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/ Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Accident Stats

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petecallaghan - on 22 Jan 2018

It seems difficult to find up-to-date and detailed statistics on the number and causes of incidents, accidents, fatalities or near misses in rock climbing or mountaineering in the UK. 

Climbers and mountaineers invest a lot of training and practice in risk mitigation, yet the choice of risks to mitigate or the practices used are not necessarily informed by detailed up to date data, for many participants, whether trained formally or informally. 

Does anyone know of any organisation collating data relating to climbing or mountaineering incidents centrally across the UK? 

Is there a mechanism that would allow climbers to self-report incidents or near misses that could then be collated and analysed centrally? 

Post edited at 15:50
Steve Woollard on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

This is a really good point and one that has bothered me for sometime as incident reporting and learning from incidents is very haphazard in the UK compared to other countries.

The BMC has a Technical Committee and part of their remit is to "undertakes technical investigation and reporting of incidents involving equipment submitted by individuals, organisations or retailers." but when was the last time they did this?

AMI (and I guess BMG) has an incident reporting process but it is only available to members, and they don't seem to do any reporting back on learning points to their members.

Similarly the ABC has an incident reporting process for their members (indoor climbing wall operators) but there is no feed back to the wider climbing community.

I'd be really interested to hear a response from the BMC who are ideally placed to do this

 

jimtitt - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Steve Woollard:

> The BMC has a Technical Committee and part of their remit is to "undertakes technical investigation and reporting of incidents involving equipment submitted by individuals, organisations or retailers." but when was the last time they did this?

Currently it´s some karabiners and something else but I can´t be bothered to look at the minutes to check. If members send nothing in then there is nothing to invesigate.

The Ex-Engineer - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

Don't get me started!!!

See https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/how_dangerous_is_rock_climbing__we_don't_know-1110

Some of us been harping on about this for over a decade with utterly no impact. Unfortunately, far too many dinosaurs and well intentioned but paranoid libertarians (combined with general apathy) have conspired to block even the slightest progress in this area.

It's clear to my mind that numerous people are dying unnecessarily because noone in any position of influence is willing to get a grip of issues relating to mountain safety in the UK. For example, how many more people need to die on well-known accident and avalanche blackspots before a concerted effort is made to ensure key safety warnings are widely promoted to all participants.

springfall2008 - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

What if we had a place on UKC where people could (anonymously) report a near miss, minor accident or major accident and the factors around it. Then we could at least collect statistics from this group of people and a most likely causes?

What do you call a near miss in climbing, does falling off count or is that just business as usual?

 

jayjackson - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Steve Woollard:

> AMI (and I guess BMG) has an incident reporting process but it is only available to members, and they don't seem to do any reporting back on learning points to their members...

There is a link to every report, including the conclusions and learnings drawn by the Professional Standards Committee and instructors involved, on the AMI member’s area of the website. The PSC also run workshops at the AGM to review and explore incidents/lessons learned. Attended one a few years back, it was very good. I guess they don’t actively report, but information is published and accessible for members. 

Chris Craggs - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

Edale Mountain Rescue report 20-30 'fallen climber' incidents per year up to 2014 - the latest published report. That's one rescue team in one area. It might be useful to have a fuller UK picture and also get some details of what is really happening, rockfall, pulled runners, dropped leaders etc.

Chris

Steve Woollard on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to jayjackson:

> There is a link to every report, including the conclusions and learnings drawn by the Professional Standards Committee and instructors involved, on the AMI member’s area of the website.

I'm not sure if this is correct as I can't find it. But anyway its limited to AMI members only.

 

jayjackson - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Steve Woollard:

Log into the member’s area with your Tahdah details, Professional Standards tab, then professional standards information, then there is a list of all the returned forms. 

There are not many, and you are right - they are only available to the membership. 

Steve Woollard on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to jayjackson:

> Log into the member’s area with your Tahdah details, Professional Standards tab, then professional standards information, then there is a list of all the returned forms. 

> There are not many, and you are right - they are only available to the membership. 


That's what I've done, but it doesn't link to the report and conclusions

jayjackson - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Steve Woollard:

may be a tech issue beyond my skills I’m afraid, works on my phone.

Once past the issues of whether the website works or not, I do find it a useful resource to look at as a professional instructor - data gathered across the whole climbing population, not just from instructors who are AMI members would be interesting.

 

not that I wish to be a nay-sayer but I expect the administration of collection and expert analysis would be a major barrier to actually getting anything useful out of the exercise. Maybe a research project for someone super keen?!

