/ ACCIDENT REPORTING ON UKC: Two Editorials
Two of our regular users, Simon Lee and Mark Stevenson have been kind enough to provide us with editorials outlining their experience and beliefs in this field. They have generally opposing views and both bring up important and relevant points.
We at UKC are currently working with the BMC, discussing if, how, and when accidents should be recorded and reported. We hope these editorials add something to those discussions and we are committed to helping promote safety in climbing where it is relevant and useful. When the BMC finalise their policy we will publish the details.
Read Simon Lee's Editorial: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1099
Read Mark Stevenson's Editorial: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1110
Interesting points of view from both sides and I've come down on the pro-reporting (Mark's) side. In my industry (oil and gas), a similar system to the one mentioned by Mark in the aviation industry is used after any major accident. In addition, not just on safety issues but even just on analysing how projects have gone, there's lessons learned.
Not every accident can be eliminated, but accidents aren't unique. If there are common causes (and you'll never know without some collation of reports) they can be identified.
Simon's point about none of us fully understanding the risks we face at any moment, on a climb, or anywhere else, is well made, but doesn't actually make a coherent anti-argument about the provision of accident reporting.
It's a little like saying that, standing at the side of the road, the existence of the Green Cross Code does not have an overall positive effect on your chances of making it to the other side. Of course, the Black Swan - a pissed-up Formula 1 driver coming at 180mph - may still happen, but knowing to look left and right still offers protection.
Likewise, in climbing, the benefit of the poor experiences of others may guide you away from a riskier course of action, and as long as it doesn't guide you into an even riskier course of action, then it is worthwhile. Example - man falls off, relies entirely on ancient fixed gear, fixed gear breaks, groundfall. As long as the message is - 'clip old fixed gear by all means, but be aware that its failure is likely', as opposed to 'don't clip old fixed gear', then there is a benefit, as this is a reproduceable scenario for many of us, even though the London Wall peg is now gone.
The whole of mountaineering is a curious set of risk/benefit balances - do I go light and fast? Do I push on when pumped? Do I back up this abseil?
Simon is right that you cannot put forward set template for every situation, but I believe that learning to apply those balances yourself sometimes relies on hearing about the bad experiences of others.
As always though, timing is all, and the rush to judgement and reporting is not necessarily healthy, or necessary, when a more restrained, and anonymised approach, could be taken. Reports should be written, where possible, with the input of the people involved, as their decision making process can be revealing.
I might be wrong, but was Simon's objection not more to the reporting of accidents in a specific and contemporary way, rather than data gathering per se?
> I might be wrong, but was Simon's objection not more to the reporting of accidents in a specific and contemporary way, rather than data gathering per se?
That is the way I took it too. From this:
"I felt that on balance accident reporting as news with this type of subsequent forum commentary was a bad thing" being Simon arguing against that specific style of reporting.
However Simon also does say:
"the lessons that can be drawn from accidents, especially those where all the circumstances are not fully established, are more limited than they are generally held to be"
So I think (correct me - if I'm wrong Simon) that Simon doesn't think accident reporting is as useful as some people may assume - and it is good to question 'How useful is this actually going to be?' Before launching in to a national accident reporting campaign (or whatever).
> Thank you.
Though you made that point clear, I also got the impression that you were against the reporting of accidents due to a beilef that it would not be as useful (if at all) as many hope.
Is this the case?
Thanks for that, both articles make for interesting reading.
I wonder, though, if there is a distinction being drawn between comprehensive accident reporting, and discussion/debate following an incident.
I would suggest that the former - an analytic approach to revealing the series of events which led to an accident - cannot be considered unhelpful if it does indeed highlight existing, individual problems and/or recurring safety issues.
With regard to open discussion of incidents, is it being suggested that these might be disallowed under potential new posting rules?
Interesting articles, but I have to say I'm with Mark
Simon seems to be arguing that because the reporting and interpretation of accidents is inheritantly flawed then it shouldn't be attempted. Yes some people will always jump to the wrong conclusions, but that's not to say others won't learn some vital lessons. Not doing something because of a potential negative outcome does seem somewhat contrary to the climbing mentality
I think the example Mark gives is a good one - runners unzipping from the ground up. It's a danger which many climbers will be unaware of. Likewise treating pegs and other in-situ gear as if they were bolts. Yep, it will be mentioned in books, but in almost theorectical terms (does anyone belay in a textbook manner ?) Until you experience, witness or hear of an account which you can really relate to, it's not going to stick in the mind.
>Until you experience, witness or hear of an account which you can really relate to, it's not going to stick in the mind.
I agree with this, putting a mistake which causes an accident into the context of a real event makes it more memorable. It would be great if there was a forum specifically for accident reporting.
I think applying more and more 'rules' or 'investigations' might be seen as an encroachment on our generally laid back activity. These then might be used for insurance purposes etc and be seen negatively. I'd certinaly not be interested in trawling through 10 reams of paper just to find out that you loose friction in the rain, or that you should 100% trust old pegs.
It is always difficult in the current set up where a post might be highjacked for technical details or flaming but generally it always moves to another respecting the general wish of the OP that it should be a best wishes to the involved. Yes it can sometimes be heated - but then someone can get like that over a cup of tea on here...
a befuddled response there.. but one in my mind that's happy with the current set up and see more 'men in suits' involvement as yet another shift in this new PC, H&S, litigatious society in the wrong direction for not necesarrily the right reasons.
I think the analogy between the aviation industry's safety system and anything I've seen reported on UKC is very weak, and that's the root of the difficulties.
All aviation accident investigation is done by professionals. For the most part, these professionals are held in very high esteem by the aviation community; they have experience, intellects and access to facilities and knowledge that have won and maintained them considerable respect. And, when sometimes respect isn't enough, they can wield regulatory powers...
It may be that for technical equipment failures, the analogy is not so bad - the BMC can peer at a broken bolt and talk to DMM and good results follow which are not to be sniffed at. But of course, as in aviation, the "technical failure" accidents are a tiny proportion of the total.
So for the important majority; failures of brains due to
(Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Eating), the more biblical "weakness, negligence or our own deliberate fault" or the directly climbing-related ambition, peer pressure, inexperience, showing off (why else do we climb, after all ?!) we are left with the kangaroo court of ill-informed, prejudiced, inexperienced people who know little or nothing about any of the subjects you need to know to do a half-decent "human factors" accident investigation.
I'm not trying to be hard on ordinary people who are trying to do their best to dig some good out of the wreckage. But we should be realistic about what they are capable of achieving. If you want to see the pathetic rambling bitchiness that paid professionals in the aviation industry (not the investigators) carry on with take a look at www.pprune.org/forums ; UKC can be pretty crass from time to time, but at least any attempts to boast of specialist knowledge get tested pretty fast and hard.
My conclusion: The accidents we should and could learn from are almost all caused directly related to human behaviour. Even in aviation those are tough to learn from, and that's almost all professionals investigating professionals. I think there's very little analogy between aviation and writeups by interested punters on UKC that we can learn from. I reckon the divers or parachutists or stunt co-ordinators for Jackass could be worth listening to...
(I spent seven years in aviation engineering, two rather dull ones as a System Safety Eng on a dodgy aeroplane that combined all the accidents of a helicopter with all the accidents of a fast jet. Who cares ?)
> I think applying more and more 'rules' or 'investigations' might be seen as an encroachment on our generally laid back activity. These then might be used for insurance purposes etc and be seen negatively.
i had a similar reaction
i also wonder if "climbing"* has the insfrastructure to get good, timely, accurate information into a system and then analyse it effectively
maybe one of those - doing it 'badly' might be worse than not doing it at all things ?
maybe not though
* whatever that is
There is a great book called:
"Sea Kayaker's Deep Trouble: True Stories and Their Lessons from Sea Kayaker Magazine"
Its a good read, and very useful. Seems to do what it says in the title. It is an efficient way of learning some of the lessons experience might otherwise give you. Its a very efficient way of learning some of the lessons that are too harsh to survive!
In my opinion, a resource describing climbing accidents would be very useful. An (unfortunately of course) regular series of descriptions of accidents might keep the need for safety a bit further forward in the mind too, for those who think that is a good idea.
The BMC have an article on their website on belaying sports routes which is based on a fatal accident. It seems useful and gets the balance between lesson learning and privacy issues.
Generally I'm a big supporter of freedom of speech. Though I think accident reporting is a very positive addition to the website, I can see that the immediate aftermath of accidents are personally very distressing for those involved, and opinions fired from the hip especially if partially informed may have more arguments against them than for them.
Discussion of the accidents reported can only be a good idea if conducted in moderate terms though?!
> I think the analogy between the aviation industry's safety system and anything I've seen reported on UKC is very weak, and that's the root of the difficulties.
We've had two so far, and that has, in part, started the ball rolling.
The BMC are now involved, have been for a while, and what is being suggested is that there will be several ways to report accidents, both online at various places and off-line.. This accident analysis will be undertaken by Mountain Rescue, BMC Technical Committee, MCofS, MCI and MLTUK.
Reports will be written and published, and open to comment.
There is a lot more to it than that and Dan Middleton at the BMC is organising all this and will I'm sure be making a report available, for comment, in due time.
Accidents are reported in detail, by the professionals who are qualified to do so, i.e. Mountain Rescue. They have years of experience attending accidents in the outdoors, understand the environment they work in better than anyone and are above all - UNBIASED.
