Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

What Would You like? Identifying the Required Characteristics of an Industry-Wide Incident Reporting and Learning System for the Led Outdoor Activity Sector

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

What Would You like? Identifying the Required Characteristics of an Industry-Wide Incident Reporting and Learning System for the Led Outdoor Activity Sector

Article excerpt

Introduction

The goal of the UPLOADS (Understanding and Preventing Led Outdoor Accidents Data System) project is to develop a standardised, national approach to incident reporting and learning for the outdoor sector in Australia. The project is funded by a range of stakeholders in the outdoor sector, including outdoor education and recreation associations, outdoor activity providers and government departments (see acknowledgements). The system is primarily aimed at organisations which facilitate supervised or 'led' outdoor activities (i.e. led outdoor activity providers). This is a diverse group which includes organisations operating under the banners of outdoor education, school camps, adventure tourism, outdoor recreation and outdoor therapy. While these organisations pursue a range of different goals in the provision of outdoor activities, they all owe a duty of care towards those involved in their activities (e.g. instructors, participants, volunteers) to eliminate or manage the risks involved as far as reasonably possible. Moreover, the provision of common activities (e.g. bushwalking, camping, rock climbing) implies that these different types of organisations may be able to learn from one another's experiences.

Gathering detailed information on incidents and identifying contributing factors is a valuable component of risk management in outdoor programmes. Incident rates can be used to evaluate the efficacy of risk management decisions or countermeasures over time (Cessford, 2009), and identify when changes to risk management strategies are necessary (Leemon & Schimelpfenig, 2003). Information on contributing factors provides an empirical basis to justify changes to policy, training, or program location or activity (Brown & Fraser, 2009; Capps, 2007; Dickson, 2012a; Haddock, 2008; Merrill & Wright, 2001). Incident reports, if accessibly stored, can help retain organisational knowledge despite staff turnover (Haddock, 2008). In addition, actual data on incidents can provide a basis for communicating with participants and their families about the real, as opposed to the perceived, risks involved in outdoor activities (Leemon & Schimelpfenig, 2003).

While collecting incident data at the organisation level has benefits, a national system compiling information on all led outdoor incidents, including near misses, would provide further benefits to the sector as a whole. First, a standardised, national system would potentially provide a common language for cross-organisational communication and learning within a very diverse 'sector' (i.e. those involved in the provision of led outdoor activities). Second, while acknowledging that the data would be gleaned from a diverse set of organisations, analysing aggregate data would potentially provide insights into the risks associated with different types of led outdoor activities. The types of activities facilitated by outdoor recreation, education or adventure organisations are typically seen as relatively high risk compared with traditional sports (Cessford, 2009; Dickson, 2012b; Priest & Baillie, 1987). Without empirical evidence, judgements about these activities, and their relative risks and benefits, will continue to be made on the basis of personal opinion (Brown & Fraser, 2009; Cessford, 2009). Comprehensive data, including participation rates, would assist professional associations and government agencies to make evidence based decisions about issues that affect those involved in the provision of led outdoor activities (Brown & Fraser, 2009; Dickson, 2012b; Salmon, Williamson, Lenne, Mitsopoulos-Rubens, & Rudin-Brown, 2009).

The initial plan for UPLOADS was developed from a review of the literature on guidelines for developing and evaluating injury surveillance and adverse event reporting systems in other areas such as healthcare (e.g. German et al., 2001; Holder et al., 2001; Klaucke et al., 1988; WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety, 2005). …

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