Frequently asked questions (FAQs) for BS 8848

What was the driver for the standard’s development?

The idea for the standard initially came from the experience of Peter Eisenegger, whose daughter Claire died of heat stroke on a gap year expedition in 1999. BSI discussed the idea with the Royal Geographical Society, who helped bring together an extensive network of stakeholders and experts, and the British Standard was developed.

Why do we need the standard?

There are an increasing number of organizations and individuals (venture providers) who offer a wide variety of overseas experiences (ventures) to people of various ages and ability.

Many take an extremely responsible approach and give much useful information to prospective travellers. This approach is highly commended. Nevertheless, there have been a number of widely-publicised incidents and deaths.

No one wants to stop people undertaking these demanding activities or visiting remote parts of the world, but we feel there is need for a standard, in order to bring together all current best practice and provide greater transparency about the risks involved.

The kind of information the standard will require is how competent are the staff supervising these activities, and what safety plans are in place to evacuate a casualty in the event of an emergency.  As a result, the standard will help venture providers demonstrate to the participants that their ventures are properly managed and well organized.

Why call it BS 8848?

All BSI’s national (UK) standards have a number preceded by the abbreviation BS, for British Standard. In the case of BS 8848 the number was chosen because the distance to the peak of Mount Everest is 8,848 metres (29,032ft).

Who is expected to use BS 8848?

BS 8848 can be used for any adventurous travel, but is particularly aimed at the following groups:

  • Research expedition organizers
  • Universities, further education colleges and other organizers of fieldwork
  • Gap-year travel companies
  • Providers of adventurous holidays
  • Travel and tour operators
  • Voluntary groups organizing overseas adventurous travel e.g. charity fundraising challenges.

Does the standard apply to school trips abroad?

There are already a number of guidelines in place for state funded schools so BS 8848 is initially being targeted at other sectors that organize adventurous activities overseas such as the travel trade, further and higher education, and charities. However, should a school wish to use BS 8848 to supplement existing expertise there is no reason why they shouldn’t.

Is the standard specific to ventures abroad, or does it also cover trips made in the UK?

BS 8848 is only about overseas activities where the consequences of poor safety management systems, in unfamiliar environments can be most critical and where help may be at some distance. Activities in the UK are covered by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations.

How will BS 8848 be used?

The standard is a specification – it specifies requirements that have to be met to claim that an adventurous venture has been organized in accordance with good practice. The standard takes an end-to-end approach, requiring that one person or organization is identified as the venture provider and takes responsibility for all aspects of the venture including safety. In circumstances where elements of the venture are subcontracted to another party, the venture provider has to ensure that the subcontractor follows the relevant requirements of BS 8848.

How will a company benefit by using it?

1. The company will be able to assess the risks involved in the venture and take appropriate measures to manage them.
2. The company will be able to demonstrate to participants and other interested parties that it is using good practice to manage safety.
3. The end-to-end approach will ensure that all aspects of the venture are considered, and responsibility for safety is clear throughout the trip.

What does the standard cover?

The standard covers:

  • How to plan and organize the trip, including: identification of participants; leadership team; protection of vulnerable participants; safety management; legal framework and insurance; contingency planning; and emergency planning.
  • Practical details on travel, accommodation, medical issues, financial issues, and security.
  • A framework for third party providers to use when taking on elements of the venture.

How can one standard cover such a wide range of activities?

Isn’t the scope too broad?

The intention of BS 8848 is to provide a safe management approach to a ‘whole venture’ to eliminate those unmanaged elements of ventures that, in the past, have been judged to be the cause of many regrettable incidents. The standard identifies only the common criteria to verify safe practice across a wide range of overseas ventures. It does not attempt to prescribe how individual ventures should be run.

BS 8848 is capable of providing for the safe delivery of ventures in a manner that will not place unnecessary burden on venture providers and is well-suited to underpinning any sector-specific schemes that may be introduced subsequently if they are required.

What is BSI’s expertise on visits, fieldwork and expeditions overseas?

BSI’s expertise is in developing standards in partnership with others. The BSI method of writing standards is tried and tested and is held in high international regard for its consultative and impartial approach. Past attempts by the voluntary and commercial sector to establish standards have failed largely due to poor drafting skills and the lack of a rigorous methodology. This is where BSI has been able to help, convening a panel of experts from 20 organizations, to provide specialist technical advice. Additional expert opinion was taken on board through public consultation on the standard which received over 1200 comments from over 100 organizations all of which were reviewed in developing the final standard.

Who was involved in its development?

The following organizations were members of the BSI Technical Committee that drafted this standard:

Adventure Activities Licensing Authority
Army Accident Investigation team
British Association of International Mountain Guides
British Association of International Mountain Leaders
Commercial Expedition Providers
Consumer policy of BSI
Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Expedition Advisory Centre
Expedition Providers Association
Geographical Association
Girlguiding UK
Higher Education Academy Subject Centre
Imperial College, London
National Association of Field Studies Office
Summitreks Ltd
Travel and Tourism Lawyers Association
Year Out Group
Young Explorers Trust.

