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le Voyageur

The Most Dangerous Word in a High Adventure Director Vocabulary...

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That word is "Safe"!

 

Webster defines the word "safe" as being free from harm.

 

The moment a HA Director states he/she runs a "safe" program, the trap is set.

 

In "Normal Accident" Charles Perrow applies the term Normal Accident to "enterprises [that] have catastrophic potential...to take...lives."

 

Perrow writes..."A normal accident typically involves interactions that are "not only unexpected, but are incomprehensible for some critical period of time." The people involved just don't figure out quickly enough what is really going wrong.

A normal accident occurs in a complex system, one that has so many parts that it is likely that something is wrong with more than one of them at any given time. A well-designed complex system will include redundancy, so that each fault by itself does not prevent proper operation. However, unexpected interactions, especially with tight coupling, may lead to system failure.

 

System operators must make decisions, even with ambiguous information. The process of making a tentative choice also creates a mental model of the situation. When following through on the initial choice, the visible results are compared to those expected on the basis of that initial mental model. Provided that the first few steps' results are consistent, the fact that the mental model was tentative is likely to be forgotten, even if later results contradict it. They become "mysterious" or "incomprehensible" rather than functioning as clues to the falsity of the earlier tentative choice. This is simply the way the human mind works, and systems designed with contrary expectations of their operators are especially vulnerable to system accidents."

 

The old parable about the kingdom lost because of a thrown horseshoe has its parallel in many normal accidents: the initiating event is often, taken by itself, seemingly quite trivial. Because of the system's complexity and tight coupling, however, events cascade out of control to create a catastrophic outcome.

 

 

 

 

 

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I think there is a difference between "Don't worry, no one will get hurt" and "Don't worry, we have the skills to handle anything that happens".

 

A slight difference in words but a huge difference in perception

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We let new parents know that our Troop is a "safe place to make mistakes", and that we fully expect boys will get burns while learning about fire, cut while learning how to handle a knife, and get frustrated while learning about leadership. We envision these bumps in the road will make him stronger and better able to handle the larger issues when he's older. By "safe" we mean that we'll be there with the necessary medical care and mentoring to help him learn from his mistakes -- not that his time in the Troop will be risk free!

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A good day to you OGE.... :)

 

In Wilderness Risk Management, risks are divided into two broad categories. Objectives, and Subjectives risks. Objectives risk are those that can overwhelm our skills, and experiences. Where as the Subjective risks will cloud our judgement....(This message has been edited by le Voyageur)

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There is no such thing as being safe. Getting out of bed every morning is a risky business and it goes down hill all day long as one tires out.

 

Every activity has inherent risk, safety is defined as to how well are those risks controlled, and whether the risk is manageable if the inevitable occurs.

 

Which is more dangerous? Driving a boy to troop meetings or having him ride his bike? Maybe walking would be better, but only if he looks both ways before crossing the street.

 

Adventure requires a certain degree of managed risk. Every time I get in my kayak I am taking the risk of drowning, so I wear my life-jacket and try to keep the dry side on top. Does that mean I don't go on moving water? Where's the adventure in that?

 

All challenges require risk, is it controlled, manageable, ??????

 

I sit at work all day long risking ergonomic problems and damage to my eyes, while wondering how much damage my sedentary situation is doing. As I do so I constantly am planning now to break out of this risky cubicle and get out on the white-water, poisonous plant infested trails and endure the environmental problems associated with bad weather.

 

Basically I don't really want to be safe, I want to be exposed to risks I can control and have the skills to manage and maybe even push the envelop a bit, it's call adventure.

 

When is too much safety unsafe? :) I hope to never find out.

 

Stosh

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Yah, le Voyageur, I'm not sure I get your point.

 

From a legal risk management perspective, telling participants that the activity is "safe" can be a problem, eh? That often is interpreted by da courts as a form of assurance or guarantee. It's not somethin' we should do.

 

You seem to be sayin' something different here, though. Something like folks thinking things are "safe" makes them complacent and more apt to be surprised by an unusual happening, like a flock of geese killing both engines in your airliner. That strikes me as being more about experience and being prepared for Murphy than about the word "safe". And some of your post seems to refer more to what I'd consider cognitive overload, which is a third issue.

 

Can yeh explain some more?

 

Beavah(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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In one of my favorite Monty Python sketches, we see two airline pilots in the cockpit, bored to tears, and playing "I spy with my little eye...". One of them then gets an inspiration. He gets on the intercom and announces to the passengers: "There is absolutely no cause for alarm". That's all. This is , of course, perfectly true at the time, but what a context!

To say an activity is "safe", can be true , but how about that context? People once thought installing asbestos in boilers was safe. Then. Not now, with more complete knowledge.

I like Le V's thought. It is something that ALL activity directors need to consider, you can minimize risk of injury, but make things absolutely safe? Hard to do that.

 

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My profession is Occupational Safety and Health. We are taught early on not to describe conditions as "safe". We "reduce or eliminate known hazards and minimize risk". People nowadays want a guarantee, so they can blame someone else when it turns out not to be true. Do chemical exposure limits represent a fine line between "safe" and "hazard"? Of course not. They are arrived at as a reasonably achievable goal designed to protect 80% of the average, otherwise healthy workers. Often economics and politics overshadow the science, as well. Be careful out there.

