Outdoor education, safety and risk in the light of serious accidents

Authored by: Andrew Brookes

Routledge International Handbook of Outdoor Studies

Print publication date:  November  2015
Online publication date:  November  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138782884
eBook ISBN: 9781315768465
Adobe ISBN: 9781317666523


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Each serious incident in outdoor education (OE) and related areas potentially contributes to specific knowledge of how such incidents occur and how to prevent them. A serious incident can also become a lens to view not only particular programmes, but also the OE field. Fatalities, particularly multiple fatalities, have raised questions about aims and purposes (what were they doing there?) – and practice (why did they choose that activity in that location in those conditions?). In New Zealand a series of tragedies contributed to a decision to review commercial adventure activities (Department of Labour, 2010), and subsequent regulations (Mateparae, 2011; Gulley, 2013). In the UK the deaths of four teenagers on Lyme Bay, in 1993, led directly to changes in legislation (Bradford, 2002; Allison & Telford, 2005). This chapter examines OE through the lens of serious incidents. I consider some conclusions that can be drawn from an examination of past incidents, particularly in the light of what advances in technology have afforded, at least in some parts of the world. I consider why community responses to OE tragedies are likely to exhibit a clear pattern of strict aversion, rather than weighing risks against benefits, and some questions this poses for OE programmes and staffing.

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