Simon is absolutely correct that UKC would end up standing for Unlimited Kangaroo Courts. Why not bring in UKC court martials too? Perhaps Mark's five years in the Military would be a qualification here. If we all lived under the same rules as the RAF/Navy, wouldn't we be living in a police state?
Thirdly, is Mark seriously considering naming individuals? What about the concept of character defamation? Libel? What would an instructor do if they were involved in an accident and had the details incorrectly reported here? Yep, sue UKC.
Perhaps a more constructive approach would be to encourage better reporting by Mountain Rescue. The information isn't as easily available as it should be.
If i have read this right then the debate talks about reporting accidents or not within climbing. Other sports do not report accidents for example a group of friends playing football in the park. If we are talking about those resonsible for groups then they have a duty and a policy to report all accidents and near misses through their own organisations but we are talking about friends climbing together as with the footballers if the accident is serious enough to goto hospital then it is reported there. Who would collate all this information and if it was stored and assessed maybe climbing would be considered to dangerous a sport with access being withdrawn or special licenses granted to only the most experienced or those with the most money. We could be denied access to our sport even though we are prepared to accept the risks.
Outdoors it's not like that and replicating or trying to investigate accidents that may be due to friable rock, shoddy bolts, rust, vegitation, user error or god knows what just wouldn't work.
What next a poster at each venue giving a list of possible dangers
hurlstone point - rusty bolts, friable rock, loose top outs
symonds yat - slippery rock, loose rocks, dangerous descent etc
the possibilities of someone being in the same place in the same conditions with same gear placements etc, etc, the list goes on. Yes we can learn that we need to be careful outdoors but i just don't think that it would have any value that isn't given by some simple common sense and using you eyes/knowledge and these are things that i hope most climbers should have a fair pinch of.
i knew the peg i'd threaded was rusty and that 3mm cord wasn't going to do a dammed bit of difference and also that the rock was friable but i weighed up the choices in my head and continued climbing. It's objective risk taking weighing them up and making a choice for yourself..
I´m certainly with Mark on recording accidents and analysing them, without this we would still be on hemp ropes. Of course that might just be because, like Mark I am an engineer and that´s one way we solve problems. If others don´t see accidents in climbing as a problem then that is up to them.
Posting reports on an open forum on the other hand is, as we have seen a waste of time.
I live in Germany which has almost certainly the best recording system and professional people to study the accidents. The German system functions well because a)mountain (cliff) rescue is a well funded, well (over)staffed national organisation as it is a part of the civil alternative to national service, b) due to the private medical system nearly everyone has accident insurance from the D.A.V (German Alpine Club)which is a massive organisation with over a million members. After an accident the D.A.V. receive reports from the police, mountain rescue and the treating doctor/hospital. This enables them to produce annual accident statistics, analyse important accidents or trends and take steps to reduce the numbers.
Whether this could ever be achieved to the same extent in the U.K. is doubtful but surely any information is better than none?
I'm fairly sure there isn't a requirement for detailed analysis of the type you're hoping for. In the case of a live casualty nobody pays any attention to the "why" at the time, beyond identifying mechanism of injury.
>Mountain Rescue. They have years of experience attending accidents in the outdoors, understand the environment they work in better than anyone and are above all - UNBIASED.
This doesn't strike me as obviously true, to put it mildly.
Well, that sounds like the most credible organisations, and it sounds like we can trust them to try to gather the information in the most credible way.
That's got to be better than the alternatives.
They've got a tough task - to turn the "information" into "intelligence", when in so many cases the lesson will be inexperience, indiscipline or ignorance. Time will tell if they can dish out the hard verdicts and stay credible.
Not all report-worthy incidents involve the mountain rescue.
> Well, that sounds like the most credible organisations, and it sounds like we can trust them to try to gather the information in the most credible way.
Yes, the main thing is that a dialogue has been established between the BMC, other organisations and climbers. We shall be taking our lead from the BMC.
BMC Statement from Dan Middleton:
"The BMC has been in discussion with UKC and other interested parties, looking at some of the ways we can work together to provide useful accident reports for climbers and mountaineers. As both editorial views clearly highlight, it is not something to be entered lightly, and needs careful consideration if it is to be put into practice, Approaches have been made to mountain rescue and mountain training experts in all parts of the UK, to canvas opinion and see what issues crop up. It's worth mentioning that mountain rescue teams operate a "no blame" policy when they currently report incidents. They may make a statement of fact i.e. "party benighted, did not carry a torch," but won't go on to blame or judge the party for their actions. I think this is important, and something we should bear in mind if we go ahead with a more detailed accident reporting system. My personal feeling is that any system will only work if it is anonymous, non-judgemental and has the input and approval of both "experts" and those involved. Often the most powerful testimony is the reflections post-incident of the protagonists."
Mark Stevenson writes in his article:
"However, a structured and official approach to accident reporting would eliminate the need for ad-hoc public discussion of incidents"
Indeed yes. However accident reporting on UKC *is* ad-hoc reporting.
A systematic approach to analysing why accidents happen may be beneficial - but doesn't this already happen at Fatal Accident Inquiries?
I feel Mark Stevenson is advocating an "official board of enquiry" approach to climbing accidents - not UKC accident reporting which is open to all and sundry. I'm as yet undecided as to whether Mark Stevenson's proposal has merit or not - what I feel may happen if an "official board of enquiry" is established is that their rulings will become "law" and then the "only practice" as apposed to "good way" to do something.
However, an "official board of enquiry" is infinitely better that Simon Lee's "Unlimited Kangaroo Courts" - Trial By UKC.
UKC's accident reporting, even when judicially moderated by the operators still has a huge flaw in it - the moderator's themselves - what qualifications do they have to moderate an accident report thread adequately? Where they there? Are they Accident/Risk experts? Are they MIs or Guides? Are they Mountain Rescue experts? Are they Emergency Medicine experts?
In summary: Official reported - I see some merit. Unofficial reporting via UKC - even with the best of intentions I see it as flawed.
i see merit too - i just don't think it's really a required thing.
also as pointed out above not all accidents involve MR, and certainly near misses would be under the radar too.
>Mountain Rescue. They have years of experience attending accidents in the outdoors, understand the environment they work in better than anyone and are above all - UNBIASED.
Some mountain rescue workers have left me doubting their authority. They seem to be biased against novice mountain users and their reports, available online, show a childish delight in making fun of novice mountain users. Mountain rescue are not all unbiased professionals. I would take what they have to say with a pinch of salt.
Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme aka CHIRP. Lots of potential benefits if it got going in climbing - at last, a substantive news item and some real worthy publicising for Mick to get on with ! It has quite a good reputation in aviation.
Could be run as an on-line questionaire perhaps including an optional "look deeply into your conscience" section.
The discussion that follows an accident being reported on the forums is often more illuminating and useful than the facts of the accident itself.
> The discussion that follows an accident being reported on the forums is >often more illuminating and useful than the facts of the accident itself.
Does this not lead to speculation and gossip being more important than the facts?
I possibly agree, I also imagine incident reporting would become bogged down in bureaucracy if it was to be conducted by an offical body without much funding.
Keep it fluid and spontaneous.
i think mark is suggesting we can learn from others mistakes and gain statistics of where errors lie in accidents and nobody can suggest that this isn,t a good idea surely. i think the way/style in which they are reported is the issue here.
IF i personally had made a mistake resulting in an accident/near miss then i would not object to it being used as an example of what could / does go wrong HOWEVER i would not like to be named as doing so !
Two Main concerns:
If we collate detailed info on accidents and publish, this will eventually develope into statistics that could be used 'against' us by insurance companies, land owners, councils or the Government (or indeed public opinion via the media).
Climbing is, traditionally at least, about personal judgement and self reliance. Is this so very far away from the 'sign poles on the Ben' saga of a few years ago? Ie we rely too much on extraeneous things rather that our own judgement?
I'm not entirely convinced by what I've written but offer it up anyway :-)
PS One thing is for sure: this is a potentially a very influential issue for our sport and needs very careful consideration and discussion..
Some important points are common across both articles - Simon raises the issue of 'near misses' that I also touched upon. In that regard Simon is correct - 'near miss' reporting is what everyone in safety related Industries strives to achieve, as then 'accidents' can be avoided before they take place. Trying to learn 'after the fact' from a very small number of serious accidents is not ideal, but is still better than not attempting to learn from others mistakes.
I accept it is difficult if not impossible to draw worthwhile conclusions about risks in the climbing population from individual incidents. However, in the long term statistics are our friend and the risky behavior of the 'Johnny Highballs' out there can and will be identified.
I am certain that logging when, where and how climbers injure themselves can help reduce accidents in the long term. Equally, Simon may have a point in that the positive impact may be much less than some of us hope.
To those who are worried about the words 'official scheme' in my article implying some level of vast intrusion, I would point out that divers have had an 'official' scheme in place for several decades with no problems. As far as I can gather it relies on a tiered approach to information gathering relative to the severity of the incident. In the case of fatalities, formal investigations obviously take place by law. Where the Coastguard/RNLI are involved, their factual reports are considered but most importantly individual divers/instructors VOLUNTARILY provide additional details and report more minor or overseas incidents.
