As demands on guest and public safety within ski resorts increases, and litigation can mean deadly publicity ski resorts must work hard to ensure every incident is well documented. Even with changes to law, and in some cases specific local legislation to help limit liability for the resort, there is still the need to build intelligence from each incident to improve procedure and on hill safety. In this article we look at the benefits of hiring a specific accident investigator against using a mobile app like Medic52 to help get coverage of all incidents.

The chalk man in the snow

Typically we see ski area accident investigations take witness statements after the fact, when the witness or patient has had time to forget key portions of the event. Photos are also taken by re-enacting the event later on using an actor or other method to place the casualty. This results in the chalk man syndrome where it is representative of the scene, but can be argued with reasonable doubt that weather, conditions or position could be different after the passage of time. Disposable cameras were once employed to fix this, but they are not always developed well, or get lost or damaged in a patrollers pocket.

Of course, looking at a chalk man in the snow isn’t easy so what are the other options?

First, let’s look at a dedicated staff member, the accident investigator. Ideally this person has some experience in incident investigation, and a background or formal training in risk management. Ideally they will also come with some legal knowledge of the environment that the resort operates within in order to collect and distribute required information. They will visit the scene of each incident taking photos, collecting witness statements and documenting the environment that led to the incident.

Dedicated Accident/Incident investigator:

Here are the pro’s of an incident investigator
+ takes pressure off regular patrollers leaving them to do what they do best
+ tech isn’t readily available to measure jumps and make diagrams on site, so a person is best to do this
+ covers major incidents
+ takes sole responsibility for the data they collect
+ having one person means consistency of the data and reporting
+ should have legal environment knowledge

On the down side however:

– lot’s of paperwork
– needs to chase down and match up incident reports from patrollers (pocket book forms, short forms or long forms)
– unlikely to have much time to do anything else on or off the hill, so dedicated to this task
– very specialised and niche
– doesn’t cover minor / potential developing to serious events. Maybe didn’t think it was important enough.
– requires debriefing to the patrollers to change the situation
– what happens on their day off
– may need to re-enter all paperwork into a database for some sort of reporting
– two incidents at the same time break this system, one person cannot be in two places at once
– training cost is high with staff turnover, seasonal results in no handover

Introducing some technology could help us spread the load a bit, and cut down on handling errors, and time to chase down pertinent information. Each patroller can take the essential details on scene, then complete the record in a patrol room or medical centre out of the elements.

Ski resort incident management system:

+ covers 99% of incidents with GPS coordinates, photos and statements on scene by having every patroller on scene taking the details
+ data is never misread
+ data is not destroyed
+ data is alive and can be used for the greater good
+ on the scheme images are better than chalk man in the snow
+ GPS locations provided on scene
+ real time statistics available to management
+ every patroller trained in basic data collection
+ every patroller invested and responsible for the safety of the guest via data they collect
+ report compilation time is cut down
+ no double handling of the data from paper to database
+ training done, and backed up by experiential training from other patrollers

The mobile data down side:

– relies on battery power by each patroller
– resort must be engaged to invest in technology for safety
– information can be mistyped
– patrollers could decide not to use their own devices, so devices needed to be provided

On a cost level, a system could set you back $5-15,000 for the year, with a set of devices for work purposes around $10,000 which will last 3 to four years giving you an investment of $55,000 over three years for the vast majority of coverage to your incidents. A dedicated accident investigator could be employed for the four/five month season at around $12-15,000 depending on your rates of pay and the skill level of the person.

Ideally the ski resort risk manager and patrol leadership team should be actively investigating any data collected to see what can be done to improve safety in the resort. Delays or loss of this information can hinder that process.

In summary you will always need a risk manager, or someone to coordinate all this vital information. However it can make it a lot easier to have the data collected in a more crowd sourced manner than one person attempting to chase it all down. 99% of your incidents can be covered with technology, and that means even a seemingly minor incident has coverage in case it escalates.

Are we biased towards technology? Let us know in the comments or tweet to @medic52app

Duncan Isaksen-Loxton