 

It does seem hard to find another example of accident/incident data collection - potentially a collation of MRT callous reports + ABC accident reporting, although to get enough useful info I expect there would be a lot of work needed to remove personal information.

 

Offwidth - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

I see you failed to directly post the oposing view and the endless past threads on this subject. This was what Simon said in the same debate (a view I favour)

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/editorial_chance_risk_and_accidents-1099

There is plenty of nuanced argument on this subject that has nothing to do with dinosuars or well intentioned libetarians but ordinary level headed climbers. In my view a national database is a very expensive project that would be worthy if someone could afford it but have little value in its impact. I say this because the key areas where serious accidents are likely are already well known and this never stopped the tide of avoidable accidents, especially the scottish avalanche 'lemmings'. Hardly anyone reads the reports amongst the tens of tnousands of active trad climbers (websites have stats!). The equivalent yosemite stats, where full records are kept of all serious accidents and deaths (and where the risks are much higher than in the UK), prove that good clibers do stupid things beyond a doubt:

https://www.friendsofyosar.org/climbing

"Most Yosemite victims are experienced climbers, 60% have been climbing for three years or more, lead at least 5.10, are in good condition, and climb frequently. Short climbs and big walls, easy routes and desperate ones – all get their share of the accidents"

The big risk in the UK is the ignorant and inexperinced but safe experienced climbers need to stay focused.

In contrast to Steve Wollard, I think the BMC do well on their small budget and as another poster above points out they publish this for free for public consumption.. not just members. Steve might have his own agenda though having been a signatory on the hugely damaging no confidence vote.

 

Mark Kemball - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

At the moment, the BMC SW area is trying to collect as much info as possible on incidents in our area, particularly Devon and Cornwall - any info would be useful - contact me, James Mann or David Hillebrandt (we all post under our real names on here).

jimtitt - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

> I see you failed to directly post the oposing view and the endless past threads on this subject........

Living in a country (Germany) with has a structure which allows reasonably accurate statisitc gathering and employs someone to anyalyse the causes (and publishes the results yearly) it is clear they are of limited value in reality, except as an indicator for policy decisions perhaps. It´s heart attacks, falling and stupidity that mostly kills mountain users and nothing is likely to change this without draconian restrictions.

The organisation of the various rescue services and medical care in the UK makes any meaningfull data gathering impossible without an enormous change in the system and self-reporting is invitably biased and therefore worthless. It is hard to see what benefits would be gained from knowing that a cam ripped and someone landed on the ground for example since we already know this occurs but it doesn´t stop the lemmings from trying it again and again.

The issue of whether climbers actually want to know is another thing, for example that the "deadly, invention of the devil" GriGri is statistically safer than the ATC is not something that many climbers actually want to know.

The old saying "if you want to know what´s probably going to kill you then look in a mirror" is an unpalatable truth.

petecallaghan - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Steve Woollard:

The Mountain Rescue services for Scotland and England/Wales collate stats on call-outs. 

I think that these are the latest: 

As Jim says, many different organisations across the UK can be involved in climbing and mountaineering incidents. 

I've asked the BMC to comment on the issue. 

petecallaghan - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

Thanks for posting that link. Your point about near miss reporting is consistent with my own anecdotal experience. In my loose community of climbers we share learning from near misses, and sometimes this helps inform better practice.

The principle is that, while it is good to learn from our own mistakes, it is better to reduce exposure to unintended risk by learning from the mistakes of others. 

This isn't necessarily easy to do, but the Mountain Rescue organisations already have their own reporting systems in place and perhaps these could point the way to a model for wider use?

petecallaghan - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

Thanks for the links. Interestingly the Yosemite article relies on pretty old data (1970-1990). 

The American Alpine Club compiles accident reports, with the latest available here: http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/about_accidents

The Kindle version is for 2015. 

They encourage self reporting with an online form (http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/accidents_submission) and provide the reports free to members or for a fee to non members. 

Post edited at 16:24
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

Hi Pete,

There's an interesting discussion to be had on this subject, and it is something we've looked into in the past. One problem we have in the UK is with the data collection. It's not like the US where National Park visitors are recorded and any medical treatment is likely to be monitored as it is within the Park area. We also tend to have a culture of self reliance in the UK - most of us will know someone who had a fairly serious accident climbing or walking and self rescued and then got themselves to hospital or their GP. Unless a rescue team are called out, nothing is recorded currently, and of course there is then the issue of collating info from different services such as MR, Coastguard etc.