In addition, public consultation on the standard received over 1200 comments from over 100 organizations all of which were reviewed in developing the final standard.

How does it fit in with other standards/guidance/best practice in relevant industries?

The standard is based on the principles established in HSE Document HSG65 Successful Health and Safety Management and makes reference to relevant legislation and other authoritative information.

How did the process work before BS 8848?

The range of UK organizations offering overseas opportunities is huge: from commercial companies and educational establishments (schools and universities) to voluntary and charitable organizations. Many already have their own codes of practice, and some even have inspections systems for the safe management of overseas visits.

However, some of these are just recommendations and even the inspection criteria may only relate to part of the venture – for example, accommodation and/or transport.

With BS 8848, the organization complying with it (i.e. the venture provider) is responsible for all elements of the venture. It takes a ‘whole venture’ approach. Elements of the venture can be delegated out but the accountability of ensuring compliance with this standard still lies with the venture provider.

Won’t BS 8848 just create another level of bureaucracy?

Those venture providers who are already following good practice will find little within BS 8848 that is additional to the measures they already undertake in the provision of safe ventures.

In the new standard, the ‘risk based’ approach is one that should ensure that only those controls necessary to the successful delivery of a particular venture need to be adopted and should be proportional to the activities undertaken.

To our knowledge there is no other scheme for verifying the safety management systems of overseas visits that has a ‘whole venture’ approach so this standard should be a welcome tool for companies to demonstrate they are following good practice and for participants to get the reassurance they need.

How can we be sure that a venture provider is conforming to the standard?

BS 8848 is what is termed a ‘specification’. A specification provides a coherent set of requirements for achieving specific outcomes through actions that are in line with currently accepted good practice. These outcomes must be objectively verifiable from the point of view of 'a third party called upon to verify conformity'.

For specifications to fulfil their mandate it is necessary that verification of conformity is possible equally by a first party (e.g. the supplier), a second party (e.g. a purchaser) or an independent third party. The criteria for claiming compliance will be set out in such a way as to ensure that, whichever way the claim is made and supported, exactly the same requirements will be satisfied.

Given that the application of this standard is voluntary potential participants can initially determine that their selected venture provider conforms to the standard through observation - checking that it claims compliance on its marketing materials and by comparing the processes and procedures used by the venture provider with those required by the standard.

Ultimately, confirmation that a particular scheme complies could be provided by an independent third party. Usually this would be done by the venture provider employing an appropriately competent body to assess their scheme and confirm that it does indeed meet the requirements of the standard.

How does an organization demonstrate compliance with BS 8848?

When a venture provider has satisfied itself that it complies with the requirements of BS 8848 – either through self assessment or by involving an outside body - its literature and marketing materials should refer to BS 8848 and include one of the statements set out in the standard for this purpose.

Each time a new venture is planned the organisation will need to read through the standard and check that it complies, as having gone through the process once for a particular venture does not mean automatic compliance with BS 8848 for other activities.

I am a third party provider - can I claim compliance with BS 8848?

It is likely that a venture provider will decide to use third party providers to deliver some elements of any particular venture. Given the 'risk based' approach adopted in BS 8848 and the fundamental requirement that venture providers are ultimately responsible for all aspects of the ventures they offer, it is wholly appropriate that third party providers offering services into the market should be expected to comply with the clauses of BS 8848 that are relevant to the venture element that they offer. Conversely, those providers should be able to claim compliance with the standard, provided that they are fully aware of the implications of so doing. Clauses within BS 8848 explain how this can be achieved.

Am I or my organizations legally bound to comply with BS 8848?

All BSI’s standards are voluntary. They are not directly a part of UK law although can sometimes be called up in European Directives and therefore become part of regulation. BS 8848 is purely voluntary.

If there should ever be circumstances where a consumer and provider have gone to law over a dispute, British Standards are however one of the established sources of reference for judging whether organizations have behaved in accordance with recognised good practice.

Can I comment on the standard now it is published?

BSI will be keeping a close eye on this ground-breaking standard in its first year of publication to ensure it offers good practice for venture organizers. As we will be formally reviewing it in a year’s time, we need and welcome feedback from people using the standard,

If you have bought and implemented BS 8848, we would be very interested to hear your experiences and comments on how it could be improved, or perhaps how your experience of the standard in specialized situations could help others understand how they are covered.

You can write to:
Sarah Horsfield
389 Chiswick High Road
W4 4AL

How do I purchase a copy of BS 8848?

If you wish to purchase copies of BS 8848 please visit the BS 8848 page here on the BSI Shop for an instant PDF download. Or you can contact BSI Customer Services on +44 845 086 9001.

Is there a reduced price for charities?

Yes. To order at the reduced rate, please call BSI Customer Services on +44 845 086 9001 or email with your registered charity number.

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