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sports risk

Human Error in Sports

The International Luge Federation and Vancouver Olympic officials have said that their investigation into the fatal crash of 21-year-old Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili on Friday showed that "there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track" and it was the result of human error.( )

Human error is basically an error made by a person, a mistake, a lapse in judgment, a miscalculation. The airline industry, rail, military and medicine have completed a tremendous amount of studies on human factors in major accidents and near misses. Lack of training, inattention to detail, and poor decision making are often the root cause of a significant number of serious accidents and these accidents are expensive in terms of lives and property. Many of these incidents caused by human error could have been prevented / reduced with adaptations, with education and with system interventions.

Human errors have an important influence on risk management and health and safety. Its perhaps time this was taken seriously within sports and events. The analysis of human error and subsequent risk reduction should be a significant concern for all sports; in particular those high risk sports. By addressing the risk management process with a systematic approach to this analysis, human error potential can be managed, its probability reduced and risk controlled.

Back in Canada, CBS News continued on to report that the Olympic officials have since reduced the length of the run, reshaped the ice from the edges in the last turn of the run and erected a 12 foot high wooden wall to cover the exposed steel beams where Nodar Kumaritashvili flew off the track. These are solid engineering controls to the hazard identified; which ultimately eliminate the consequence in the event of human error. Although, officials have said they have modified the exit in the curve, only as a preventative measure " to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again".

This tragic incident is an unfortunate reminder that the risk management process should always consider the potential for human error and eliminate the hazard using the hierarchy of controls. Even in sports and events there is the potential to introduce control measures by taking a hard look at how we can influence the human element of risks.