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ASSESSING AND ASSURING EFFECTIVE SAFETY MANAGEMENT AT CALIFORNIA SKI RESORTS

Richard Penniman1, Mont Hubbard1,2, Daniel A. GregorieM.D.1*
1SnowSport Safety Foundation
2Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Davis

INTRODUCTION.  There are no evident metrics for patron and public safety on the slopes and trails of California ski resorts or any evident design, construction or operational safety standards (excepting wire rope transport). There is no publicly available and accessible resort-specific or statewide data on the number of serious accidents and injuries. Resort documentation of existing safety management policies, procedures, methods, and materials is also not evident. We report on research of an indicator of statewide resort safety, an attempted assessment of the current effectiveness of resort safety management, attempts to develop standards as well as introduce innovation, and efforts to establish public access to resort safety information and accident statistics. We propose three concomitant interventions to assure and promote improvement of effective scientific safety management at California ski resorts.

METHODS. Requests for safety management plans were made to the 26 ski resorts in California.  A request for completion of a written survey was sent to all resorts. An on-mountain survey of 16 accident prevention and injury reduction practices (Penniman, 2012) was done at all 26 resorts in 2010 and repeated in 2016/2017. The California Department of Health (CDPH) injury database was searched for ski injury related emergency department (ED) visits and hospital admissions. Safety transparency legislation was introduced in California to mandate public disclosure of resort specific safety information as well as accident and injury statistics. Two of us participated as members of ASTM Committee F27 (ASTM, 2019) in its efforts to establish terrain park safety standards and one developed a design of terrain park jump to limit equivalent fall height (Levy et al., 2015) and solicited resort test sites.

RESULTS.  None of the resorts produced the requested safety plans or returned written surveys. The 2010 on-mountain survey of safety practices documented considerable inadequacy and variability between and within resorts and the repeat showed little change (survey reports will be presented and are at snowsportsafety.org). Research using the CPDH database documented a five-year statewide annual average of over 11,500 ED visits and 625 hospital admissions. Resort safety transparency legislation was introduced, successfully passed by the California legislature in 2010 and 2011 and vetoed by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown. Resorts approached as test sites for the experimental terrain park jump design demonstration all declined participation but the demonstration was accomplished in Italy. Eight years of ASTM F27 Committee efforts to develop terrain park jump design and construction standards have resulted in a standard specifying terminology (ASTM, 2018).

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS. The uniform failure to respond to requests for safety plans or completion of a safety management survey suggests significant resort resistance. We could not find evidence that resorts accept accountability for patron safety or that their patrons have any safety management information or metrics to compare in their choice of resorts. We found resorts uniformly unwilling to provide access to information and data necessary to assess actual and comparative resort safety management as well as to enable independent safety improvement research. We conclude that the volume of annual injuries serious enough to require hospital care and the absence of the documentation of effective safety management constitute a significant unaddressed personal injury and public safety concern that the resorts do not appear motivated to address.

We propose three interventions to motivate resort documentation of effective safety management as well as to provide public and patron assurance of continuing safety improvement: (1) Public access to quantifiable facility-specific safety information and statistics; (2) Concomitant promotion of patron awareness and use of comparative safety information in their choice of resorts; and (3) Independent research of the publicly accessible data and the application of scientific principles to the design, construction and operation of snow sport facilities.

REFERENCES.

  • Penniman, D, 2012, The California mountain resort safety report: survey methodology and scoring criteria. In: Johnson RJ, Shealy JE, Greenwald RM, Scher IS (Eds.),  Trauma Saf. 19: 171-183.
  • Levy D, Hubbard M, McNeil JA, Swedberg, A, 2015, A design rationale for safer terrain park jumps that limit equivalent fall height. Sports Eng., 18: 227-239. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12283-015-0182-6
  • ASTM, 2019, Committee F27 on Snow and Water Sports.https://www.astm.org/COMMIT/SCOPES/F27.htm .           2018, Standard terminology relating to snow sport freestyle terrain park jumps, doi:10.1520/F3237-18