How do we determine the appropriate management response?
41. In some circumstances, such as for risks rated as extreme, it will be appropriate to take immediate action to reduce the risk. Risk warnings, signage and temporary barriers should be considered to reduce visitor exposure to hazards until long-term risk responses are implemented.
42. A management response should always take into account the factors listed in paragraph 22, and any relevant management plans for the particular park. The latter offer a framework for assessing the effectiveness of potential management responses.
43. A management response may involve:
- managing the hazard
- managing the exposure of visitors to the hazard
- managing both the hazard and the exposure of visitors to it
- doing nothing and choosing to tolerate the risk.
How do we manage exposure of visitors to a hazard?
44. Managing the exposure of visitors to a hazard means reducing that exposure. This can reduce risk without compromising the conservation of natural or cultural values.
45. A management response to reduce exposure to hazard may include:
- providing a specific risk message and other general warnings and safety messages through signs, printed material, the website or social media
- modifying visitor use at the hazard location (for example, re-routing a walking track)
- redesigning or relocating a visitor area
- closing a visitor area – partly or wholly, temporarily or permanently.
46. A hazard may be:
- a natural feature, such as a cliff, water hole or tree
- a natural event, such as a storm or fire
- a built structure, such as a viewing platform or walking track
- of some other kind.
45. It may be impractical, impossible or undesirable to physically manage some natural hazards. Where it is possible and desirable to manage a natural or other hazard, the response will generally involve modifying a hazard (for example, with fencing) or removing it (for example, by closing a track).
47. It may be inappropriate to manage a hazard (usually a natural one) if by doing so NPWS would adversely impact on the park’s natural, social, scenic or cultural values. In these cases NPWS should closely analyse risk tolerance.
48. A natural event may create risks that require a park, or part of it, to be closed until it is deemed safe to re-open.
How do we document risk assessments?
49. The risk assessment and management decision must be documented. For risks rated as medium or low, an entry in the relevant Visitor Safety Regional Risk Register may be sufficient. Documentation assists future management and may be used in court action, if an event occurs, to demonstrate that NPWS has applied a systematic approach to visitor-safety risk management. Appropriate documentation protects staff from liability; it does not expose staff to personal liability.
50. In accordance with the OEH risk management system (internal information available to staff), for any risk rated extreme or high, the management response will be documented and authorised in a risk-treatment plan. Documentation will include certification that the response has been implemented.
51. Where resources permit, a risk-treatment plan may also be required for risks rated as medium, if these risks are not well controlled and require on-going monitoring.
52. A risk treatment plan should be prepared using the risk treatment template (internal document available to staff). It must include:
- a description of the risk
- details of the assessment of the hazard and exposure of visitors to the hazard, and any relevant information that explains how the risk was determined
- measures currently in place to manage the risk (for example, policies and procedures)
- details of the alternative management responses that have been considered and the likely consequences and effectiveness of these alternatives
- details of the costs and other resources that would be involved in undertaking the alternative management responses
- an environmental assessment of the proposed management response
- an evaluation of the risk that will remain after the risk-treatment plan has been carried out.
53. Area managers will be responsible for ensuring that risk assessments and management decisions are documented. Regional managers will be responsible for approving risk treatment plans and certifying their implementation.
Who carries out inspections?
54. NPWS must inspect any assets that present hazards (for example, a lookout) or manage them (for example, ‘no access’ fencing). Failure to maintain such assets increases risk and may increase NPWS liability for any injury or death that occurs.
55. A written record should be kept of the inspections and maintenance of such assets, to document how they have been managed and show that reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that the asset performs adequately for its purpose. The NPWS Asset Management System should be used to schedule and record inspections and maintenance.
Where do we place general and specific safety and risk messages?
56. The following general safety message is used on the NPWS website and in other publications and media:
It's great to explore and experience NSW national parks. We encourage you to see and do as much as possible. We also want you and your companions to stay safe. Remember that parks are natural environments and can be unpredictable. You should plan your journey for all weather conditions.
57. In addition to the general safety message, further safety information will be provided on the OEH and NPWS website and in other publications and media on areas, activities, features and events common in parks, including (but not limited to):
- ocean/beaches, rock pools and rivers
- alpine areas
- swimming and diving
- remote bushwalking
- adventure sports
- road and mountain cycling
- driving in the snow
- driving in the outback
- flood risk
58. The safety information for these common risks will include:
- the nature of the risk
- the consequence of the risk (if it is not obvious)
- what a visitor should do to avoid the risk.
59. General warnings will be issued for individual parks based on the risks identified for those parks. These general warnings may be delivered to the public via a number of means including signs, promotional media such as brochures, or park-specific information on the NPWS website. Refer to the Park Signage Manual (internal document available to staff) for guidance on the format, content and location of general warning signs.
60. If the management response to a specific visitor-safety risk is to deliver a risk message using a sign, refer to the Signage Policy for the appropriate standard wording and symbols to be used.
61. If the standard wording is not appropriate for a specific risk, a new risk message may be required for a sign. The new message must be developed with the following principles in mind:
- the message must be given in a manner that will result in people being warned or informed before engaging in an activity in a park.
- the message needs to convey a sense of risk and danger
- A message can be general and not identify the specific risk and the consequences of the risk (if they are not obvious), but where there is a particular risk the message must at the least warn of the general nature of the risk. The message should be clear about the area that it relates to, when the risk occurs (if appropriate), and any conditions that may give rise to a risk.
62. The Park Signage Manual sets out the approval process for any new risk message.
63. Signs warning of risks must be regularly inspected and maintained.