Human factors: Predictors of avoidable wilderness accidents?
A common misconception is that wilderness adventure travel is risky owing to the nature of the objective dangers that are encountered, such as avalanches, rock falls, flash floods, failure of technical equipment and so forth. However, when one critically examines the proximal causes of wilderness accidents, even those caused by such ‘objective dangers’, it is apparent that many are due to ‘human factors’ or nontechnical skills. These are broadly defined as the continuous process of identifying and avoiding the activities, interactions and decisions that may jeopardise safe and effective response to adverse events. Objective dangers and adverse events are unavoidable, but the response to them is governed by how team dynamics, leadership and followership modes, situational awareness and experience may mitigate these risks or manage their consequences effectively. On the other hand, ignoring human factors during wilderness travel is predictive of wilderness accidents. This article outlines how an awareness of human factors may be used to reduce the risks of adventure travel significantly.