18 Jul Lessons from climbing
When I’m not working hard to keep people safe in their workplace I spend as much time as possible out amongst the crags and mountains. In summer this means rock climbing and in winter it’s either ice climbing on frozen waterfalls or ski mountaineering on the glaciers of the European Alps.
You might think this is something of a contradiction given my job, but I’d disagree. In fact I’ve recognised many parallels with the situations I find in the world of work. When climbing I have an objective, a desired outcome – usually reaching the top of a crag face, waterfall or mountain. One outcome that I certainly don’t want is for me or anyone around me to get hurt in the process.
There are many hazards that could cause serious harm when climbing and a significant part of my thoughts go towards preventing these from being realised. To add to the problems the nature of the hazards can change very rapidly e.g. the weather, tiredness, strength, the stability of the rock, ice or snow, the height above the last protection point, the security of the belay. All of these factors need to be considered and addressed along with some of the more static factors like my ability, who I’m climbing with and the route selection.
But central to staying safe is the choice of appropriate behaviours, which are dependent on risk perception, attitudes, beliefs and values – how much the achievement of my goal means to me.
Peer pressure can be another significant factor, which is one reason why the choice of climbing partner is so important. It’s good to be pushed, but within limits. Looking out for each other and making decisions based on everyone’s abilities comes naturally in a strong team and is essential to success as well as to survival. We all lose concentration from time to time and knowing that your partner is looking out for you can provide reassurance.
Remaining safe is not about staying at home, wrapped in cotton wool and never pushing yourself. It’s about recognising the hazards and controlling the risks. To help you do this, use the simple technique of reassessing the situation as it changes and asking yourself the question “what could go wrong, how could I get hurt?” This is particularly relevant whilst I’m climbing, but moreso during the most dangerous part of the day’s activity, driving to and from the crag.