As Simon has eloquently discussed, trying to learn from individual incidents is fraught. This means that the main thrust of any 'official scheme' would be to initially identify larger patterns (if they exist). For this, the 'bare facts' surrounding an incident are probably sufficient - Male climber age X, had a ground fall off route Y, sustaining Z injuries. Obviously more details are better but in terms of getting a basic picture it wouldn't really matter whether the incident is reported by the climber, MR or a bystander. I remind people again - currently no-one has any idea how many climbers and killed or injured each year. Once we have a method of getting that basic information we can worry about ensuring that 'causes' are attributed 100% correctly.
Finally, to those who are concerned about what may happen if we find that climbing is 'too dangerous'. Again the presence of extremely detailed statistics on deaths and injuries in diving, parachuting and others sports has not led to any sport being banned or excessively restricted. As regards life insurance premiums etc. I can't see any problem with them being accurately set rather than just being based on guesswork.
Whatever happens I am going to carry on trying to avoid making the same mistakes that someone else has already made.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:
Interesting stuff and some good debate.
I'm an H&S rep, and an engineer and completely agree with the thrust of Simon's article (although we have slightly different views in detail). I don’t see this as a 'for and against' argument as most of what Mark says I also agree with. My main problem with what Mark says is a complete disagreement with "the privacy issue of whether the actions of an individual should become public currency in the aftermath of an accident. I believe they should." I think this is a completely unrealistic standpoint, as you cannot ever know exactly what happened in such incidents and publicity of this type goes against the rights of the individual and their family and friends (except in situations of liability where most climbers accept and understand this may well have to happen).
I fully support the stated intentions of collecting information on accidents, as UKC and the BMC are looking to do (and as modelled by good practice in other countries). However, IMHO the two recent reports/threads were bad examples of that (despite good intentions). I think this is mainly because they were too immediate and not anonymous. On anonymity I’ve stated many times the horrible effect I've personally witnessed of misreporting and gossip (both in the press (expected) and sadly on UKC) on the family of a climber in critical condition after an accident. Just one example of an immediacy problem: I know one of the recent UKC reports was possibly unreliable in some important details (a very experienced and trusted friend of mine was watching the same incident with general agreement but a very different view on those specific details). Firstly, I'm not prepared to discuss this in detail as it goes back to the heart of my problems around these threads. Secondly I'm not saying my friend is right and the reporter is wrong but I've noticed (and I'm sure there is psychology research out there somewhere on this) in stressful situations witness memories of events can differ. In a proper investigation all witnesses views would be assessed and even then treated with a little caution.
I'll summarise my views:
Collected, investigated and analysed accident reports are a very good idea.
Immediacy and naming victims are a very bad idea.
What those of us who care will learn from these reports is less useful than we might think (for reasons Simon detailed and for some he didn't)
Those who need to learn most from these reports are those least likely to read them or take note of the lessons contained within.
Climbing is dangerous; some climbers are in denial about that, others don’t seem to care at all, most of us are fortunately somewhere between these two risk increasing extremes.
Accident rates in our harder climbing are surprisingly low, for I think some surprising reasons and surprisingly high in what should be safer situations for less surprising reasons.
Hi Mark, That is a point worth making and I picked Jack up straight away on the initial "ACCIDENT REPORTING: Two Editorials - Yes & No" which he responded by amending with commendable speed.
A few further points outside the scope of what I wrote. I spoke to a friend last night on another matter and he said he had caught sight of the article but not read on the basis that he filled in risk assessmenrt forms day in and day out and the last thing he wanted to do when logging in to UKC was read about accident reporting. I entirely sypathise with that - climbing and adventure is in part a release from that side of our lives. Writing that article which was not easy and a personal black swan as a month ago I would have voted myself 'person least likely to write an article on accident reporting'.
You contend that statistics are our friend. That statement makes no sense to me. Furthermore I dont envy the BMC being put on the spot to reconcile the irreconcilable on this subject not withstanding their existing ties, vested interests deploying resources on something they might be widely felt they 'ought' to be doing but which ultimately might only result in satisfying a fetish for facts for those that way inclined. Some sort of roadshow at climbing walls around the country on the psychology of making mundane mistakes and a run-through of those type of mistakes might for example be a better alternative use of money to achieving the aim of reducing "non-fun risk".
Thanks tobyfk, Offwidth and JimR for your help on the initial drafts.
I agree with what Offwidth is saying. Reporting is good, naming and shaming is bad.
However other issues that will make reporting difficult is that climbing has no set proficiency levels, anybody can climb, some teach themsleves others are taught. Both diving and aviation are regulated (FAA, CAA, PADI BSAC etc). Everybody in these activities has a certain basic proficiency level and has a certificate to show it or will have to be under instruction (something that would be difficult to do in climbing, not that I am suggesting it!)
There will be a significant (and hopefully small) number of people climbing who will be unaware of that they may be placing themselves in a near miss scenario.
Also how do you count a near miss, there are many variables as well as decisions you make based on risk. Sometimes you put yourself in a risky situation and it works, other times it may not. Do you actually have to injure yourself, before it becomes a near miss.
MRTs reporting actual occurences to the BMC is a logical way to collect statistics, however this will increase their work load (but hopefully reduce it in the long term). Near misses would be diffcult to report.
A couple of cheesy (flight safety) lines to think about
There are no new accidents, just new people to make the same old ones.
You start with an empty bag of experience and a full bag of luck...the trick is to fill the bag of experience before the bag of luck is emptied.
What do we want statistics for ?
- knowing exactly how many people died/nearly died doesn't help me improve my climbing
- it might help the insurance companies; but we're getting insured at reasonable rates, aren't we ? And we'll still get insured at reasonable rates ?
- traditionally statistics derived from "basic" incident/accident information are used for safety resource targetting; ie. choosing how to gain the best safety improvements per pound spent. We know there are data about; my strong suspicion is that they are ample to support these decisions.
- maybe there's an argument that we should now start with some sort of centralisation/standardisation of reporting so that some time later we can get to a high standard... but I don't think that argument has been made yet, the reasons aren't obvious
I am sure that few individuals learn much from statistics. I am sure they learn a lot more from narratives which they can relate to directly and personally. This is the potential value of the UKC threads, but they have some pretty ugly downsides. If we did something like the divers do, it might be possible for a system to be established which gets taken seriously enough for climbers to 'fess up to their near misses.
it occurs to me that a good reason for having 'better' knowlege is to better inform teaching
i remember being on a first aid course a few years ago where a technique had been changed from what 'everybody knew' because enough evidence had acumulated that the old way didn't work (although i remain unconvinced that in climbing the data will be good enough)
as i type though, i wonder how much safer (better?) climbing can be? i did a couple of days leading course with pals y brenin and they showed me 'the way' to set up belays which i generally still adhere to - i can't imagine what could happen that would change that method
also, as Ian Challans pointed out above, not everybody who climbs is Trained (much less tested or cetified) and i think that's a precious thing worth protecting
the equipment and techniques available now make climbing potentially much safer but for some that kinda misses the point - so they solo, or they climb hard to protect routes or they strongly resist bolting everywhere and so on
I think this is an excellent statement. Just to drill a bit further narratives and stories in general help learning. In a sense it doesnt matter if they are made-up, apocryphal, distorted or whatever. My article contends they often are. However, you can use them to support a 'lesson' or better still they stimulate a thought process that might alter your perception of what constitutes risky or safe behaviour ie your internal risk processing machine - a bastard machine half powered by logic and half by the fears, instincts and urges of a billion years of evolution. To what extent you dumb down the narrative ("the full bag of luck" mentioned above) to reach and effect a wider audience is interesting. A case of lying for the good of the many - a scenario I imagine that is a regular occurence in politics.
Personally I don't think there's much to be learned from the average accident thread on here. I guess the exception is where kit has failed unexpectedly when abused in a common way (thinking of fig8s snapping krabs and the like), there's simple clear messages to be taken from that kind of incident though they're thankfully (apparently?) very rare. The vast majority of incidents involving slips, trips, falls, misjudged gear, inadequate gear, pulled gear or plain bad luck do little to further my understanding of the risks involved in all but the most specific climbing situations (eg knowing a certain runner on a certain route usually pulls - useless information).
Accident reports as 'news' to generate content I personally find distasteful and otherwise pointless.
In my opinion climbing is most dangerous in the most obvious ways, maybe that's just how my mind works, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe my arrogance leaves me blind to other less obvious risks. Whatever... I don't think poring over reports on each and every unfortunate's incident/accident will change my perception.
Where I do think an accident thread is of use is in getting people to engage in discussion and to engage their brains (eg the recent thread about the young Yorks' moors lads on the Ben). I think there are other, less invasive ways of stimulating debate.
I'd really like to know when equipment fails and how. That would seem like a very useful statistic.
But less useful than common sense might suggest it is. At the risk of being shot down on a technical point though I am sure other 'stories' might better illustrate what I am trying to say - I gathered from a conversation last week that the testing of ropes snappping through repeated shock loading has more to do with the frequency of the shock loading not the actual load - ie frequent testing with a weight does not allow the rope time to recover its full elasticity before shock loading it again...and again..and again.
How many instances would you expect this situation to be replicated in an actual real climbing situation ? Probably none. So how useful is this data of this rarefied experiment and also standard measure of a ropes strength ?
The amount of speculation and factual error I've seen on some accident "reports" on this website has been farcical at times; coupled with unknowledgable and sometime downright unsafe and ill-thought comments.
