WEASEL WORDS IN VICTORIA'S ADVENTURE ACTIVITY STANDARDS

Appropriate, account for, and consider are words that pepper Victoria’s Adventure Activity Standards, produced by the Outdoor Recreation Centre, funded and endorsed by the State Government.

These words avoid saying anything at all. They are weasel words. Their use is a tacit acknowledgement that it is not possible to define meaningful standards for these kinds of activities in just a few pages of text.

So what the authors of the AAS face is a choice between meaningful, specific standards that are unreasonable in 90% of cases, and this vague nonsense that can be used to condemn anyone whose judgement is later brought into question. The AAS can play "gotcha" with leaders and organisations.

“Consider and account for everything, act appropriately” is a summary of an AAS.

THE AAS WEASEL WORD USAGE SCORE CARD

appropriate
account for
consider
Total
ABSEILING

25

2

12

39

ARTIFICIAL CLIMBING STRUCTURES

19

1

10

30

BUSHWALKING

18

2

14

34

CANOEING & KAYAKING

36

2

24

62

CHALLENGE ROPES COURSES

31

2

14

47

FOUR WHEEL DRIVING

29

2

13

44

HORSE TRAIL RIDING

22

4

9

35

MOUNTAIN BIKING

16

3

8

27

RECREATIONAL ANGLING

24

5

12

41

RECREATIONAL CAVING

29

3

8

40

RIVER RAFTING

20

3

7

30

ROCK CLIMBING

25

3

12

40

SURFING SESSIONS

29

6

13

48

SNORKELLING, SCUBA DIVING & WILDLIFE SWIMS

43

6

14

63

TRAIL BIKE TOURING

31

10

10

51

Totals:

397

54

180

631

 
appropriates
account fors
considers
 

 

1 The Snorkelling, SCUBA Diving and Wildlife Swims AAS has an impressive 63 weasel words in the few pages of activity specific text.  
2 The Canoeing & Kayaking AAS follows closely, with 62 weasel words.  
3 There are 631 weasel words used in the 15 Adventure Activity Standards.  
4

The highest concentration of weasel words is in the Snorkelling, SCUBA Diving and Wildlife Swims AAS, with this paragraph that provides a checklist but uses multiple weasel words to avoid specifying anything at all.

“As a minimum, a checklist must be completed before initiating any activity to ensure that the following considerations are appropriately accounted for.

  • Wave height and direction are appropriate.
  • Tide is appropriate for the location.
  • Any rips and currents are identified and accounted for.
  • Wind direction and strength are appropriate for the planned activity.
  • Access and egress are clear in case of an emergency.
  • Sand bars are safe and/or appropriately considered to minimise risk.
  • Other users are appropriately accounted for (including watercraft).
  • Risk of entanglement (fishing lines etc.) is accounted for.
  • Risk to the environment can be appropriately minimised.

Where any of the above are not as expected, appropriate strategies must be implemented.”

That's 8 uses of appropriate, 4 uses of accounted and 2 uses of consider, in three layers of syntax; 14 weasel words, in just 12 lines.

 
5

The most popular weasel word is appropriate, used a remarkable 397 times in the 15 AAS, which makes these quotes so special:

From the ORC website: “Final drafts of the activity standards were perused by a solicitor to ensure that they were appropriately detailed to assist a leader and/or organisation complying with the AAS in developing a legal defence.”

Not much doubt about that!

And, from an ORC presentation: “AAS provide a guideline for leaders and organisations to demonstrate that they are conducting activities in an appropriate manner” . Never a truer word …. 397 times!

 
6

How can such vague nonsense possibly provide, as the ORC claims:

"• Safety for both participants and providers
 • Protection for providers against legal liability claims and criminal penalties
 • Assistance in obtaining insurance cover."


 
7

The Minister for Sport and Recreation launched the AAS in July 2003 with the following remark. It begs the question, had he actually read one?

"These standards …. provide clarity for operators and will help ensure a consistent

 


August 2005

continue

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