Risk Management Evaluation: Recommendations from Outdoor Safety Institute

Outdoor Safety Institute evaluated our risk management capabilities from fall 2016 to spring 2017. The Mountaineers received OSI's report and we are moving forward with recommendations, outlined in this blog.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
November 26, 2017

In the summer 2016, The Mountaineers hired Outdoor Safety Institute (OSI) to evaluate how we manage risk in our Global Adventures, Climbing, and Scrambling programs. OSI outlined a number of recommendations, and we have put together a plan to implement them.

OSI provides safety, liability, and program management consulting and solutions to organizations with significant outdoor activity programs. They assist these organizations in addressing risk from field safety, program management, legal, medical, insurance, and human resource perspectives. OSI’s founder and CEO, Alex Kosseff, is currently the Executive Director of the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA).

OSI’s evaluation included information gathered across multiple branches through review of course materials, conversations with activity leaders and instructors, a membership-wide risk management survey, and observation of multiple climbing and scrambling field trips.

The overall goals of the evaluation were to:

  • gain advice from industry experts to help The Mountaineers best address incidents (accidents) when they occur
  • review current materials and practices to provide a baseline for improvement
  • receive recommendations for next steps and areas to focus attention related to risk management.

These goals affirm our ongoing commitment to safety and ensuring our programs and trips are conducted in the most professional manner possible.

OSI shared their findings with the Risk Management Committee (RMC), who made recommendations to the Board of Directors, on how best to respond to OSI’s findings and recommendations.

Global Adventures Recommendations

For the first phase, OSI focused on Global Adventures (GA) and shared recommendations with RMC in October 2016. The Board of Directors approved these recommendations, which included efforts to:

  • Strengthen the review and approval process for GA trips to incorporate a risk evaluation matrix
  • Set trip leader minimum standards
  • Enhance participant preparation/evaluation process

Implementing these OSI recommendations will ensure better pre-planning and establish a multiple review process for GA trip proposals. This will help us to identify potential risks, and plan means of moderating trip risk. As a result our Global Adventures program will be more closely aligned with industry standard best practices.

The Global Adventure Committee is moving forward with their program, implementing OSI recommendations, planning trips for 2018, and bringing on new trip leaders. Find more information about this international program on our Global Adventures page.

Scrambling and Climbing Recommendations

Moving into spring of 2017, OSI shifted focus to The Mountaineers Scrambling and Climbing programs. Over the course of several months, OSI evaluated the training materials for scrambling and basic climbing courses offered by all of our branches and observed several scrambling and climbing field trips. RMC shared initial recommendations with the Board of Directors in June, including:

The Safety Committee should enhance information sharing across branches:

  • Improve incident reporting data to capture appropriate metrics
  • Develop training for our members and volunteers on incident reporting: when to do it, how to do it, why to do it, what happens when you do it
  • Enhance sharing of learnings from near misses and actual incidents through blogs and other communications channels

PROGRESSIVE CLIMBING EDUCATION* (PCE) should enable alignment in climbing curriculum across branches:

  • Develop capability to align curriculum and education content
  • Create a curriculum committee and host annual ‘summit’ meetings to review curriculum recommendations
  • Include new technologies and techniques developed within the climbing community in The Mountaineers climbing curriculum
  • Create a technology advisory committee and host annual ‘summit’ meetings to review technology recommendations
  • Develop progression of training for volunteers leaders, including recurring/refresher training
  • Create a leader development committee and host annual ‘summit’ meetings to review recommendations
  • Evaluate how to improve assessment of skills capture from courses
  • Improve assessment of demonstration of competency for people to safely join trips
  • Use lessons learned from PCE to bring similar process to other Mountaineers activities

The Risk Management Committee will evaluate means of increasing risk-management competency across the organization:

  • Reach out to other members of the Alpine Five (composed of The Mountaineers, Mazamas, Colorado Mountain Club, Appalachian Climbing Club, and The American Alpine Club) to share key learnings from similar organizations
  • Reach out to other members of the Alpine Five about sharing Risk Management Best Practices/Capabilities
  • Invest in Risk Management learning by sending Mountaineers volunteers to the Wilderness Risk Management Conference each year

Implementing OSI’s recommendations will increase transparency and learning associated with incident and near miss reporting. Additionally, to the extent that course consistency is increased across the organization, it will be more straightforward for trip leaders to confirm trip participant demonstrated proficiency of skills.

Next Steps

The Mountaineers is moving forward on all of these recommendations. If you are interested in additional OSI findings and RMC recommendations please contact Bill Ashby, Director of Operations, at the Seattle Program Center.

*Progressive Climbing Education is a strategic program approved for implementation in 2017 by the Board of Directors with an overall objective of reimagining the way we deliver and support climbing education by combining the wisdom and experience of Mountaineers as well as the broader climbing community. PCE is our roadmap to:

  • Incorporating innovative outdoor industry techniques and technologies to our climbing programs while honoring our volunteer heritage
  • Providing unparalleled support to leaders and instructors so that volunteering is rewarding and fun
  • Ensuring consistent, high-quality standards support risk management and exceptional experiences for students, instructors, and leaders
  • Building a progression of experiences for students, instructors, and leaders, enabling a lifetime of forward progress on their climbing journeys
  • Remaining a strong advocate and steward for climbing areas to ensure future access and protection
  • Contributing to and partnering with the broader climbing community
  • Welcoming all people who want to learn to climb safely and responsibly and become part of The Mountaineers community

Learn more at www.mountaineers.org/pceblog