This is maybe the crux of the issue as I mentioned in my previous post- if UKC is going to all dicussion of accidents on its forums, who is going to moderate them, and what qualification do they have to decide what is safe/unsafe/otherwise - I suppose you can say that for all posts on this site.
This is already well known and published by UIAA and others - do we need "accident reports" and "boards of inquiries" for this?
In reply to jkarran:
re. equipment failure- it very rarely happens when equipment is used as per manufacurers instructions. What do we learn from this? Use your kit as the insruction manual says - that's why you get instructions with it!
What will Mark Stevenson's proposed accident reporting scheme really tell us apart from climbing has a risk associated with it, and this is hard, maybe impossible to quantify as the varibles are many and complex; and many accidents happen due to tired people making mistakes in an unforgiving environment. But didn't we know that already?
One because it was being used to load test bolts up to the CE 800kg static load standard. It essentially straightened itself under load.
Another partial failure, was when someone took a long fall for a video, and the camera filmed the incident. Whilst I never saw the footage, the reports were that the final load appeared to come when the gate that was chattering open and closed as the slack was taken up was actually open, this cause the hook/nose of the karabiner to unravel slightly and the gate to pop open, essentially make the karabiner take the weight in gate open arrangement. This was an alloy gate, where gate 'chatter' is more common.
The first karabiner that total failed was clipped to a peg that was in a slight recess, the resultant fall, caused the karabiner to be bent across the back bar, and snapped. Fortunately the climber landed in a deep bog, which seem to be better than a crash pad at cushioning the fall.
The only other krab failure was because of excess load, when setting up a 'very long' slackline. The tensioning system was 6 people and a car! Managed to catapult half the karabiner a very long way.
Well done that man!
That is the most sensible statement i have seen on this thread
Those are interesting things, but collecting “basic” data won’t help you improve your safety by changing your decision making.
We already know from our own experience and from the fact that DMM et al are still in business that kit failures are a vanishingly small proportion of accidents or near-misses. (There are also empirical non-statistical arguments to support the idea that our kit is good enough, but they’re a digression.)
That’s not to say that kit doesn’t fail. But let’s look at the occasions on which it fails. They’re rare enough to be noteworthy – Goran Kropp, Todd Skinner, your mate…. We know them almost by name and date. Strong evidence that the occasions are few – and there’s really not a lot that statistics can bring to very small datasets. Additionally, there’s good reason to believe that the vast majority of kit failures are due to misuse. Cross-loading, ten-year-old harnesses, loading across an edge; these are things to be frightened of. My point here isn’t to say “stop fretting and trust the engineers.” But for these “technically subtle” mishaps, you don’t get enough of them to be statistically helpful, and “basic data to build statistics” don’t help you learn anything. You need pretty high-quality data. In fact, the data are so good you might as well call them an explanation, or a narrative… “don’t back-clip”; “don’t cross-load crabs” etc.
This is why I believe an individual is unlikely to learn much from statistics.
Now, it may be that you’re in a position I have sympathy for – it may be that you’re in a position where kit failures are the biggest risk to you personally. I’d be surprised…. I’m sure I’ve hammered my view above that ‘ooman factors are by far the most dangerous thing going, and a CHIRP/anonymous self-reporting system would be the most valuable for climbers at all skill levels.
Now, the hypothesis above “the kit’s fine unless you abuse it” – obviously, I happen to subscribe to it. But I don’t believe you should be relying on me for education in this. I also don’t believe we should be relying on you for this. I think we both have a reasonable reputation around here, you a little better known than I. But this goes back to my credibility point above – I certainly think there are enough data already to the professional organisations already noted to support (or demolish !) the arguments I’ve outlined, and that’s where we need to hear it from. What should a conscientious gear reviewer do in those siutations ? Maybe that would be a more interesting subject for an article than 7KN vs 9KN ;o)
I see your points, I just wonder if the following is true?
If someone breaks a krab in a fall, chances are they'll be caught by the next runner down and be OK. I suspect those never get reported to anyone? I know the guy in Finland who broke a krab in fall sent it back to the manufacturer - and one wonders how likely they were to report to the UIAA?
I agree though that clearly the gear works say 99.9% of the times. But I've taken a hundred leader falls, so you only need 10 punters like me before someone breaks something I suppose. Perhaps actually its 99.99% of the time...
Anyway this doesn't help me know if one krab is better than the other because its GO strength is 2 kns more! :-)
The assumptions are worth testing, by all means. But let's be careful what we press the the BMC to spend on, and particularly let's do it in a way that keeps the manufacturers on side.
Let's put it this way. I'm a lot more fed up that Ryanair let crippled non-English speaking decrepits sit in the emergency exit rows despite the guys who choked to death trying to find their way out in Manchester than I ever was about my climbing kit failing, and I've been known to dangle from East European gear...
Now, how are you going to handle that review ? ;o)
At the risk of taking you on on your own turf the following article on aviation safety highlights three fallacies common to the Air Force with respect to what can be gleaned from accident investigations:
I knew someone who broke a krab in a fall. I think the trick is to ensure that the gate is open. I don't think the strength the krab would have had if it had been closed is necessarily very relevant, although in truth I have no idea.
As I understand it an open krab will break like a dry twig under load. Im actually genuinely shocked that this bit of knowledge has bypassed a climber as experienced as yourself. Perhaps Mark is right.
The kind of dry twig that's rated to hold >7kN of load? :-)
I have very strong opinions on the way that accidents tend to be reported and then debated on these forums. It has over time, made me use these forums less as I find the constant holier than thou attitude of some climbers on here totally repulsive. Anyone can have an accident-we climb, it is what we do. It really isn't helpful for these experiences to be held up for all to criticise.
An independent database of accidents and their contributing factors may be useful for informing the BMC, HSE and MLTB how best to disseminate information on risk and educate climbers about what they do. This could be in the form of training,lectures, articles, stories and literature. Simon is right however that we never know sometimes what the risks are that we take, and we all will have had several near squeaks we are unaware of.
Most of the safety stuff I learnt came from more experienced friends including a climbing instructor (who I eventually married, lucky me), and training eg Conville course. The rest has come from my own experience over time, including a minor accident involving loose rock, and a severed rope. I now always wear a helmet and climb with double ropes. The minor accident was minor however, not because I was wearing a helmet and we had 2 ropes, but because my climbing partner who was leading at the time had wisely placed gear low down on the route even though he was on easy ground and so avoided a groundfall. Sometimes a minor accident can actually be a success story of major accident avoided! Maybe we should be debating the minor accidents here first?
Now I come to think about it, debating this on rocktalk may have drawn more useful "lessons" out of this scenario than the simple stats of rockfall and severed rope... BUT I still personally find it all pretty ghoulish and whilst I would be happy to discuss the rights and wrongs of some of my more epic mountain experiences with anyone here, I would be extremely uncomfortable if this were done independently of my input or permission. Especially while I am still languishing in hospital or grieving for a climbing partner. There have been some very major assumptions made about the climbing style and age of people involved in accidents which is both pointless, uniformative and distressing to those involved.
I am of the opinion that accident reporting is a good thing; when done properly and collated by a well informed individual or group of individuals that can access all aspects of the accident.
Debating the accident on UKC is probably not the way forward, but maybe a committee of sorts affiliated with the BMC could collate this information and publications could be put out based on these findings.
I am sorry if I am repeating what anyone else has suggested, but this is a very long thread and I have a short lunchbreak so have only managed to skim read this thread after reading both articles.
LOL. The point being that JCM seems not to appreciate that open gate strength of a krab is significantly lower than a closed gate is astonishing is it not ? Now I come to think about it what doesa >7kN of load mean ? Are we talking double decker buses or what ?
Refering back to Yanchiks comments the equipment failure side is something that is unusually highlighted because it is so rare and something we have little control over except replacing knackered gear. In the scale of risk taking it is dwarfed by how we actually use the equipment and other risk perception decision making including the real biggie - what type of climbing we choose to engage in.
You called me an idiot yesterday for getting my words mixed with legal terminology - fair enough, but today you stand accused of NOT READING THE BLOODY POST! Of course its gate open that's the problem - that is why I wrote:
So pay more attention or you'll have to stay behind after class writing an essay called "the idiots guide to the difference between a false accusation and unproven accusation in English law". :-P (I believe that is meant to be a person sticking their tounge out at you as might not be down enough with the kids to know this)
>As I understand it an open krab will break like a dry twig under load. Im actually genuinely shocked that this bit of knowledge has bypassed a climber as experienced as yourself. Perhaps Mark is right.
You've lost me. Of course it will. Isn't that what I said? If you want to snap a krab in a fall, the trick is to ensure it's open. I'm just not sure that what little breaking strength it will have when open is proportional to its breaking strength when properly used.
You're right. I didn't read it. That's quite strong with its gate open, isn't it? What's their breaking strength with the gate closed? Like Simon I have no idea what a kilonewton is.
Fairly OK. Broke an ankle, I think. No need to worry about him, though. He was only a solicitor.
Now I come to think about it what doesa >7kN of load mean ? Are we talking double decker buses or what ?
KiloNewtons is a measure of force.
F = ma
Rounding acceleration due to gravity to be 10 ms-2, then
7000 = m * 10
So m = 700 Kg
I.e you should be able to hold a 700kg mass with it.
Quite a bit innit?
