Accident causation models are a way of representing your beliefs about how accidents occur. A model helps you determine what causes to look for, and brings order to the way that you investigate accidents.
Rasmussen’s (1997) Risk Management Framework, shown in Figure 1, was selected for the development of the UPLOADS project for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is domain-generic, so it can be readily applied to many different contexts, including outdoor activity provision. Second, it considers the entire led outdoor activity “system”, from the government to the activity environment.
Rasmussen’s framework is underpinned by the idea that systems comprise various levels; actions and decisions across these levels interact with one another to shape behaviour, safety, and accidents. Typically the following system levels are described:
- a Government level at which laws and regulations are developed;
- a Regulatory level at which industry standards are developed based on laws and regulations;
- a Company level where company policies and procedures based on industry standards govern work processes;
- a Management level where company policies and procedures are implemented;
- a Staff level representing the activities and characteristics of workers performing the processes; and
- a Work level representing the equipment and environment within the work context.
In terms of accident causation, the framework argues that decisions and actions at all levels of the system interact with one another to shape system performance: safety and accidents are thus shaped by the decisions of all actors, not just the front line workers in isolation, and accidents are caused by multiple contributing factors, not just one bad decision or action.
The model also argues that for safe and efficient performance, the decisions and actions made at higher governmental, regulatory, and managerial levels of the system should propagate down and be reflected in the decisions and actions occurring at the lower levels. Conversely, information at the lower levels regarding the system’s status needs to transfer up the hierarchy to inform the decisions and actions occurring at the higher levels. This is known as ‘vertical integration’ and is a key component of safe system performance.