Before committing to the effort and expenditure of setting up a big reporting program, we decided to test the waters by putting together a regular column in Summit magazine, where people could anonymously report in with details of accidents and near misses which could hopefully be learnt from. Despite publicising this widely through our various media, the response we received was disappointing to say the least, so we decided not to proceed further.

We do produce incident reports via our Technical Committee, but these are focused on incidents of equipment failure, so they won't discuss things such as heuristic traps, common mistakes and the like. I do however think we currently do a pretty good job, given our available resources, at giving advice and guidance across the spectrum of activities in conjunction with our partner organisations. The skills and advice articles we produce, and the videos on BMC TV or our YouTube channel are a distillation of hard-worn experience and are useful for people with a wide range of experience. If you don't learn something new, you may at least confirm that the reasons you do something are sound.

I can't speak for AMI and the ABC and why they don't make their reporting systems public, but I can say that we do all talk to each other, and if anything new, unusual or unexpected occurs, it does generally end up getting looked at and made public if it feels necessary.

petecallaghan - on 24 Jan 2018
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:

The BMC training and guidance resources are really useful. It would be interesting to see if the practice of people entering activities recently is different or better to those who did not benefit from such resources early in their experience. 

 

keith-ratcliffe on 24 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:
This is a system for reporting Aviation & Marine incidents that I have found useful in the past.
https://www.chirp.co.uk/

A few years ago I contributed to a similar UKC thread to this current one, the conclusion of which was that setting up a similar site for climbing/mountaineering/walking was fraught with difficulties around the confidentiality/liability area, never mind the cost.

One idea that was floated was that UKC could have a thread topic to illicit reports of incidents but again nothing came of it. A simple format of 'What happened?', 'What did we learn?' and 'What are we going to do different?' was suggested. Is it time to re-visit the idea?

wbo - on 24 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:define a near miss if you want them recording.  

How would you define a twisted ankle bouldering?

 

petecallaghan - on 25 Jan 2018
In reply to wbo:

That's a really good question. There's a nice definition here: http://www.mountain-training.org/england/incident-and-near-miss-reporting

What is a Near Miss?
A near miss is an event, or sequence of events, which could have led to an incident that had the potential to cause harm but did not do so, either through preventative measures or a lack of final causation. 

petecallaghan - on 25 Jan 2018
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

I'm keen to revisit the idea, but there are undoubtedly challenges or risks that include the ones you mention. However, I like to think that they are not insurmountable, since a number of UK-based and foreign services have similar systems and processes already in place. 

I've had a quick look at https://www.chirp.co.uk/ - thanks for posting that. It looks very interesting. 

Post edited at 09:20
maxsmith - on 25 Jan 2018
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

I believe it shames British mountaineering that we have no centralised accident reporting/analysing website in the same vein as 'Accidents in North American Mountaineering'.   In a sport where the learning curve can be extremely steep (even one error can prove fatal) any opportunity to learn from the mistakes and near misses of others should be embraced.

In the early days of aviation there were hundreds of accidents. But the culture of that industry means every fatality has been meticulously analysed rather than shuffled under the carpet ('Black Box Thinking' by Matthew Syed explores this in great detail). As a result modern aviation is freakishly safe. Within British climbing the opposite is usually true: analysing fatal accidents seems taboo and mistakes are viewed as embarrassing rather than as opportunities for learning - with errors often blamed on rock/gear rather than the user.  Articles on UKC such as the recent 'wear a helmet sport climbing' cautionary tale are the exception rather than the norm.

I feel so strongly on the subject that I even sketched out a rough design for a British mountaineering accident reporting website.  Simple drop down boxes allowing input of type of climbing, solo/roped, route link, rock type, date, weather at time, helmet worn, reason for fall/near miss, distance fallen, injuries sustained etc could be filled in for each accident. Input could be anonymous, or named at user discretion. Later analysis could be completed by qualified guides/experienced climbers as per 'Accidents in North American Mountaineering'. 

From reading UKC posts on this topic I understand that there is roughly a 50/50 split in opinion - with many posters opposing the idea. I'm not sure why this prevents the other 50 per cent who support the idea from coming up with a website - if you don't like it, don't use it.  I would be willing to devote time to this project, but have no coding computer skills. If you can code and like the idea, get in touch. It's clear BMC or UKC are never going to do this - so responsibility lies with the community. Even a few hundred accidents inputted could provide some useful data on for example a possible link between helmet use and head injuries.  

 

Post edited at 09:36
Steve Woollard on 25 Jan 2018
In reply to maxsmith:

Well said 

GrahamD - on 25 Jan 2018
In reply to maxsmith:

There is a major difference between aviation and climbing.  In aviation people will perform rigorous risk analysis, then policy will be enforced based on the analysis.