> Quite a bit innit?
Not really because we're not talking about a static mass. I remember in the 90s cheaper krabs often had a gate open strength of 600 kgs as they used to write it - or later 6 kns. But 7 kns seems to be the industry minimum now. I'm not sure if that's because 6kn GO krabs broke, or climbers just got used to 7 as a minimum and refused to buy weaker ones.
I do remember being shocked that Tobyfk's rack was made up of all sorts of old dodgy stuff like that. He had told me "you don't need bring anything, we can use my rack". He's a lot skinnier than me so it probably isn't a worry for him!
What you wrote was clear enough for me....
A kilonewton: measure of force. Objects have mass (amount of stuff, number of atoms in them) mesaured in kilogrammes. In a gravitational field (like the one it's safe to assume you and I are both sitting in) mass exerts a force. (Pace the physicists, I'm an engineer.)
Isaac Newton has a law named after him (his second) that relates force to mass in these circumstances. So, a 20kg rucksack, in the earth's gravitational field at sea level, needs 200 Newtons (0.2KN) to support it.
My old Peugeot 205 (how I miss it) weighed 850kg. To prevent it sinking into the earth required 8500N, or 8.5KN. Roughly.
Quite. We're talking about a random assortment of aged, scratched up, never-inspected equipment from different manufacturers, assembled into dodgy arrangements hung from God-knows-what quality of rock by mechanically (and evidently linguistically) illiterate sporadically-trained individuals working under conditions of emotional torment, and you're wondering about one being a bit stronger than the other ?
It really isn't the line of least resistance for safety improvements !
100kg at rest on earth exerts ~1kN
10kN ~ 1 Ton
7kN ~ 9 people or 1 mini or 1 horse or 28 bags of cement
> Not really because we're not talking about a static mass.
We're going off topic here...
Petzl have a usuful gizmo on their website for estimating forces generated during falls.
But you can play with this and see that peak forces in falls can exceed 7kN - for example, falling at 5 metres from a bolt-runner with an 11mm rope and an 80kg climber being belayed with a gri-gri can(according to the calcualtor) genereate 10kN of force on the runner.
And this has come up in other threads on this site
you shld be careful what you wish for no?
Wont accident reporting lead to some form of witch hunt by the HSE???
Nope. The HSE aren't really interested in climbers, they've got enough on their plate sorting out the construction industry.
If the majority of climbers think that accident reports are a good idea, the BMC will work to make it happen. It's not something dreamt up in a fiendish plot here at our evil lair in Manchester, honest! The subject came on the agenda mostly as a result of threads here on UKC.
The last thing anybody wants is bureaucracy and rules in climbing. For a lot of us, a major appeal of climbing is the lack (or pretty close to it) of rules. I'm not convinced, yet, of how much use statistics would be; it's possible however that trends exist that we aren't aware of. Future safety campaigns could possibly be better targetted with such information.
What I am a fan of is the concept of informed choice, and I can see merit in the idea of learning from the experiences of other people. This is where I see the main potential of accident reports. Let's not forget about near misses either, these are important too. Whatever we do, if it happens, we need to do it right.
I couldn't care whether the discussion is productive for climber safety or not.
I'm concerned with the specific nature of these threads. None of Mark's arguments support specific reporting where the crass comments we usually see could cause personal upset. Some of Simon's concerns can be addressed by keeping such reporting within a controlled environment.
UKC forums are not appropriate for specific accident reporting and analysis. If UKC wish to continue to allow reporting incidents, submitted without peer review or proper investigative methodology, I suggest these are
1. Not done in the usual posting manner but follow a standard format.
2. Are reviewed/edited prior to posting to preserve anonymity in ALL cases whether the reporter/victim care or not.
3. Submitted without dates/names or even locations.
4. Held and published randomly to avoid association with any recent events that they may relate to.
To allow otherwise is completely unnacceptable and if it continues unchecked I might even hope that the site-owners were subject to legal proceedings raised by an accident victim. Those who do not impose a voluntary code of conduct in such matters may be forced into one...
If UKC are not prepared to take such steps to discharge a moral duty to the victims of these events then they have no moral right to publish such reports. Financial considerations of reviewing the reports and implementing a reporting and publishing procedure are not an excuse.
Ultimately we may have the BMC or similar publishing accident investigation reports or we may not? So what? We are all getting ahead of ourselves... we haven't even managed to agree or address the basic concerns of reporting simple facts with no analysis or conjecture.
If UKC wish to provide a basic reporting structure with no investigation or analysis I suggest they take the steps I've suggested above.
That blanket statement you picked up on was initially qualified as referring specifically to serious accidents that have a effect upon the general pubic through the involvement of the emergency services or otherwise result in cost to the taxpayer. Basically if you need to get helicoptered off the crag (at public expense) the incident is by default in the public domain and I feel that a climber then saying after a major rescue "I'm not going to tell anyone that it was because 3 of my cams ripped" is rather pathetic.
However, the issue of whether it was actually Joe Bloggs or Fred Smith is rather irrelevant. All anyone would be interested in is the basic facts of what happened and at most some very generic information; sex, age & experience.
I certainly agree with your point about their being surprisingly many accidents in 'safer' circumstances. I slightly disagree about them happening for 'unsurprising' reasons though. The accident is clearly a surprise to those it happens to, despite it perhaps being easily preventable and perhaps not a surprise in hindsight.
There is a big difference from being aware (or being told) the something is a potential risk to knowing (or being told) that 8 people ended up in hospital last year from it. This is where 'statistics are our friend' they turn woolly potential risks into firm quantifiable issues that (at least personally) are more likely to lead to modified behavior.
As a more general point, what some people probably haven't grasped is that once more data starts to be collected I'm then not going to be interested in the exact details of any single accident, it is the bigger picture that matters. What is the biggest cause of serious injuries; is it loose rock/rockfall or ground falls where gear rips? What are the main risks sport climbing? Do any areas appear to be more dangerous in terms of the severity of injuries? Areas certain routes/crags more dangerous than others? How many accidents happened abseiling? How many accidents happened on the crag approach/descent?
I do (or don't do) lots of things because of what I PERCEIVE the risks to be - I will not climb on some cliffs, I have avoided some routes, I don't use small cams on some crags, I don't wear a helmet on some routes, I stick clip some bolts - however, if I had access to information on every climbing accident/incident for the last decade I'm pretty certain that I'd change at least something about how and where I climb. More importantly I'd probably fine tune how and what I teach when instructing.
Rockfall is a potential risk at Portland but I haven't worn a helmet there although I've considered it. If there were figures on incidents involving rockfall in Portland available there is a good chance the 'statistics' could directly influence my climbing.
Equally if there were multiple accidents on any single routes, I'd like to know that as I would not want to be the third person to suffer the same fate.
I could list perhaps twenty 'unsafe acts' that some climbers regularly do - however what I can only do at present is GUESS about which is most risky and which is least. The is again where 'statistics' comes in, it allows us to be in a position to identify the most at risk behaviors and promulgated that information.
Analysis of several hundred accidents over a few years won't tell us anything earth shattering BUT at least we would have some level of 'knowledge' rather than just perception to guide our actions.
I'm partly playing devil's advocate here about attitudes to climbing and risk generally.
In answer to your first question, for 95% of UK trad climbers, lots. I'm not sure many experienced climbers would be willing to stand up and say that their gear placement was as good as it could possibly get. I certainly wouldn't. However, it is just a case of doing the same thing but much better with more consistently and better judgment.
It's very interesting (and quite normal) that you choose to highlight 'belays'. However, belay failures are probably the last thing that ever kills or injures UK rock climbers but it's what we seem to focus loads of effort and attention on.
There could be two reasons for this:
- Building belays is intrinsically high risk but we are all so paranoid about it (and are taught so well by PyB) that we do an amazing job and they almost never fail?
- Building belays is actually pretty low risk and even mediocre belays from a technical point of view are sufficient and climbers might be much better worrying more about other things?
At the risk of repeating myself - we currently don't know what causes most accidents so how do we know we are teaching novice climbers the best balance of skills, knowledge and judgment?
Attitudes on how to use ice climbing protection were pretty much revolutionised by a few people doing some research at the end of the 90s. Previously we all tied off screws that didn't go all the way in, and we all placed screws at a slightly downward point angle. They showed that tieing off is a bad idea and screws hold more load if the point is counter-intuitively slightly upward.
I suspec there is a lot of common sense still in the usage of climbing gear - but common sense isn't always right after further study.
Sorry to jump on this Dan, but HSE are likely to be very interested if the accident happens at work - for example a business that takes money from people for the purpose of training (whether that training is for work or a hobby) - that sounds like PYB, Glenmore lodge, any outward bound school, and mountain guides to me.
So the BMC as a formal body representing climbers might like to make absolutely sure that the HSE are not interested in climbing then let us know a definative answer.
Your absolute faith in numbers is misplaced. Putting 'hard' in front of 'numbers' is but a perception of yours yet you knock perception. The selection of those numbers and statistics and facts which are meaningful ie the signal from the noise is subjective or perceptive. Perception doesnt have to be just guesswork it can also be deductive reasoning and logic which doesnt require evidence as such and has the value of being a better tool for decision making and judgement into a unknown future rather than backward looking evidential approach that you favour which has all the flaws I described and I say this as someone who studied history which to a point is generally considered a very 'facts' based discipline.
