Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Risk Perception and Safety Practices; the Implications for Safety Initiatives and Incident Prevention in an Outdoor Adventure Activity

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posted on 2022-10-17, 13:31 authored by Colin Powell


Participation in outdoor adventure activities can result in injuries, medical conditions and fatalities. Whilst risk is present in outdoor adventure, the literature indicates that engagement with risk is often desired and results in valued outcomes.

The way in which risk is perceived and responded to has been described as being linked to a range of socio-psychological variables. These variables may act as a filter to messages that are designed to promote safety and reduce incidents. This thesis proposes that an understanding of participants’ knowledge, beliefs, and experience and the meaning of an activity to them, can support the development of approaches to the promotion of safety that have contextual relevance.

Using participant centred methods, this research aimed to generate recommendations to inform the development of safety initiatives and incident prevention strategies associated with an outdoor adventure activity. Kayaking in the sea environment was used as a case study.

Questionnaires administered to individuals who use kayaks in the sea, identified a range of health impacts, perceived cause and safety practices. Variation in response was noted according to the type of kayak used, activities undertaken and characteristics of respondents. These findings, together with the results of an observational study and issues identified in the review of the literature, were used to generate themes to be explored in semi-structured interviews with interviewees who used different types of kayaks and varied in experience and immersion in the activity.

The interviews identified a range of motives for participation and illuminated the meaning of risk to participants. Socio-psychological factors influencing both their own and others perception, assessment and response to risk were described. The interviewees proposed measures to enhance safety; these focused upon education, training, planning and preparation.

The quantitative and qualitative findings were utilised to generate specific recommendations that could inform safety initiatives and incident prevention strategies linked to kayaking. Broad themes identified in the recommendations were regarded as being of relevance to other voluntary risk taking activities.

It is concluded that there is a need to recognise that there are different reasons for engaging with risk and that within a broad activity, there are likely to be differential experiences of risk. On the basis of this, it is proposed that a generic approach to the management of risk may be inappropriate; it is advocated that there is a need to target safety initiatives and incident prevention strategies at particular subgroups of participants and for safety guidance to be context specific.



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

Publication year


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