Author Topic: When the unexpected happens  (Read 1225 times)

Offline maxb727

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When the unexpected happens
« on: February 12, 2021, 07:04:27 am »
I found this a good read and relatable to caving trips - I particularly like that the writing is from the guy himself and shows how easy it is to make the wrong choice while actually still trying to think about the risks.

https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/skills/series/running/my_winter_accident_-_a_cautionary_tale-13350?fbclid=IwAR0IH3Qwt0hY2qYERIU-l725WCtixfrWXfvF7ftGo91pFOm4PVDhH6iDvtI

Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2021, 08:19:32 am »

Offline PeteHall

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2021, 12:31:24 pm »
Accidents can and do happen.

We can (or at least should) always assess the risk before any trip and plan for reasonably foreseeable eventualities. We also must (or at least should) accept that there is always a chance (often down to luck) that we will have an accident and could die as a result. We take precautions to reduce this risk, but the risk remains nonetheless.

Risk is generally considered to be a combination of two things:
  1. the likelihood of something bad happening;
  2. the consequence if that bad thing does happen.
Humans are instinctively very good at understanding consequence; if something might kill us, we are very wary of it. What comes less naturally is assessing likelihood.


About this time last year, I heard an interesting discussion on the radio with a researcher, who presented this very well. In her study, participants were presented with a machine that could give them an electric shock and asked how much they would need to be paid to touch it.

There were a number of scenarios presented to different groups. The first two groups were told that the shock would be a light shock (similar to a pinch); one group was told that there was a probability of 1 in 10 that they would get a chock, the second group told that there was a probability of 1 in 100 that they would get a shock.

The second two group were given the same two probabilities, but told that the shock would be like a thump, that would give them a dead arm.
Both the first two groups asked for about £1 to touch the machine (regardless of the 1:10 or 1:100 probability). Both of the second two groups asked for close to £10 to touch the machine; the group with the higher probability did on average ask for a little more, but very comparable.


What this shows us is that when assessing the risk, participants had a good idea about the consequence, but that they paid virtually no attention at all to the likelihood. 10 times more chance and there was virtually no change to the response.


As part of my job, I am required to assess risk in construction; specifically, the risks that are introduced while designing something. At an early stage, we identify how our proposals could present a risk when being built or maintained. We then look at how to mitigate that, either by reducing the consequence (eg reducing the height of an exposed drop), or by reducing the likelihood (eg providing a handrail next to an exposed drop). When I review designers risk assessments, it is amazing how many professional engineers and architects fail to understand risk. They can usually identify a risk, then even introduce design mitigations to reduce it, but more often than not, they fail to understand whether those measures reduce consequence or likelihood.

The other thing people struggle with is frequency. If an activity carries a 1 in 1,000 chance of an accident, that might be ok as a one-off, but if you had to do that activity once a day at work, an accident would probably happen once every 4 years. If you employed 100 people doing that activity, an accident would probably happen every 10 days, so you would probably want to think about some control measures to either eliminate the risk (where possible), or otherwise reduce the likelihood, or consequence.

In the context of caving, the only way to eliminate risks is to not go caving at all, so instead we need to take steps to reduce likelihood of an accident (eg using P-hangers instead of spits or thoroughly checking your equipment before any trip) and to reduce the consequence if an accident does occur (eg backing up an anchor, carrying 1st aid equipment).

Sometimes there is a trade-off; more people on a trip increases the chance of an accident (more frequency), yet it may reduce the severity if an accident does occur (others on hand to help). The balance will depend on the nature of the cave and the individuals involved; a good example would be the difference in approach between UK and US cave diving. The former is predominantly considered safer solo due to cave conditions, the latter is more often considered safer with a buddy.

It's definitely not a precise science, but the better we all understand the combination of likelihood, as well as consequence, the better equipped we all are to keep ourselves safe, while still doing the things we enjoy, even if they carry a risk of death or serious injury.

Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2021, 12:46:06 pm »
The other factor is familiarity breeds contempt, so you're less likely to prepare properly for something you do regularly (which was definitely the case with the fellrunner)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2021, 12:48:22 pm »
Prompted by Pete's interesting post above . . .

Last time I looked you were about twice as likely to die in a plane crash as you were to win the National Lottery jackpot.

Most of us are entirely happy to go on a flight, as the risk of a serious accident is clearly so low it'll "never happen".

But lots of the same folk are happy to part with good money for National Lottery tickets.

Nowt as strange as folk, I guess.   ;)

Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2021, 12:52:49 pm »
Again, the cost of that one ticket is low, most people don't see the cumulative effect. But then it's also a "hidden" tax on the poor.

Offline Robert Scott

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2021, 03:47:59 pm »


But lots of the same folk are happy to part with good money for National Lottery tickets.

