The Science of Safety: How history informs our practice

Dr Clare Dallat1
1The Outdoor Education Group, Burwood, Australia; 2Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems, The University of The Sunshine Coast, Sippy Down, Australia


As practitioners, whether in the office or the field, we apply tools daily to identify and manage foreseeable risks, as well as to learn from incidents when they do occur. But, where do these tools come from and what influences supported their development and uptake?

This session will explore why we use the tools we do to manage safety today. What does the 1930’s ‘domino’ theory of accident causation have to do with the early 1990’s Swiss Cheese model? Where did the human-error focused approach to safety management emerge from? What role did high-visibility accidents and disasters such as Three Mile Island and Challenger play in advancing the theoretical dialogue surrounding accident causation? This session will assist participants to better understand the foundations of safety science over the past Century, and in turn, how they have influenced the risk and safety management tools, beliefs and assumptions we use in our work every day.

Dr Clare Dallat is Executive Director of Research and The Outdoor Education Foundation at The Outdoor Education Group. She has over twenty years of practice in all aspects of the led-outdoor activity domain. She believes that humans grow by interacting with risk in environments that include real hazards. Clare directs Risk Resolve, a consultancy service that works with organisations across the globe helping them to construct knowledge and confidence to proactively and reactively manage risks to their participants and staff. Clare holds a PhD in Human Factors from the Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems at The University of the Sunshine Coast, and an MSc. in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management. In 2018, she became the first person outside of North America to win the prestigious Reb Gregg Award for exceptional leadership, innovation and contribution to international wilderness risk management.

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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