Areas certain routes/crags more dangerous than others?
I would argue that this is a very difficult thing to quantify without very good stats on the popularity of a crag.
You could make a guess at the numbers of climbers going to a crag each year but who is to really say which is more popular- Symonds Yat or the Roaches?
If certain routes are shown to be accident blackspots, will the BMC then increase the grade due to the perceived danger of climbing the route?
If so, does this mean that popular easy routes will get upgraded due to the number of novices falling off them? Does this mean that novices that don't fall off will think they climb harder than they really do? Might this cause more accidents???
If you flag up certain routes/crags/climbing practices as particularly dangerous, how will you avoid complacency with regard to other routes/crags/practices?
These might sound like nitpicky questions but caution is required when using stats to infer and change behaviour.
Volenti non fit injuria is generally understood as meaning that a person participating in a risky venture with consent cannot sue if injured.
I remember a case where someone persuaded a pissed pilot to take them 'up' and show them some acrobatics. They suffered from a lack of altitude and the deceased's estate failed to recover damages.
So in daily mail speak, if you and I go bouldering and you fall and my spotting lets you down then you cannot sue me for negligence. If I was an instructor and you were a 12 year old the situation might be different.
In short, the wall owners / operator's owed a duty of care to those that might be at risk of injury due to the owner/managers failure to meet the necessary standards. The gross stupidity of the claimant and the actions of the owners/managers were considered to allow the proper conclusion that there was no failure to meet the necessary standards and not withstanding the injury no liability.
I find it useful to have a debrief after a near miss, as well as after an incident.
I've never felt like doing so on an on-line forum like UKC, but maybe that means other people miss out on the chance to learn, and I lose out on the voice of others.
So I'll give it a go. See what happens.
Which poses the question; How do we learn?
Lots of answers to that question.
On the fool.co.uk site discussion boards there is a popular long running board called 'King Kongs Katastrophe Korner' where investors crawl to to fess up on some disasterous investment they made in a good humoured way and ruminate where it all went wrong. A similar typpe forum on UKC might generate the type of volunteered (rather than co-opted) personal testimony and positive dialogue and learning that I think you are seeking bypassing the negatives inherent in the 'accident reporting as news' which I and many others object to.
It seems so obvious to me that 'accidents' should be examined, if not for the clever 'know-alls, then at least for newcomers so that they have a chance to learn what can go wrong.
Im not sure what you are implying but I dont think there is a lot or any clever knowallism on this thread. There is also a case for saying that the more you know the more you are aware of what you dont know and the more interested you become in learning more or re-evaluating what you thought you knew. Know-alls whoever they are put themselves at risk through complacency.
There are many potential ways to reach newcomers. Its not a case of "Accident reporting as news" or nothing is it ?
> >> UKC forums are not appropriate for specific accident reporting and >analysis.
> I agree
That's right. They are for discussion.
Accident reporting and analysis, it looks like, would be under the auspices of the BMC and other professional bodies (Mountain Rescue, BMC Technical Committee, MCofS, MCI and MLTUK ). We may help, with others, with the forms for reporting accidents/near misses due to our accessibility and popularity.
Then, similar to Accidents in North American Mountaineering, we shall run Accident articles which will be open for discussion. We do have some user submitted accident reports in our database and shall be running some of these in the future, but these are separate from what the BMC are discussing.
It is taking shape slowly.
My problem with this Dan is who pays for it all and to what depth do you do it. 'Proper' accident investigations can end up very expensive and 'improper' investigations are often worse than none at all. I believe the 'Yosemite' stats are excellent as a workable compromise but won't give Mark anything like the level of information he is is hyperthetically asking for.
I agree with Chris that for beginners (and this includes climbers new to a particular climbing game) accident analysis is very useful (if they listen). Again I'll stress that the climbers, new or experienced, that need most help from accident anaylsis normally in my experience either don't even realise there is a problem or worse still wrongly believe they have solved it (I'd add this is not the same as being less risk averse).
In reply to Mark Stephenson
Never let an editor make you delete key exclusions.
I really do think the vast majority of things in easy terrain fall into the obvious category. Not obvious at the time usually relates to climbers' psychology at the time (tired, relieved to finish the hard climbing, etc). In this, often the big obvious message is you are not safe to stop concentrating at any point until you are down. Trouble is much climbing is limited by deliberate extra dangers that come with heavy unpredictable objective risks and potential sheer exhaustion (and needs to move fast) like big expedition climbing and long alpine days.
I'll try and pick up on some more of your reply later but Im a bit rushed now.
"That blanket statement you picked up on was initially qualified as referring specifically to serious accidents that have a effect upon the general pubic." The more I think about it the more I think your 'riders' on the publicity should be re-inserted by UKC, as it make you look bad in an unfair way.
"Through the involvement of the emergency services or otherwise result in cost to the taxpayer. Basically if you need to get helicoptered off the crag (at public expense) the incident is by default in the public domain"
The emergency services look after the stupid as well as the wise. Plus people have rights and news coverage is subject to these. My advice to anyone involved in climbing accidents is never talk about detail to the UK press; be polite, and refer them to mountain rescue, the police, the BMC (or equivalent). Too many journalists are not very honest or accurate and have the excuse that causing pain is an unfortunate side effect of the importance of public knowledge. Dealing with reporting problems legally wont stop the pain and can be expensive.
"All anyone would be interested in is the basic facts of what happened and at most some very generic information; sex, age & experience." I'd say only experience unless the other information had any significant noticeable influence.
"This is where 'statistics are our friend'" That’s if the stats are accurate, useful and not obtainable elsewhere and someone will pay to produce them.
"What is the biggest cause of serious injuries; is it ...." Good questions but your answers are probabilistic and subject to sample size, data accuracy etc. Useful stuff, sure, but no certainties here. I also think you may suffer from the "engineers" unhelpful suspicion of qualitative research.
"I do (or don't do) lots of things because of what I PERCEIVE the risks to be" It’s odd how these perceptions in climbers seem oh so sensible until you analyse how relative they are to the circumstances and our target desires. Compare safety practice on grit crags to alpine climbing. This is central to risk assessment in climbing to me: we sensibly minimise unnecessary risk but the main risk is because we are climbing at all and depending on what we want to climb that (minimised) risk can be huge.
Possibly, but again, until some information is collected you can't tell whether any of the classic stereotypes - young, over-confident, males - hold water or not. That sort of pattern would either emerge clearly or the information could equally quickly be dismissed as irrelevant.
Any information gathering process is by its very nature iterative, you don't know what information is useful until you have collected some and looked at it. You then fine tune how/what information you gather in the future
They are definitely not obtainable elsewhere. I more would be concerned about coverage than accuracy initially, mainly for the reasons above. As for usefulness, that is the nub of this whole debate isn't it!
Not really. It is far more the case that I've done the qualitative research and now have a variety of hypothesis that I want to test but see no way to do so other than by large scale collection of data on incidents/accidents. For the exact reasons that Simon highlights in has editorial, you can't read too much into individual incidents,
Actually, if we could get to something close to the 'Yosemite stats' in a year or two, I think it would be superb.
It would certainly start to answer the very basic questions:
- Roughly how dangerous is climbing.
- What is most likely to kill/injure you.
It would not answer many of the other questions I have, but it would probably let us dismiss some risks/questions and we would have a much better idea of what to look out for specifically and/or what questions to ask about incidents in future years.
Overly simplistic example. If no-one is injured abseiling in 3 years then it is perhaps not something for anyone to get too bothered about. Equally if 20+ people were injured abseiling , then trying to get much more detailed information on all abseiling incidents could be classed as a priority for future years. The first three years of 'stats' wouldn't tell us anything other than abseiling is 'very risky', but the next few years would hopefully then answer 'why is it dangerous' as people would be asking the right questions and then that analysis could be feed that back to climbers.
If you just looked at the first 3 years then all of Simon's points are valid - the effort hasn't told us much at all. However, being in a position of limited knowledge rather than a position of ignorance, how to move forward becomes increasingly obvious.
Getting to the stage of knowing what we don't know is the first step in this.
I think the accident reports have been very useful, I taught myself to place gear and lead climb outside, so had no lessons. My gear placing after many weeks traversing a few feet off the ground placing gear in every available crack is now very good. But because I rarely climb with experienced climbers (because of my age: 16 and worries about insurance) I never knew about the true dangers of pegs and in-situ gear. I now only clip in-situ gear if I have to and only with a view that it might slow my fall. Most the time I ignore them and look for a nut placement in a crack near by. With out the accident reports I would of continued using pegs as I would bolts till someone told me otherwise. People on the forums might call me stupid, but these things need to out on the forums to warn new climbers about the risks.
Be aware that people have been using pegs for a long time - not all pegs are unsafe.
> (because of my age: 16 and worries about insurance)
OUt of interest - why does a 16 year old worry about insurance? Does any recreational climber climbing in the UK worry about insuranace?
Thats maybe your view. In my view on gritstone any insitu gear is suspect as is any on a seacliff, as is any with full rust cover. I'd say always back them up if you can.
I can see the value of accident reporting in flying and scuba diving where you are essentially repeating a set of similar actions in a broadly similar environment. Climbing is more like driving where attempts to reduce accidents often fail because of ‘risk compensation’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation) where individuals take greater risks to compensate for the extra safety they feel as a result of the safety measures.
