NSS STC Research Project

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NSS STC Research Project

Postby wvcaveman » May 12, 2011 2:44 pm

The National Speleological Society (NSS) Safety and Techniques Committee is conducting a research project in conjunction with the Oakland University Occupational Safety and Health Program to determine the prevalence of close calls in caving. For the purposes of this research, "close call" will be defined as an event (planned or unplanned) in a cave that could have resulted in injury or fatality, but did not.

Based on anonymous responses from participants, a database of cave-related "close-call" events will be established in order to identify the most prevalent likelihoods of illnesses, injuries, and fatalities that may occur from visiting caves. This information will be used in caver education and cave exploration planning in order to help cavers avoid conditions and acts that may lead to undesired events.

Below is a link to the consent form of this questionnaire. If you chose to participate, please click the link and review the consent form.
http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/407591/Safety-Close-Calls-in-Cave-Exploration-Cave-Science-and-Cave-Conservation

Finally, please do forward this email and the above link to anyone who visits caves, to caving-related email lists, and to outdoor-related email lists, as you see fit.

thanks!
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby Scott McCrea » May 12, 2011 3:14 pm

Hi Aaron,

I think this is valuable info and will promote and enhance safety for all cavers. However, I'm a little leery of how Oakland U. will use it. Will it be available to insurance companies to help figure rates? Or, attorneys researching cases? If so, I think I'd rather keep my mouth shut. Maybe you can explain and ease my mind.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby Phil Winkler » May 12, 2011 3:41 pm

The NSS NEWS ran a column for years called Hits and Near Misses. Might be worth looking into as it could save a lot of time and effort.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby wvcaveman » May 12, 2011 4:04 pm

Scott: Academic research dealing with humans -in any way, including questionnaires- is subject to approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), who review and approve or reject the research proposal depending on the protections of humans who may be involved in the research. Oakland U, the NSS, insurance companies, etc. cannot use the outcomes of this research for anything. The only people who see the raw responses are myself and my fellow researchers. We are subject to very specific regulations and requirements to protect the identities of the respondents so that no harm can come to participants. Getting approval for this project has taken four months of review, editing, and updating. Prior to that, was human subjects training for two months. All of this was for a questionnaire. Years ago I was involved in a project where we did surface electromyography testing on subjects. That project took six months to get approved. Institutional Review Boards take this stuff very, very seriously. You can click on the link to review the consent form without submitting any information at all. From there you can close the browser window, elect to not participate, or chose to participate. Its completely up to you. You can also start the questionnaire and elect to discontinue participation. Again, its completely up to you. No place in this particular questionnaire are personal identifiers collected and if anyone were to include them, we would delete that information. Again, its completely up to you to decide if you want to participate or not.

Phil: Thanks for the heads up on that. Could be a very useful source of information. I have NSS News going to back into the 1980s, but my brain is fuzzy a lot of the time, so I don't recall this column. About what period of time was the near misses column published?

regards,
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby wvcaveman » May 12, 2011 4:16 pm

Scott: Since my response above is a bit long winded, to specifically answer your question my employer Oakland University (which is supporting me in this work), has an Institutional Review Board that reviewed and approved particular this project. This is why the research is a joint effort of the NSS STC and Oakland U.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby Scott McCrea » May 12, 2011 4:27 pm

So, say you find that a caver has a "near miss" every 4.732 caving trips. That is easy, clear data for insurance companies to compare caving to motocross, scuba diving, frolf, mountian biking, etc and adjust rates accordingly. Same with attorneys. They could say you were involved in a "dangerous/hazardous" activity and they have IRB approved data to back it up.

Personally, I want to see the results and learn from them. But, I don't want it to bite us later.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby wyandottecaver » May 12, 2011 4:36 pm

:exactly:

just cause the respondents aren't revealed doesn't mean the data won't be used. In this case, I would almost be certain some risk analysis guru from the insurance companies will read it. They may or may not use it....but in this case the best policy is :shhh:
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby NZcaver » May 12, 2011 5:01 pm

Scott McCrea wrote:So, say you find that a caver has a "near miss" every 4.732 caving trips. That is easy, clear data for insurance companies to compare caving to motocross, scuba diving, frolf, mountian biking, etc and adjust rates accordingly. Same with attorneys. They could say you were involved in a "dangerous/hazardous" activity and they have IRB approved data to back it up.

Personally, I want to see the results and learn from them. But, I don't want it to bite us later.

A possible concern, but even if the survey did compare hours/trips to incidents - what if it shows caving to be a relatively low-risk activity instead? A non-injury "near miss" in every 100.742 trips? Or 1,000 hours of caving? It's my understanding that insurance companies base stats more on actual accident statistics rather than somewhat-subjective "near miss" data. Aaron may be able to clarify that.

Does your life/health insurance company know you go caving/climbing/rappelling etc? Many years ago I had life insurance in NZ, and I needed a special rider because I declared caving as one of my interests. I could either choose to increase my payments slightly, or decrease my benefit slightly. I chose the latter, which was no big deal at the time.

An insurance person in NZ (unrelated to my policy) later told me if I had "forgotten" to mention caving and just happened to die horribly in a cave, it would probably still be covered. Given the relatively rare instance of cave fatalities, a grieving family can potentially generate a fair amount of bad press to encourage a reluctant insurance company to waive small technicalities and pay up. I realize the US insurance empire works a little differently, but frankly it doesn't keep me awake at night.

wyandottecaver wrote:just cause the respondents aren't revealed doesn't mean the data won't be used. In this case, I would almost be certain some risk analysis guru from the insurance companies will read it. They may or may not use it....but in this case the best policy is :shhh:

Completely disagree. I, for one, would rather there be good participation and therefore (presumably) better data than just assuming or wondering (or ignoring) how caving really stacks up in terms of overall incidents, safety and training. I'm involved with ongoing cave visitation monitoring projects, and part of that has been to collect data to see just how much visitation certain caves receive in relation to the relatively minuscule amount of actual incidents requiring outside assistance. Translation - even taking all the spelunkers out there into account, caving may actually be statistically safer than many other outdoor pursuits. Regardless, we (the caving community) should constantly strive to improve our own risk awareness and overall caving safety.

