The St. Paul Companies Releases Study on Safety of Outdoor Adventure Programs

October 31, 2001

Consumers of outdoor adventure programs have no clear way of evaluating the safety of these programs for themselves or their children, according to a survey of nearly 300 CEOs and risk managers of outdoor adventure programs released by The St. Paul Companies and Outward Bound USA, Inc.

The survey goes on to state that these programs have concerns about safety and are looking for ways to improve their safety management programs. The tremendous growth of the industry over the last decade has led to an increase in risk for adventure program accidents and injuries.

The perils of the open road present the greatest safety concern for survey respondents. Transportation and driving issues was recorded as the number one safety concern for programs, but only 48 percent of survey respondents reported utilizing driver training and testing to mitigate transportation risks. Programs may need to seek outside assistance in dealing with this particular type of safety concern, since it is often outside the expertise of adventure program staff.

According to Dr. Stacey Moran, industrial and organizational psychologist, The St. Paul Companies, the study results show a need for outdoor adventure programs to have better alignment between their safety concerns and their risk management systems. Moran noted that some programs may not be aware of the risks inherent in their activities, risks they neither recognize nor understand.

Lewis Glenn, vice president of safety and program, Outward Bound USA, noted that the outdoor industry at large would benefit from embracing a culture of safety. He added that outdoor adventure programs may find it easy to put resources into facilities and equipment, but affecting staff attitudes and behaviors about safety is a much more difficult proposition. In addition, many of those programs are small nonprofits with limited resources to address safety management concerns.

To help paint a picture of the risks inherent in the outdoor adventure industry, and to understand the safety systems in place that address some of these risks, The St. Paul Companies and Outward Bound USA teamed up to conduct a study of outdoor adventure programs. The Wilderness Risk Managers Committee (WRMC) and The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) participated actively with survey design and distribution, and individuals from a variety of small and large programs provided input into the content of the survey. The Outdoor Safety Initiative Risk Management Surveys were mailed to CEOs and risk managers of more than 1,200 programs, with nearly one quarter of the surveys completed and returned.

The survey was used to examine outdoor adventure programs’ safety concerns, current safety management systems within these programs, accident histories, and program priorities for expanded safety initiatives and resources.

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