Managing safety through compliance has traditionally been at the forefront of thinking when it comes to safety. However, organisations might approach safety in 2 ways: by paying greater attention to the traditional tools of risk assessments and risk controls, often built upon risk avoidance, risk prevention or repression; or by learning to deploy a broader and more informed perspective of safety, beyond the applying and monitoring of controls, to that of safety by design.
Good work is also where the work design optimises human performance, job satisfaction and productivity. For The Outdoor Education Group, in terms of safety by design, this means at the earlier stages, there is the greatest chance of finding ways to design out hazards, incorporate effective risk control measures and design-in efficiencies.
This approach can be considered more as an organisational change agent rather than just a risk-management technician.
Traditional approaches within outdoor education often focus upon discussions around field-based risk controls. Often at the forefront are those associated with the skill and experience of the participants, leaders, or equipment suitability, extending to safety briefings or controls within the activity to reduce the likelihood of an incident.
Understanding safety by design starts instead by investing in shared values and beliefs, interacting with our organisation's structures and control systems to produce behavioural norms. That is, how the people and the cultures they develop, support a healthy safety climate.
Striving to bridge gaps that may develop between traditional and progressive systems of knowledge is not a challenge unique to the domain of outdoor education. Advancements, particularly in technologies and tools, often force rapid developments to which cultures must adapt. But what are the lessons informing this rate of adjustment and how can organisations like The Outdoor Education Group remain current with the insights they may bring?
One path can be seen in organisations investing efforts in safety performance as a measure of a strong safety climate; safety participation; and safety compliance - adopting a clearer model incorporating all the principles of safety by design, upon a goal of an engaged and mature safety culture.
An avenue towards measuring safety performance is via a commitment to professional standards. Professional standards are often more than codes of conduct or sector guidelines within industries with higher risk thresholds. Built upon a professional knowledge base, often with international validation, professional standards require organisations to not only adopt a high degree of rigour in integrating the standards to all functions of the business but openly engage in external assessment to verify and certify performance at that standard.
The AEE Accreditation Program's standards-based evaluation process is considered the gold standard of professional evaluation for experiential programs.
In terms of a standard, certification within AEE started firstly with a clear commitment across our organisation, from our strategic leadership to operational managers and leaders to a clear set of values and principles applied at every level in the organisation's endeavours. These principles marry research and success in safety by design and demonstrate The Outdoor Education Group's commitment to quality and safety, belief in professional standards, and allocation of resources towards continuous improvement across our organisation's practices.
For the Outdoor Education Group, this commitment began 3 years ago. Over a period of 18 months of self-auditing, review and adaption to AEE Standards across the organisation from the Board level to the field, we were challenged to monitor and adjust our performance in preparation for 10 days of external examination by a team of examiners.
What comes with working in a professional community is not only the access to a high level of informed expertise but practitioners who intimately understand those factors in systems supporting quality and safety in delivery. While examiners ensure the standard is met, as coaches and mentors, they also work to inform organisations as they maintain that standard.
Gaining accreditation in many ways was only the start of our journey towards safety by design.
As with all higher-level performance endeavours, the real work is in the continued groundwork. Consulting, reflecting, and reviewing with teams and partners becomes integral to our culture. From providing space to discuss the 1%, looking up and out upon incident data and feeding back in cycles, our organisational health and capability continue to grow.
As we prepare towards recertification and start the whole 3-year cycle again, we no longer see the mountain to be climbed, but from a new vantage point, the broader perspective in safety it provides.
Our commitment toward continuous improvement and reflection ensures we deliver high-quality experiences for your students. From camps, incursions, extended journeys to sequential programs and more - whether you are journeying with us for 1 night or 30 days, our standards are applied throughout every program, ensuring we achieve your expectations and support your students' wellbeing.