I'll be filling out the questionnaire.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby self-deleted_user » May 12, 2011 5:03 pm

FWIW I looked at the survey, ya'all might want to look at it before judging. It merely asks for the incident information itself, not how long you have caved, not the number of trips you've been on, nothing. There is no way I see to get any sort of statistical figures for use. Much like CaveDoc's article on harness hanging which had simply incident examples and no way of getting any sort of how often things happen or anything like that.

And also fwiw there was an article published in one of the UK caving journals years back that actually determined the chances of a severe injury or death while caving. So uh, projections like that are already out there if insurance companies wanted to find it. But basically iirc you would have to cave for about 5 hours every weekend for 150 years to have a non fatal accident. I mean, only so good you can make stats on such things, but that sounds safer than a lot of things to me! haha Let me find the link....ah here you go Caving Accident Statistics they also say where the paper was published. That might help you too, Aaron.

So yeah. Basically already proven caving is very safe. And there is no way to get stats like that from this particular survey anyway.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby wvcaveman » May 12, 2011 5:13 pm

Scott and Wyandotte Caver:

OK, now I understand what you mean by the questions. I thought you were worried about individual responses being shared.

So, considering the concern about comparison to other activities like motocross, perhaps we should be asking this question instead: who do you want educating others about caves and what is in them, including -and even specifically- the hazards? That should be us, right?

As we're all aware, NSS has made similar statements regarding access of NSS members to caves that could be closed due to WNS. The reason for this is that NSS members should be the eyes and ears "under the ground" (i.e. in the cave, eh?) because we are best equipped, most experienced, and most knowledgeable in order to understand and interpret the conditions. Others should not be interpreting conditions for us, right? I think we all would agree on that. So, since these questions come up frequently in numerous venues, we are trying make sure we address them as accurately and with as much collective expertise as possible. This project is one such effort.

Hope it helps.

regards,
Aaron
Last edited by wvcaveman on May 12, 2011 11:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby Scott McCrea » May 12, 2011 7:20 pm

So, what does the University plan to do with the data? What's in it for them?

I think this can produce some great info, just not sure it is a good idea to share it with someone/thing that might not have the same goals as cavers.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby wvcaveman » May 12, 2011 11:24 pm

Hi Scott,

I'll try to explain in more detail. Oakland University is involved because OU is represented by me in this research. I am a professor at Oakland. I proposed the project, am conducting the study, will analyze the results, and will publish the results so you and the rest of the caving community can read and study the outcomes.

Oakland's IRB required me to meet the standards of this kind of human subjects research (anonymous questionnaire) because I work for Oakland U. The OU IRB approved the research, including the consents, only after I demonstrated to them that the research would yield usable results and that the human subjects who choose to participate would be at little to no risk. Because of this process, "Oakland" means me, the OU IRB, fellow researchers here, and our administrators. This kind of research project is standard in academia.

Research like this, but on different subjects of course, is going on all over the world all the time. It is new to us in caving because there haven't been very many IRB-approved human subjects research projects done among the caving population. There have been some, though. In the past, they've usually been done through mailers and not so much in the public -and mostly transparent- eye that social media provides.

So, your question "what's in it for them?" is the same as asking "Aaron, what's in it for you?" My answer to that question is in the consent form which I invite you to review if you would like:

"The project explores three areas believed to be critical for safe and conscientious cave exploration: (a) determination of the incidence of close-call events that could have resulted in injuries or fatalities, but didn't; (b) perceptions of the value of formal, curriculum-based cave-skills training; and (c) feedback in the form of impressions and experiences from current and former cave-skills training instructors.

"Findings from the study will be shared through peer-reviewed publications, training workshops, and informational briefs. Benefits of this project include identification of key training and education learning objectives to help train and inform cavers about specific cave-related hazards.

"This portion of the project involves the first component of the research: determination of the incidence of close-call events that could have resulted in injuries or fatalities, but didn't.

"You are being asked to participate in this study because you are considered to be among those with knowledge of the following: caves, cave skills, and/or training related to cave skills.

"This research intends to establish a database of cave-related "close-call" events in order to identify the most prevalent likelihoods of illnesses, injuries, and fatalities that may occur from caving. This information will be used in caver education and cave exploration planning in order to help cavers avoid conditions and acts that may lead to undesired events."


Please let me know if you have further questions and I'll try my best to answer them.

warm regards,
Aaron
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby Phil Winkler » May 13, 2011 7:23 am

Aaron,

The hits & near misses was likely in the late 70s or into the 80s. You might look to see who the editor was back then and ask him. I recall it because I contributed an item from a caving trip in Germany in 1977 or so.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby Scott McCrea » May 13, 2011 8:40 am

You can also search the digital archive.
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Re: NSS STC Research Project

Postby wvcaveman » May 13, 2011 11:10 am

Phil: thanks for the heads up on the Hits and Near Misses articles!
Scott: thanks for the link!

Starting from the USF link, I found that Hits and Near Misses was published in the late 1970s. The article I'm reading now is by Don Davison, Jr. who was the STC Chair at the time and contains discussion of sign in/out while in a cave as well as detailed discussion of three pin-type carabiners that were in use at that time. Its a great article and overall great resource. Thanks again for letting me know about this.
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