Accident analysis framework for equestrian activities developed

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Equestrian activities rarely use accident analysis, the Australian study team noted. Picture by Robert Balog

Researchers have taken an important first step towards designing and evaluating an accident analysis framework for horse-related activities.

Meredith Chapman, Kate Fenner and Matthew Thomas have said horse-related activities can be dangerous, with riders citing hyperactive horse behavior as a major cause of injury. Other related risks include horse size and weight, speed capabilities, unpredictability or reactive behaviors.

The trio, writing in the diary Securitynoted that horse riding is classified as a high-risk industry in Australia, along with mining, aviation, construction and rail.

“Most high-risk industries have regulatory frameworks, implement workplace safety management systems, incident reporting and comprehensive accident analysis to mitigate risk,” they said.

“In Australia, equestrian work and non-work environments have few such regulations or processes and seem to lack an understanding of the value of exploring lessons that could be learned, analyzing incidents, accidents and deaths.”

Equestrian activities rarely use accident analysis, they said.

Chapman and Thomas from Central Queensland University and Fenner from the University of Queensland said crash analysis frameworks such as the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) are widely used in high risk industries to determine risk reduction strategies.

The study team set out to develop and test an equestrian-specific accident analysis framework that includes elements of human error, horse-related risk factors and environmental factors.

Horseback riding, they said, involves a triad of human, equestrian and environmental factors that can contribute to accidents. Horse-related activities therefore require an accident framework that can interpret all three factors, as well as assess their contributions, relationships, and any other relevant influences. It also takes into account professional and non-professional environments.

“All human and equestrian errors, behaviors, responses and acts are equally important in determining the cause of an equestrian accident,” they said.

“Additionally, by identifying risk mitigation actions that humans can take to reduce certain unpredictable horse behaviors, an industry-specific accident analysis framework is likely to promote proactive management of human-horse interactions. .”

In the first stage of their research, the study set out to adapt the basic HFACS crash framework for use in the equestrian context. After initial development, its validity was assessed against a set of horse-related accident scenarios, which resulted in some changes. This led to a new category specifically related to the horse.

As a result of further testing, further refinements have been made to what they have called the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System – Horse Riding (HFACS-Eq) framework.

In the next phase, 10 simulated accident scenarios were evaluated in the framework by the three authors, acting individually. The results showed that the HFACS-Eq framework achieved a moderately reliable to reliable percentage agreement in terms of crash coding items. Concordance was greater than 68% in all scenarios at the category and nano-code level, except for one scenario.

“This study is the first step toward an equestrian industry-specific crash analysis framework to improve industry safety,” they said.

Elimination of possible biases and validation with real incident data are needed before the framework’s wider application can be recommended, the authors said.

In discussing their work, they said the equitation is somewhat unfamiliar with high risk safety and risk mitigation systems and processes.

“Therefore, when initially testing HFACS-Eq, there was a need to create descriptive analysis language, terminology and definitions specific to riding.”

Upon further review, it was pointed out that the classification coding required frequent adaptation and simplification. The study results show the importance of having a clear and concise industry-specific framework, they said.

“This reinforces the importance of industry-ready apps.”

Ongoing revisions and modifications to these frameworks are likely to improve user knowledge and support new learnings from accident analysis and ultimately risk reduction through improved practices and safety management, especially in riding.

Analysis of 10 accident scenarios identified the horse as a 60% contributor to incident causation during human-horse interactions, they said.

“This would indicate that human acts or omissions, supervision, organizational factors and the environment contributed 40 percent.” This finding, they said, could have been overlooked and its significance for missed riding had the original HFACS been used for the study.

They said further work using a larger sample of crashes could be beneficial.

While the HFACS-Eq framework emphasized the horse as a contributing factor in most accident scenarios, it came with a strong association with supervisory skills or abilities and the physical environment.

Categories related to the level of supervision and planning for safer human-horse interactions frequently emerged as accident factors.

This supports the use of a systematic and integrated accident analysis framework to extract “organizational deficits” that may contribute to horse-related accidents.

“The HFACS-Eq framework has the potential to help future investigators locate active system failures that lead to an accident, highlighting areas to target training, support and improvements to mitigate future accidents in the horse riding.”

They described their work as the first step towards designing and evaluating an accident analysis framework for horse riding.

“This study highlights the importance of organizational and procedural failures, separating the horse as a contributing factor as well as the environment in which the human acts or makes risk-informing decisions.

“Further research is needed using the HFACS-Eq framework to assess real incident data and eliminate possible biases before the broader application of the framework can be recommended for improving safety in riding.”

Chapman, M.; Fenner, K.; Thomas, MJW Development of a human factors approach for the analysis of human accidents related to horses and preliminary evaluation with simulated incidents. Security 2022, 8, 72. https://doi.org/10.3390/safety8040072

The study, published under a Creative Commons Licensecan be read here.

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