Nowt as strange as folk, I guess.   ;)

It's my contribution so that very rich people can afford to go to the Royal Opera House.

Offline topcat

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2021, 03:53:42 pm »


But lots of the same folk are happy to part with good money for National Lottery tickets.

Nowt as strange as folk, I guess.   ;)

It's my contribution so that very rich people can afford to go to the Royal Opera House.

Thanks Robert: much appreciated :)

Online Tomferry

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2021, 03:59:31 pm »
I remember having a conversation travelling to a mine one day with a mate , we was talking about condition it’s in etc etc , i said I think you are most likely to have a accident driving 300 miles to the mine , than actually have a serious accident in the mine itself ? Views on this most welcome

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2021, 04:05:14 pm »
I think that depends a lot on who you're with in the mine.

Some folk are just plain clumsy!   :o

Online Tomferry

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2021, 04:07:49 pm »
Now that is a very fair comment  :lol:

I am far from a expert but I do only go with people I trust are confident, if I was to ever take a new person I would make sure they are properly equipped aware of the dangers and then baby sit them haha so luckily my “group” / friends are very good via memory  ;)

Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2021, 04:14:55 pm »
It also depends on the mine / cave - some are more stable than others & some have more hidden dangers.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2021, 04:21:11 pm »
I would say that you are most likely to have an accident driving 300 miles home from the mine.

Driving tired is in many ways worse than driving drunk, though there is no "legal limit" or any law on the subject so far as I'm aware. You might be ok at the start of the journey, but it gets progressively worse. As you get more tired, your judgement is affected, you just want to get home and the temptation is to keep going. I know several cavers who are lucky to be alive after falling asleep a the wheel, my father was not so lucky.

That said, there have been 10 caving fatalities in the UK (excepting natural causes) since I started caving 15 years ago and I haven't heard of any cavers killed travelling to/ from caves (that's not to say that there haven't been any), so perhaps caving is actually more dangerous than the journey...

Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2021, 04:24:41 pm »
"due care & attention"

Offline crickleymal

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2021, 04:38:33 pm »
I remember having a conversation travelling to a mine one day with a mate , we was talking about condition it’s in etc etc , i said I think you are most likely to have a accident driving 300 miles to the mine , than actually have a serious accident in the mine itself ? Views on this most welcome
I've said this before but 15 years ago I had trouble getting life insurance because I admitted being a caver. They were not at all worried about my 90 mile round trip commute by motorbike however.
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Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2021, 04:43:30 pm »
Back to familiarity breeding contempt.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2021, 05:00:07 pm »
Back to familiarity breeding contempt.

In the case of the insurers (who are very hot on statistics), I suspect it's more a case of 'unfamiliarity breeds caution'. I doubt that they have enough statistics for caving, so probably assume the worst. Meanwhile, they have lots of statistics for motorbikes.

Offline mikem

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2021, 05:16:34 pm »
Yep, the only time they hear about it is during prolonged call outs (mind you I did see a report that the French had started charging for mountain rescues)

Offline topcat

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2021, 08:46:19 pm »
When I was climbing seriously, it always struck me as bizzare that I carried more lead kit at, say, Stanage than I did on a multi day Alpine route.  Got into a number of 'why the f... didn't I bring...' epics.
Abbing of a camera strap to reach the glacier comes to mind.....

Offline Speleofish

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2021, 08:57:55 pm »
Peg hammer and EBs to hack steps up a grade 4 gully at the top of a long rock route in the dolomites. It was summer, so we didn't think we'd need anything complicated. Possibly the most mind expanding thing I've ever done...

Had there been a next time, I might have been a little better prepared. 

Offline topcat

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2021, 09:41:32 pm »
Peg hammer and EBs to hack steps up a grade 4 gully at the top of a long rock route in the dolomites. It was summer, so we didn't think we'd need anything complicated. Possibly the most mind expanding thing I've ever done...

Had there been a next time, I might have been a little better prepared.

Been in a similar situation on the Ben, and Shelterstone.  Asked my wife to untie and just hold the ropes in one hand, and reconnect when (and if) I lived to find a belay.  Oddly, I think of them as happy days.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2021, 09:51:53 pm »
You never feel more alive than after a brush with death  :lol:

Online Fulk

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2021, 11:52:35 pm »
Hmmmm . . . not sure I agree with that.

Offline Speleofish

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2021, 06:23:21 am »
I've always tended to collapse in slightly hysterical laughter.

Online Tomferry

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Re: When the unexpected happens
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2021, 07:29:03 am »
I am at the bottom of caving ladder only done a few I remember my first trip to Swildons my mate has been many times we approached the sump he said we doing it I said he’ll yes ! He went through pulled the rope my go I did it popped my head. Out and said that’s the most stupid thing I have ever done  :lol: he was surprised  I did it though so was a nice self achievement.

 

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