The systems approach involves four core principles.
Firstly, behaviour and safety is impacted by the decisions and actions of everyone in the system, not just frontline workers alone. In the outdoor activity context, this means that decisions and actions made by politicians, CEOs, managers, safety officers and work planners can play a role in accidents, just as those made by instructors and participants can. This also means that safety is the shared responsibility of everybody working within the led outdoor activity system.
Second, near misses and adverse events are caused by multiple, interacting, contributing factors, not just a single bad decision or action. For example, a flawed decision made by an instructor that led to an accident will likely have various upstream contributory factors-related to things like participants, training, procedures, management, equipment, program planning etc. This means that there is no root cause of an incident, and that human error should never be seen as the cause of an incident. Rather, we need to search for the reasons as to why that error occurred. It also means that the relationships between contributory factors are as important to take into account as the factors themselves.
Third, effective countermeasures focus on systemic changes rather than individuals. This means that countermeasures should generally focus on policies, procedures and infrastructure rather than on punishment, warnings or retraining. While changes to training programs at times may be appropriate, we need to recognise that it is very difficult to change individual behaviour, especially if the system does not support changes in behaviour. It is also not enough just to change the procedures and expect behaviour to change. We need to examine the factors that may potentially impact on the execution of those procedures – such as staffing, management or equipment availability.
Finally, as it is underpinned by the systems approach, the goal of UPLOADS is not to assign blame. Rather, we want to identify how factors across the led outdoor activity system combine to create injury causing incidents. In order to encourage people to report incidents, you need to keep this in mind at all times – the goal of UPLOADS is to learn from incidents, never to assign blame to individuals.