Risk Management Review - Status Update

We've hired the Outdoor Safety Institute to conduct a risk management review of our programs, focusing on global adventures, climbing, and scrambling. Get an update on our process, and find out what we're hoping to learn in an upcoming leader survey.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
November 28, 2016
Risk Management Review - Status Update
Mt. Shuksan at Sunset. Photo by Kevin Steffa.

In mid-July, at the direction of the board, CEO Tom Vogl signed a contract with Outdoor Safety Institute (OSI) to conduct a risk management review of Mountaineers programs. The next step for our volunteer leaders is to participate in a risk management survey.

In August, we posted a blog from the OSI staff outlining their objectives, approach, and your role as a course/activity leader as they conduct their observations. They've been busy this fall getting up to speed with our programs, reviewing policies, procedures, and course materials from our global adventures, climbing, and scrambling programs. OSI staff have had initial conversations regarding risk management with some volunteer leaders/instructors, and in the spring will attend several climbing and scrambling course-related field trips as an opportunity to observe our risk management systems in practice. They'll provide preliminary feedback on global adventures' risk management systems by year's end, and will provide a draft of their overall recommendations for the organization after spending time at course-related field trips.

Looking ahead, OSI is working closely with The Mountaineers to craft a survey seeking feedback from volunteers on our risk management systems. We ask you to be open and honest with your feedback as it will benefit all of us. Your answers will be anonymous.  You can expect to receive the survey in January.

We've heard a lot of questions around this process, so to help alleviate concerns and offer transparency, we've outlined our most frequently asked questions.

Frequently asked questions:

How is the OSI review different than last year's AMGA review? 

The AMGA review's purpose was to align climbing curriculum across branches. OSI's purpose is to evaluate risk management policies, processes, and procedures for several activities (global adventures, climbing, and scrambling) across the organization.  Through significant volunteer effort, the AMGA review resulted in improved alignment of climbing course content across the organization - which is an important aspect of improving our risk management systems. We provided the AMGA review information to OSI, and OSI used the information to help them approach their review. 

Is this an investigation?  

Not at all. OSI will provide overall recommendations on how The Mountaineers can improve risk management policies, procedures, and processes. The intent of the evaluation is definitely not to draw attention or spotlight actions of specific individuals or policies of specific branch committees.   

Is this an audit? 

No. This is an opportunity for The Mountaineers to benefit from recommendations provided by subject matter experts who have worked with similar organizations such as the Mazamas.  The Mountaineers will use OSI's recommendations to inform future actions to improve risk management across the organization. As with other important measures to improve safety and reduce risk of accident/injury for participants, leaders, and instructors, recommendations for revisions to policies, processes, or procedures will be evaluated by appropriate volunteer committees such as the board-level Risk Management Committee or the organization-wide Safety Committee.  

What if my committee fails? 

This is not a pass/fail assessment, and OSI's risk evaluation doesn't focus on individual branches or committees.  We’ll receive feedback and work with the branches and committees to integrate that feedback into a plan going forward. This is an investment of time and resources to support our volunteers, and is designed to improve your future volunteer experiences.


  • A duplication of the AMGA curriculum review that the climbing committees conducted last year
  • An investigation to scrutinize committees, branches or individual leaders
  • An audit that will result in unilateral mandates for committees (unless of course there is something terribly scary, in which case a quick decision would be in support of our volunteers who run the programs)
  • An attempt to rank committees against one another for safety practices


  • An inquiry into our existing organizational systems that support safety and risk management
  • A look at gaps in our organizational systems that could create safety or risk management failures
  • An opportunity to receive input from an organization that specializes in safety and risk management and can offer a 3rd party view and industry best practices
  • An opportunity to identify the things we do really well and apply them more broadly across the organization
  • An opportunity to learn what systems other like organizations have incorporated to enhance their risk management

Additional Background

The Mountaineers asked OSI to help us better understand how our existing organizational policies, processes, and procedures that support safety and risk management compare with best practices of similar organizations. 

Because OSI is a long-standing and valuable partner working closely with many nonprofit, volunteer-led organizations in the outdoor education/adventure space (like the Mazamas), we highly value their recommendations for ways we can improve our organizational systems to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries for our leaders, instructors, and member participants. This is a complementary effort to what the Safety Committee is doing. The Safety Committee reviews incidents and makes recommendations to avoid future similar incidents - a very important role. The Risk Management review will look at our programs, policies and procedures and find gaps, or risk opportunities, that could lead to a safety incident, whether or not there has been one in the past. (an example might be: if an organization has a policy that participants wear helmets while climbing and belaying, but doesn't specify the need to have a helmet at all times while at a crag. This would leave a gap where participants might not wear helmets while observing and could lead to an incident where a participant receives a falling rock injury. Even if an incident hadn't already happened, this would still be a risk management gap)

The Mountaineers chose to make this investment in time and resources to support volunteer leaders, instructors, and participants.  This is an invaluable opportunity for The Mountaineers to receive constructive feedback from an organization that specializes in safety and risk management and provides non-biased and objective third party evaluations of how an organization's risk management systems compare with industry best practices.

OSI will help The Mountaineers identify the things we do really well and encourage us to apply them more broadly across the organization, while simultaneously providing an opportunity to be introduced to effective policies, procedures, and processes other similar organizations have incorporated into their risk management systems.

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Brian Hollander
Brian Hollander says:
Jan 11, 2017 05:10 PM

How interesting, focusing on climbing and scrambling courses but not a thing on Sea Kayaking. I challenge any of the people on paid staff and their underlings to come on out get acquainted with Sea Kayaking. All of you are welcome to attend my class room session of Risk Assessment / Incident Management on February 25th 2017 in Olympia,