  • All participants report to the finish whether or not they have completed the course

Leaders should include in their briefings for participants:

  • Safety instructions
  • Safety bearings (see Glossary)
  • Course closure times
  • Emergency procedures.
  • The importance of handing in control cards at the finish.

Orienteering is one of the outdoor activities in which a young person may be entirely alone in the forest or countryside. Inherent in this may be a very slight but possible risk of being molested. The problems associated with this need to be recognised and understood. In educational settings young people should initially compete in pairs.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.

For young children, it is particularly important that a sound teaching progression is used to introduce orienteering. Inexperienced children should not be sent straight out into the forest on their own to attempt a course.

For some people forests can be dark, unfamiliar, intimidating places and this should be carefully considered when planning training.
Ideally the initial orienteering areas should have natural boundaries such as fences, roads or rivers which students are instructed not to cross.

Leaders wishing to develop the sport of orienteering should be fully aware of the British Orienteering Federation coaching scheme and of the safety recommendations of that governing body.

Leaders should be encouraged to attend training courses organised by the British Orienteering Federation.
The use of permanent orienteering courses is strongly recommended. Information on these is available through the Scottish Orienteering Association.

Groups organising an orienteering event should consider doing so in conjunction with the local affiliated orienteering club of the Scottish Orienteering Association.

Attention should be drawn to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

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