In climbing, people will treat accident data the way people always treat accident data and decide that it does or doesn't apply in their case.  Widespread use of helmets now isn't driven by statistics, its driven by it not been seen as uncool.

Offwidth - on 26 Jan 2018
In reply to maxsmith:

Aviation is a form of transport where people are employed and the public are transported and where H&S responsibilities are clear on the organisations and governments facilitating this. Climbing is a risk sport.. we choose risk on purpose. In some games the risk we choose is huge... fatality rates are still above 1 in 10 on some Himalayan peaks.

A key reason I became involved in BMC work was my immense respect for what they did in informing and assisting training opportunities to make climbing games safer in concrete, sensible, value-for-money ways, especially for those new to the games. My student club had excellent support in this respect and poor, often expensive and inappropriate support from the SU. I was also bored with the libertarian joke that was the lower grade climbing sandbag and wanted them cleared from my local guidebooks (some routes are tough enough and safe enough to serve the purpose of a healthy fight: from Diff chimney struggles through say The File, where maybe dedicated climbing sort of gets confirmed, to Sentinal Crack, at Chatsworth, where expert ability begins to show). Since the beginning of my climbing, paper safety related resources were available that hardly anyone, who needed to read it, read. We have now added online safety resources hardly anyone who needs to read, ever reads. The BMC material is most excellent. The issue simply isn't one of no water, it is one of most horses not wanting to drink. Hence, I do not want significant valuable BMC resources spent on this idea of a centralised accident webpage, especially in these times where BMC budgets are very tight and organisational operation has been highly disrupted by a malicous MoNC and the subsequent inevitability of the OR. I wish anyone building such a website good luck, I will certainly use it, but it will almost certainly be hard work for little real gain. In contrast, I am often impressed with the debate on UKC and UKB threads following accidents where the facts are known (and sometimes depressed by rubbernecking where facts are less clear) I suspect these are also water not being drunk by the horses who think they are lemmings or the horses who think they are Pegasus and don't need to focus on mundane risk

Post edited at 17:37
Andy Gamisou - on 26 Jan 2018
In reply to jimtitt:

>> The old saying "if you want to know what´s probably going to kill you then look in a mirror" is an unpalatable truth.

Oddly enough, looked in the mirror just before reading this thread, and could see my wife standing behind me.  So thanks for that.

???

 

Maarten2 on 28 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

What's stopping UKC to have another Forum type: "Mishaps" or something?  Folk can self-report and self-analyse- if they wish.  One Alpine journal had a series called 'Near-Miss' - and they were really good lessons.  I'd be happy to share the (luckily few) mishaps/near-misses I have had - if only to inform others. 

philhilo - on 28 Jan 2018
In reply to petecallaghan:

The British Parachuting Association analyse every fatality and publish the results and have done since I was jumping back in the mid 80's. Simple. Much smaller organisation, yet still manages to do it, no debate, no quibbling. Everyone benefits, everyone learns, makes everyone think, even where it was simple human error. Why can't the BMC take this on?

tom_in_edinburgh - on 28 Jan 2018
In reply to Maarten2:

I think the big problem is if an identifiable person or manufacturer gets blamed for an accident there is a good chance they will dispute the stated facts and call their lawyers to prevent damage to their reputation.

Maarten2 on 28 Jan 2018
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> I think the big problem is if an identifiable person or manufacturer gets blamed for an accident there is a good chance they will dispute the stated facts and call their lawyers to prevent damage to their reputation.


This doesn't seem to be problem with the other activities mentioned in this thread, nor in Germany. Seems to me poor reason not do it.  I think it's more a case of embarrassment on the side of those (not)reporting.....   Embarrassment fades with time and reflection: even near misses that happened years ago can still provide a good lesson for others...

GrahamD - on 29 Jan 2018
In reply to Maarten2:

> What's stopping UKC to have another Forum type: "Mishaps" or something?  Folk can self-report and self-analyse- if they wish. 

Because you can't verify the the veracity of the information on there and making life and death decisions on the 'experience' of someone with hardly any experience is plain dangerous.  All it would end up being is a mouthpiece for people who still think you can't tie abseil ropes using a simple overhand knot.

dr evil - on 29 Jan 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

Dropzone.com has an incidents forum that is only seen by members. I would agree with you that there is a lot of drivel posted on forums but, in this case at least, it is useful.

 

 

Post edited at 11:17

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