A Practitioner’s Call to Action

Time to confront the bear in outdoor program safety; aligning what we now know with what we’re currently doing.

by claredallat


“Curriculum development, and our collective approach to facilitating learning in the outdoors has evolved significantly in the past few decades. However, in my opinion, the same cannot be said about how we manage risk. If we are honest, we’ll see that we are still teaching, promoting and defending positions relating to predicting and managing risk that were developed and advocated several decades ago. We still largely and wholeheartedly, hold onto the perspective that a well-trained individual, the instructor, is the determining factor in the safety outcomes of a program or activity.

For us, as outdoor education managers and leaders, our questions and intentions following an incident should not be to find out, why on earth our staff did what they did, but rather attempt to understand, why did it make sense for them at that time, to do what they did”.

Are we now willing, as a profession, to consider entering into alternative dialogues in relation to how we choose to understand accidents, and identify sources of risk in our work”?

The attached article provides an alternative and insightful perspective to identifying and managing sources of risk in a way that aligns with what the wider field of safety science now understands about how and why accidents happen. Using learnings from safety-critical domains such as aviation, healthcare and transportation, the author offers practical and implementable strategies for those involved in  the design, planning and implementation of outdoor education and recreation experiences.

Download article here and feel free to share amongst colleagues and friends.


Clare has over twenty years of field and management experience in facilitated outdoor experiences, and is currently completing her PhD in Human Factors (risk assessment) at the Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems, The University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia (www.hf-sts.com). She is the Head of Innovation at The Outdoor Education Group.(www.oeg.org.au).cd-blog

After completing my PhD in sport psychology and concussion risk, it was clear that the wonderful world of research had captured my attention. In my role at the Centre for human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems I am part of a brilliant team of researchers, working on world class research in the fields of sport and outdoor recreation, transport and infrastructure, organisational health and safety, urban planning and design, and defence security and resilience. My personal research interests are in the dynamic topic of injury management in grassroots sport. Although my PhD only skimmed the surface of this complicated issue, I look forward to a long career not only improving sport-related injury risk but also finding new ways to motivate kids to keep participating in sport and outdoor activity.

Posted in Systems thinking
One comment on “A Practitioner’s Call to Action
  1. JB says:

    Top post, well laid out Clare, thanks for putting it up Amanda.

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