 

PS: We are also taught that there is no such thing as an "accident". There are unsafe actions, and unsafe conditions, both of which are foreseeable, and controllable.(This message has been edited by Papadaddy)

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I like Pappa's approach. In my previous life (preretirement) one of my duties was investigating and reporting on traffic accidents. Even got to report on an antique trolley car accident.

In our view, we observed there were two kinds of accidents : Good and Bad.

In a good accident, there were no injuries, very little damage, our driver was not at fault and the other driver learned a lesson (we hope).

In a bad accident, there were injuries, significant damage, and our driver was clearly at fault (or "contributed significantly to the cause").

When it became apparent that the trainers were stressing Schedule Adherence above all else, the PTB soon decided that the drivers had to have a new paradym to adhere to. When cautious, courteous driving became the standard, accidents and complaints went down.

Are roller coasters safe? Exciting? Over engineered? (we hope).

We have four (!) high rope courses within 50 miles of our house. These are the walk and swing playgrounds wire cabled 20 or more feet in the air thru the trees. Safety (there's that word again) harnesses, climbing clips, oversight and watchful eyes are the rule everywhere. They welcome "kids" ages 8 thru 80.

At our county fair, the Scout activity is a rope bridge, 5 feet up at the ends, draping to 2 or 3 feet in the middle. We strive to have boy "lifeguards" accompany each crosser and yes there have been "slips" but no injuries (that I know of). The youngest has been 3 to cross the bridge, the oldest , at least 82. Oh, did I say "is"? I meant "was". The fair canceled the rope bridge for (to me) unknown reasons.

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In any "good" Safety or Health and Awareness program I have been involved in the acknowledgement is that Safety is relative and runs on a continuum.

 

No one is ever truly safe until they're dead. And even then their body may not be.

 

Nope, risk management is the game. Creating a world of acceptable risk.

 

Does the climbing tower staff ACTUALLY check each climbers equipment EACH time they mount the tower? DO they ACTUALLY record the number of rappels on a given line? Do they actually record a fall on a climbing line and if so is it actually retired when it meets its rated fall quota or what guideline the Responsible party has set? Did the Responsible party as an economic choice decide they could allow x number of falls in excess of the manufacturers rating? Because a Fall can induce Cardiac arrest is there at least one Trained CPR responder available every time the tower is open? I could go on for a long long time and choose to stop now...

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So if you go on a hike in the late fall or early spring and are surprised by a "freak" snow storm and get lost and then it gets dark and hypothermia sets in, were the objective risks the lack of preparation with regard to clothing, map, and a weather check before departure? And then do the subjective risks kick in as the hypothermia clouds your judgement and you strip and dance through the snow feeling safe and happy?

 

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By necessity due to the possible expansiveness of the question this is a limited reply...

 

No, the Objective risks may include, but are not limited to: Injury - to include Weather related Injury, Getting Lost, Lack of Water.

 

Safeguards against the above would include: Proper planning, to include a pre-trip weather check (however this may not indicate your hypothetical freak storm), Proper Clothing and equipment (10 essentials anyone? Um, Includes the Flashlight, Map and Compass), Map and Compass, Route plan plus emergency bail out points, Pre-planning water use and checking with the map and if available local sources(The Ranger for an area?) about natural water and including water purification means whether Heat, or Filtration or Chemical.

 

Subjective risks include panic and shock, but having planned and having brought the tools you would need, this is minimized. Especially if one remembers to "STOP" Stay in place, Think, Orient, and Plan for the future actions that will save your bacon(and we know you want to save your bacon) :) ) in the situation you are in.

 

Or were you just being silly?

 

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Hypothermia is hardly silly!

 

Just trying to understand how the le Voyageur "objective & subjective" risks fit into a real world example.

 

It seems like the clouded judgement aspect of hypothermia is the hardest part for the Scouts to understand when we teach cold weather first aid.

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Who's being silly?

Why did your hypothetical's go on a hike without the ten essentials?

 

They would at least have a Map, thus could plan a way out before it got dark.

They would have extra clothing and Rain Gear, and thus they could retain body heat.

They would have a flashlight and the darkness would not be as much of an issue, they could at least follow their map.

They would have the means to start a fire, generating even more warmth to protect against this hypothetical immediate hypothermia and allow them to decide to stay in place rather than travel at night, if that were the better choice.

They would have additional food, also a source of protection against hypothermia as they have the additional calories to burn.

They would have some water and possibly the means to purify more found water, thus the ability to stave off dehydration and ameliorating some of the effects of hypothermia again.

 

How about if they just went out properly prepared, "for just about any old thing" they lessen their chances of getting hypothermia due to an errant weather system in the first place?

If you'll re-read my previous post, it talks about exactly what you are asking about.

 

IF you choose to start a hypothetical after the trip has started, and they go with out the standard equipment you've abandoned more than 1/2 of the process.

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Gunny! The point of my post was to try and figure out what was meant by objective and subjective risk. You missed the point entirely!

I was using hypothermia because it seemed to illustrate the subjectivity of clouded judgement as the core body temperature decreases. I was not seeking a discussion on how best to avoid hypothermia by being prepared, nor do I need to be lectured on it. I teach this stuff!

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