Whilst permanent courses have been set up in conjunction with the appropriate local authority and the land owner, these bodies can have no direct control over the manner in which they are used by either individuals or groups. The safe use of these sites is therefore the responsibility of those who use them. Some key points are listed below. Orienteering takes place out of doors, and involves going into areas where there could be some personal risk. Participants should be prepared for such risks.
It is recommended that teachers and group leaders complete an appropriate Risk Assessment document for their organisation. Some land owners also require this to be done prior to groups visiting their property.
A major aspect of safety is accurate navigation. It is recommended that beginners use the White or Yellow course until they can confidently navigate a network of footpaths or other obvious 'line features' such as walls, fences, streams, etc. In a small area, it is easy to find a route back to the start if a map-reading error is made.
Progressing gradually through the colour range is then the best way of gaining the experience necessary to tackle a harder course. Teaching beginners some tactics for 'relocation' when 'lost' is good practice.
Part of the fun of orienteering is deciding which route to follow between controls from the information provided on the map. A direct route through complex terrain may take more time than a longer route which is easier to navigate. A direct route may also cross steep terrain, marshy ground, thick woodland, etc which might best be avoided. Any route choice decision should always take into account the orienteer's previous experience for maximum safety.
Many areas have features which could be hazardous - ponds, lakes, rivers and crags are obvious examples. Whilst most individuals will treat these with the respect they deserve, it is group leaders who need to have the greatest awareness of them. Group leaders may be managing groups of young people who are not directly supervised and need to be fully aware of potential risks. A prior visit to the site is good practice.
Adults who are responsible for sending out young people are advised to consider courses or routes which avoid potentially dangerous areas if:
a) they have limited experience b) their ability to act responsibly is in doubt
Orienteering generally takes place in areas where trees etc may be present. It is strongly advisable to wear clothing which provides full body cover to protect against cuts and grazes etc. At orienteering competitions, full body cover (ie covering the arms, legs and torso) is compulsory.
It is essential to have an adult stationed at the Start/Finish point to check off participants on their return. Where physical dangers exist or navigation is tricky, it is desirable to have additional adults stationed at appropriate locations to ensure that safety limits are not exceeded.
Group leaders should have relevant prior experience or hold an appropriate award from British Orienteering (formerly British Orienteering Federation).
If sending out young people, either as a parent or group leader, it is a good idea to give them a time by which they should return to base if they have not completed the course.