Back to the Future for Outdoor Education Safety: Leading Indicators, Safety II, and Unruly technologies

Prof. Paul Salmon1, Dr Scott McLean1
1University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Australia


The UPLOADS project has been collecting Australian Led Outdoor Activity (LOA) incident data since 2014. This has produced a National incident dataset of over 5000 incidents reported by organisations from across Australia. Analysis of this data has produced important insights into the causes of injuries in LOAs, and has informed the development of strategies designed to improve safety. With regard to incident reporting and learning, participating organisations within the sector are recognised as world leading.

Unfortunately, this status does not go beyond incident reporting and learning into other areas of safety management. In fact, there are many advances in the field of safety science that have not yet appeared in Australian LOA safety management practice. These include the Safety II movement, the use of leading indicators, and key systems thinking and complexity tenets such as unruly technologies, coupling, emergence, and sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Whilst these concepts are becoming popular in other domains, they are yet to be considered in LOAs.

It is imperative that LOA safety management continues to advance in line with leading safety science practice. For example, analysis of the UPLOADS data suggests that incidents could be prevented via implementing practices from the study of what went right, and by using leading indicators to identify when organisations are operating close to their safety boundaries. In this presentation we focus specifically on Safety II, leading indicators, and unruly technologies, arguing that they should be explored and used within LOA to inform safety management practice. LOA examples are used to explain each concept, and practical guidance is provided on how they can be translated in practice. We close with a road map designed to facilitate adoption and implementation in the Australian LOA sector.

Paul Salmon is Professor of Human Factors and is the Chief Investigator of the UPLOADS research program. Paul has almost twenty years experience of applied safety science research in areas such as road, rail, aviation, defence, workplace safety, sport and outdoor recreation.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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