Those of you have participated in any events that we have organised will probably have heard me say that a great deal of what we do to keep people safe when we are out on an adventure happens way before we head outside. In this post we are going to explore that in more depth and look at other elements of risk, hazards, safety and managing it all so that we can provide our customers with great adventures.
It is important to remember that any adventurous activity involves a degree of risk. If it was risk free and sterile then we might have a great recreational experience, but we have not had an adventure. Risk is an integral element of adventure. As a provider of outdoor experiences, we need to have knowledge, experience and expertise in managing the risk, and indeed balancing the risk and reward, so that we can provide experiences with a level of risk that is acceptable to us and our customers. If we eliminate the risks, we kill the adventure. So we need to be very good at managing risks. The best safety is not achieved by removing any potential dangers, but by being skilled in dealing with them.
Let’s look at some basics regarding risk management. First, we need to talk about hazards. A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm. Hazards come in all forms and categories. We all encounter numerous hazards every day, many of them we do not even notice or class as hazards as we are so used to dealing with them correctly – This can present issues as complacency is indeed a hazard in its own right! Once we have identified a hazard we can then start to think about the risk that this may present. The risk is a measure of the likelihood of the hazard causing us harm, and what harm that might be. An example I often use is that of a nuclear submarine. Essentially a tin can, many metres under water, many people confined within its walls, and with a nuclear reactor on board. This is a certainly a hazard. However, when we look at the risk involved we can see that it is low risk due to a combination of many factors such as its design, the technology used, the knowledge and experience of the designers and the engineers building it, the training and knowledge and experience of the crew, the safety measures built into the systems and processes employed, the lack of any single point of failure and the failsafe mechanisms. A great example of a serious hazard that presents very low risk. However, let us not relax and sit back, as complacency then creeps into the system.
How does this relate to what we do? Every single one of our adventures has been designed and planned and tested before we accept it and release it as an event. They all have their own risk assessment that is completed and updated on a regular basis. In addition to this we employ experienced, knowledgeable, well trained, qualified Mountain Leaders and assistants on our events. We use strict ratios of leader to clients. Our skills are regularly updated and renewed. We communicate regularly with all participants before all our events to ensure that the have all the information required about the event and about what equipment they may need. Communication is a major element of what we do before and during our events. Our experience and skills also enable us to deal effectively with hazards that we cannot control. An example of an uncontrollable hazard would be lightening. Although we cannot control it, we can reduce our exposure to it. Before every event we pay very careful attention to the weather and we keep all our participants informed of what to expect and what is required to ensure that we can deal with any potential weather hazards. We also have optional routes for all our events that can give us shelter from the weather as required.
Our events always get amazing feedback and reviews. This does not happen by chance. It is the hard work behind the scenes well before we even arrive at our adventure, that allows us to have a great adventure.