Recently in the Netherlands road traffic planners have started taking the opposite approach and creating ‘shared spaces’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space) where they remove all road markings, traffic lights, pavements and road signs and let cars, cyclists and pedestrians mix as they like. It has lead to a dramatic reduction in accidents because the space feels more risky so people take more care.
Whilst obviously it is useful to gain from other’s experience and to learn things like more accidents happen in descent and abseiling is one of the more dangerous activities etc. this can be learnt from anecdotal evidence. If you start producing stats like Gritstone handholds have a 0.285% of failing you are just encouraging people not to make their judgements.
Adventure sports are most popular in countries where daily risk is the lowest because humans need an element of risk in their lives. If you succeeded in reducing the risk they will just increase the dose.
I think the truest statement I have heard on the subject came from Andy Kirkpatrick.
‘Safety comes from making good decisions.
Good decisions come from experience.
Experience comes from making bad decisions’
Safety comes from making good decisions.
Good decisions come from experience.
Experience comes from making bad decisions’
Safety also comes from good habits whilst being generally alert to danger which includes the danger of complacency. Some people are unlucky enough to have only one wake-up call - when they wake up dead.
> OUt of interest - why does a 16 year old worry about insurance? Does any recreational climber climbing in the UK worry about insuranace?
It isn't insurance he's been royally screwed be the saintly Ms Ranssom. 20 years ago he'd have gone to a club and found a mentor who would have taught him the ropes. The paper work would have been having to get a parents signature on the membership form. Now with everybody in a moral panic about kiddy fiddling (including the underwriters of the clubs public liability insurance), the club takes one look at the number of hoops they have to jump through and says f**k off and come back when your 18.
> the club takes one look at the number of hoops they have to jump >through and says f**k off and come back when your 18.
Slightly off-topic, but my neighbour's 72-year-old mother recently had her offer to help with the costumes of her granddaughter's school play turned down on the grounds that she couldn't produce some sort of certificate to say she wasn't a sex offender.
You can't be too careful, eh?
I think we do need some kind of proper record of incidents and in some detail as to what happened and the cirumstances around it. The detail is needed because if the record is going to be useful then it will be subject to statistical analysis and we don't yet know which questions we are going to want to ask of the record so we ought to be data greedy. Names and exact dates are not going to be needed by the majority of users and should not be in the most publicly accessible form of the record. There is a privacy issue here but it is not either a new nor insurmountable one. A lot of medical research would be impossible without this kind of data and adapting solutions for this problem from either the BSAC incident reporting system or from the many bio-ethics committees dealing with these problems on a daily basis.
There are a lot of things that we ought to be aware of in the use of this information and a lot of pit falls to be avoided. first of all we won't get much depth of information on even the most basic points quickly, it will take years. Secondly we have to be very wary of both over interpreting the information in the record and of reporting biases in the record.
The first is very obvious mathamatically but is very offten missed in general reporting. We might for example find that in general walking down from a climb is safer than absailing or visa versa (right now we just don't know and this point comes up in threads on here time and again) but break those figures down by crag and you have meaningless junk biased by the descent decision of a party of drunk students.
The second is much more subtle and is the result of what people regard as incidents. In diving a rapid ascent from depth is usually regarded as an "incident" regardless of the consequences. One instructor I know had two rapid ascents in two successive easter training trips. The first was caused by a jammed real on a marker buoy a student was deploying and got reported. The second (actually 2 rapid ascents) the following year was during a dive leader rescue drill where the student has to lift an "unresponsive" diver from 15m to the surface. The student messed up 2 lifts (I was being lifted) both resulting in out of control ascents. this was seen however as part of the "expected" results of the drill and not reported. Hence I suspect the real risks of this drill aren't in the BSAC incident stats.
The information to be gleaned from this process is however undoubtedly useful there are lots of examples of questions that could be informative but don't have known answers, (is it safer to absail or walk off? is trad or sport safer? auto-belays or people? grigri's or ATC's? ect) all of which could be informed by this kind of bulk analysis. The most useful stuff is likely to be the things we don't see now. Again from diving for a long time BSAC taught all divers to share air by sharing their main regulators (buddy breathing) so that the pair was breathing of 1 mouth piece. This carryed on long after the carrying of a second reg specifically for sharing air became common practice and was felt to be good training. However the incident analysis showed that in real out of air situations BSAC trained divers were using buddy breathing to share air even when the alternative equipment was working fine. PADI trained divers who hadn't been trained in buddy brething to the same extent were doing the right things. Hence BSAC changed their training. If the incident analysis hadn't been done the anecdotal evidence of buddy breathing would have been put down to random muppetry and BSAC would still be training its divers to kill themselves and regarding it as better than PADI training.
I dont worry about insurance im covered by the BMC. but other climbers especially the local clubs dont want to climb with me in case i fall and injure myself because im not an adult im under their care while climbing? something like that. I think its something to do with guardians. I do worry about insurance because i climb in avon and cheddar and so im over roads most the time and dislodging a rock could prove very costly.
Really doubt the usefulness of debating accident reports on ukclimbing from a safety/educational point of view.
Here is a thread where we have a report of a young man who died by abseiling off the end of his rope, and lots of people posting in response that tying knots in the end of ab ropes in uneccessary/unsafe, despite the fact that this is described as best practice by every climbing instructor in the country when teaching novices. Also, the usual offensive and pointless remarks about the inteligence/experience of the dead climber.
The problem is that here we have an open forum where anyone can post to justify their own risky practices. How are less experienced climbers to distinguish?
Comparing the BSAC incident report to whatever system is created wrt climbing is somewhat misguided. The main aim of the BSAC incident report is to ensure that the training is appropriate given the incidents actually occuring. As there is no formal training programme in place from the NGB (BMC in this case) this form of incident reporting is not particularly useful.
Like Mark Stevenson I have been involved in accident reporting and analysis (road accidents) for many years. I have seen the enormous benefits of such reporting. However .....
I have also seen the consequences in developing countries where this reporting (of road traffic accidents) has been inadequate.
What I wish to warn of is a system that is insufficient and only encourages anecdote and myth.
A reporting system must be well designed and consistent - each accident recorded in the same way by someone with the appropriate training. Untrained form fillers make more errors than you would believe. In many cases you would not have the correct crag let alone the correct climb where the accident happened.
One problem could be obtaining a sufficiently high %age of the accidents to avoid biase. How would accidents where the casualty was taken to hospital by friends and not a rescue team be recorded. I have been involved in 4 incidents where the injured party (yes including me!) required medical treatment. Only 1 involved a rescue team.
The system will need to be maintained and improved over time and analysed by persons with the appropriate professional expertise. It will require a great deal of effort and no doubt expense.
While I am not against developing a formal UK climbing accident database. i do fear a "half cock" system which will teach us misleading lessons.
I am also in agreement with the pro-reporting lobby.
Human nature is such that people often have an attitude that 'it will never happen to me' and with time feel more invincible,push their grades,and perhaps concentrate less on safety matters, admittedly gaining experience at the same time.
In a work environment there is sometimes an over-emphasis on safety, but it is a fact that we all need to be gently reminded that it is not entirely a risk free sport.
Having been involved with two accidents, one fatal the other minor I can say that I absolutely oppose accident reporting in the climbing world.
I can say, with some confidence, that both these incidents would have been mis-reported and that the open forum debate would have been a harrowing experience for those left behind.
On the subject of reporting climbing accidents:
A reliable collection of climbing incidents could be very helpful to most climbers in forming a considered judgement about how they go about making their climbing experiences safe while still acheiving their individual goals, whether VDiff or E4.
There are numerous problems inherent in trying to get accurate accident information from a UK-wide community: below are some real life examples I am aware of to illustrate this:
1. A climber abseiling from a route falls and is killed. The actual facts of how and why this happened seemed uncertain and differed depending on whether you spoke to "eye witness" accounts or those of the mountain rescue team that attended the incident.
2. An incident involving a sling breaking in use by a Colorado climber led to a popular belief that larks footing two slings together made them very likely to break at low loads. This example was tested some years ago by manufacturers and after extensive investigation the issues involved are much more complex than simply whether or not the slings are larks footed or not. (A comprehensive explanation of this is given in June 08 AMI news by George McEwan).
3. Does anyone use "triplock" karabiners? No surely not as they are well known to be more prone to accidental opening than our trusty screwgates...or are they? Do we have any statistics to say how many such karabiners are in use and of that number how many have been involved in incidents of accidental opening?
My key points are:
1. Incident reporting is a complex beast, and needs objective and sometimes detailed investigation of all the facts before blurting out a quick conclusion such as "the equipment failed" or "the climber used the wrong type of knot".
2. In some incidents it can be very difficult to get the exact details of what actually did happen as people may or may not remember accurately some key information so the reporting may be based on misinformation, or hear say.
3. Incidents need to be examined in the context of the bigger picture - if there are 2 high profile cases involving a certain piece of kit, this equipment is often quickly shunned by the climbing public at large, without looking at the context: if this item is in common use by thousands of people world wide without a significant problem, are these 2 incidents a fair representation of the "safety" of the equipment?
Climbing is about judgement - all climbers have a responsibility to make personal judgements concerning their safety and the safety of others. Accident reporting can be a valuable tool in aiding climbers from all walks of life and all levels of experience to make better informed judgements about what they do. To do this the accident reporting needs to be easily understandable, accurately collected and put in the context of the broader climbing community so we can all learn and improve our own safety.
