On 10 November 2015, Minister Simon Harris, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, launched new guidelines for managing visitor safety at historical attractions titled ‘Managing Visitor Safety in the Historic Built Environment – Principles & Practice’ on behalf of the Visitor Safety in the Countryside Group (VSCG).
The launch was hosted by the OPW in the newly refurbished Rathfarnham Castle and attended by Commissioner John McMahon of the Office of Public Works, Deputy Director of the State Claims Agency (SCA), Mr. Pat Kirwan and David Mitchell, Director of Historic Environment Scotland along with other key stakeholders and historical monument site managers.
Visitors play an important role in the economic development of Ireland, contributing €3.6bn to the Republic’s economy alone in 2014, with recent figures showing a 16.2% rise in revenue from overseas visitor spending in 2015.
Managing Visitor Safety
There are however, particular challenges in managing visitor safety which these new guidelines aim to assist with. The opening section of the book lays out the guiding principles that give managers the confidence to make decisions and includes the latest thinking about balancing risk and benefit and include planning and organising for visitor safety, assessing and managing risk, incident reporting and investigation as well as emergency planning and evacuation procedures. The publication draws on the experience of the VSCG members to offer practitioners a methodology to enforce an ethos of ‘No Nasty Surprises’ on their sites.
Speaking at the launch Minister Harris said:
“The issue of visitor safety management is of critical importance to my Office. I am delighted, therefore, that the guiding principles and risk management techniques included in this publication I am launching today are the perfect match to my Office’s core principles of conserving our heritage and improving public access.
I have also no doubt that the other State agencies and Government Departments that form the VSCG will also greatly benefit from the shared knowledge and practical methodology that these guidelines offer for visitor safety, assessing and managing risk and other essential procedures to ensure that all visitors enjoy the benefit of our built environment”. Minister Simon Harris, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works.
The organisations that form the Ireland Branch of the VSCG are responsible for the management of approximately 900 national monuments, parks, historic houses, recreation sites and 1,000km of inland navigable waterways across the island of Ireland, as well as for policy development.
The VSCG was founded in May 1997 and currently has 36 member organisations across the UK and Ireland, most of which own and manage extensive land and property. Members are committed to protecting and enhancing the environment while encouraging public access, and as part of their membership agreement have signed up to a set of guiding principles.
The Ireland Branch of the VSCG was formed in 2013 and is focused on the issues facing the Irish members such as the visitor risk assessment process and a common approach to information provision and signage. A number of Irish organisations have been members of the VSCG since the 2013 launch and this continues to grow year on year.
The current Irish members include:
– State Claims Agency (acting as secretariat)
– Office of Public Works
– Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
– Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
– Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
– Waterways Ireland
– The Commissioners of Irish Lights