After some thought I have decided to come down on the side of Simon Lee.
After reading some enlightened individuals comments, sneering at accomplished climbers for falling or slipping on easy routes i feel that the potential for causing real pain to families of dead or injured climbers with comments on these forums is unacceptable.
I'm not sure on what the investigation found, but in kite surfing lines are larks footed to extensions, and all lines are attached using larks head knots. Surely if these knots were failing the sport would of changed the knot. So i agree that if accident reporting is too take place it must be conducted in an unbiased way presenting the facts and no misconceptions for it to be of true value.(eg. the true or untrue belief that larks footed knots fail regularly) I also agree with a different person who commented earlier, that people should not be allowed to rip into people who are involved in the accidents because all is never clear in the initial report, and it could be very distressing for the people involved.
I don't think a formalised, official collection of data and accident assessment is the way to go. An area where we could contribute useful anecdotes; 'cock ups I've survived' on here would make an interesting if not amusing read, and perhaps be of considerable use to the less experienced. The obvious problem being the subsequent crap observations by smart arses who want to show off their knowledge.
Personally I'd leave things as they stand - I go trad climbing and do some soloing because it is dangerous, if I want it to be safer then I go sport climbing or bouldering, and I learned them all along the way from, personal experience (including my many mistakes), peers, books and the like.
Our game has thus far been able to avoid, or keep at bay, regulation, compulsion and the like. What you're suggesting could be the thin edge of that wedge.
Another reason for saying no is that I don't have any impression that we are dropping like flies, I'd hazard a guess (which might be your point) that ours is the safest of the so called 'extreme' sports.
Finally; the things that you don't know you don't about, are your unknown unknowns. You won't discover these because you can't recognise them. I think you're in pursuit of known unknowns. (god bless Donald)
We are certainly not the safest of sports, not even the safest of extreme sports. As a off-piste skier I know of no one who was killed and actually few who were injured, which considering the cavalier approach of the ski industry is itself astonishing. As an inshore sailor I only know of one drowning and that was collision with container vessel, and some minor injuries. As an (indifferent) kayaker I know of only one drowing, and that was so shocking they rebuilt the weir at Bath. However on my local crags there have been several fatalities, and quite a few of my friends have been injured over the years, some very badly. (Mostly rockfall or handholds coming away)
As a person who actually fell I had no desire for great anominity. After all I was already on BBC News and freinds visited me in hospital after seeing the news item ("thought it was you, you mostly OK then? No!") Lessons could be learned from my experience, and to my irritation it could have been avoided, but I had no forum to float any of this.
> Comparing the BSAC incident report to whatever system is created wrt climbing is somewhat misguided. The main aim of the BSAC incident report is to ensure that the training is appropriate given the incidents actually occuring. As there is no formal training programme in place from the NGB (BMC in this case) this form of incident reporting is not particularly useful.
Exactly the purpose is to inform diver education. Some of that is done through altering training programmes most of it occurs through the diving press and briefings to club safety officers. Most active divers are not currently in training programes.
The purpose in climbing would be exactly the same. However less of the education would occur through formal training courses and much much more through the various continuing education channels.
> Having been involved with two accidents, one fatal the other minor I can say that I absolutely oppose accident reporting in the climbing world.
> I can say, with some confidence, that both these incidents would have been mis-reported and that the open forum debate would have been a harrowing experience for those left behind.
I don't think garbled narrative press reports of accidents are of any use to anybody most of the information is too uncertain to be relied upon and these are single incidents that tell us little. What we need is a database collection of incident details that can then be searched to find out what the relative rates of occurance of incidents is.
If I want to know if in general walking descents from climbs are safer or more dangerous than absails knowing that X fell something between 10-1000m from a descent route on cloggy and died, while Y fell 50-300m from an absail at Tremadoc and died tells me nothing. What I need to know is how frequent and serious both kinds of accident are.
You seem to have packed a lot of accidents into your time!(I know they're not you;-) ). I've been involved in mountain sports for just over 40 years now and personally only know one lad who was sadly killed, and have been present at only a couple of crags when there have been accidents that resulted in a notable injury. Though of course I am indirectly aware of many more - but, not that many given the timescale and numbers involved. Perhaps I've been operating in a more isolated bubble than you?
I don't have a problem with an informal exchange of experience, that's the way it's always been, knowledge being shared between peers and the like. A forum dedicated to that (which can be used anonymously if desired-others might even if you don't), and moderated to prevent the "what a biff" contributions, would multiply the exchange of experience without the need to formalise it. I fear that step 1 formalises it, step 2 regulates it and step 3 polices it. IMHO there's already enough regulation around.
FWIW, I wouldn't consider most off piste extreme, or inshore sailing either! But that's another debate :-)
At about the same time that Cenotaph Corner gets bolted.
My main point as you have highlighted is that reporting incidents without exploring the background to why they occurred in full can lead to misleading and sometimes downright incorrect information getting out.
If incidents are reported objectively, and accurately the information can be useful to avoid future occurances (provided people have access to the relevant information in a user-friendly format and are not blinded with statistics and bar charts).
Sharing stories of near misses and epics has always helped us learn from each other's experiences; being honest about when you get it wrong is pretty handy to help others get it right in future.
Just a reminder of where this could go:
The situation described in the article isn't expected to happen overnight but over time, by stealth. If it is a little paranoid, it is meant to be. We absolutley MUST defend our right to go out and make our own mistakes, take our own risks without fear of direct recrimination or overly protective legislation.
There was a thread on here last year entitled 'is this you?' in which a poster placed a photo of a team climbing on Ben Nevis in conditions HE thought weren't good. The 'team', AFAIK, didn't encouter any problems. Was this a reasonable debate or was it policing by proxy? The urge to comment on accidents will be too great for some and this will be picked up on by those with no experience of the activity.
Why go there? Why open this Pandora's box? Leave it alone.
Jeremy - Cape Town South Africa
For what it's worth, the CDG (the governing body for cave diving in the UK) which I belong to instituted an incident tracking tool about a year ago. While there have been similar criticisms of this approach from some members it has equally had it's supporters.
My opinion is that anything that contributes to making a sport safer is a good thing. In response to criticism that accident reporting threatens a sport by risking legislation, I believe that there are legal precedents in which the right of the individual to accept risks in "high risk" sports have been adequately protected.
.. just my 2 cents
If you prefer not to know at all about fatalities and accidents, then either you must think you are somehow immune (normally referred to as denial) or you must have a higher tolerance of personal risk than I have. Though I might be battered and worn, I intend to become EvenOlderManOfTheHills, by being a bit careful with my admittedly moderate climbing, and I certainly have learned of particular dangers from particular accident reports. Admittedly I still climb on limestone where bits fall on us, but at least I wear a helmet always. I think that some degree of self monitoring might be essential if we don't want the HSE busybodies to interfere. For every death there are something like 10 major injuries and perhaps 100 minor injuries, and knowledge and thus avoidance of these is the key to reducing death. The BMC publishes major reports on gear failures but postings on local hazards and accidents might actually help us avoid them
In Responce to marks article
Accidents are few in regard to the total amount of climbing that takes place, as an activity it is about gaining experence to progress to the next level. Be that diff to v-diff or summer to winter, scotland to the alps. as climbers we look both inwardly and outwardly for feedback to gain that experence. I belive your example of the two climbers to be wrong. You use probability of repeated events to state that one climber is more likely to be better off and the other at more risk. But this is not a real example. If i could place a bet on the outcome of the same horse race a 100 times then essentially i would never gain or lose anything, it would all equal out. There for i place all the risk as in life on one horse in one race and live with the result. Now we could place all sports on an open and closed continum of how outside influence, influence the the end result. Something such as the hammer event being closed and a rugby match being open, as is horse racing. Climbing being an activity that is very open, with very open and objective risks. As climbers we essentially look at these risk and attempt to make them acceptable to achieve our end goal. We may even choose to take more risks to give a heighten experence but we essentially still come up with a idea to produce a successful outcome. Take my 3 climbs on Bowfell Buttress v-diff. The first i soloed it with a short rope and a few nuts, i was climbing very well at the time and it was this i used to balance the risk. The 2nd time i did it as a wet slime climb, i was climbing at a medium standard, we choose to take a huge rack to balance the risk. The 3rd time was a snowed up rock attempt, to balance the risk i went with a very experened winter climber, he led it all.
So i belive that we look to many areas to produce our experence. Just as i look to my abilities and of those i climb with. On my ML assessment the assessor told me of an example of his Bowline coming undone mid pitch on a climb on stanage. At the time i tied in using a Bowline, i have not since, i have re-told the story to friends i care about, because i can't give them 100 opportunitys to see how many times it works or dosn't. I read books and article that are the sum of other people having gained their experence, and i applie it with in the context i need to. I support the used of objective accident reporting as it is a chance from which i can learn. Mike 'Twid' Turner (on UK Climbing)wrote an article on an accident taking place on Smiths Route Ben Nevis. This was a great opportunity to learn possibly years of experence from one example. I for one will applie this to my appreciation of climbing and risk. What was good about this article was the smelling the lemons, the beginnings of this accident happen the day before.
I hope this debate can continue and make headway so that the policy thatUKC can put in place will result in quality objective reporting that can be of use to everyone.
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