5 Rules That Help Keep Us Safe
A huge part of what we do at Oxygen Conservation is about adventure!
Our culture is built on the values of impact, environment, and adventure. That means, we push ourselves out of our comfort zone and experience different things in new and unique ways. What it doesn’t mean is doing things that are unsafe.
Working as much as we do in the great outdoors can be exhilarating, challenging, and incredibly changeable. Whether you’re an environmentalist, adventure guide, or perhaps most dangerously, an executive in business occasionally allowed outside, safety should always be your top priority. The vast and unpredictable nature of outdoor environments means that accidents can and sadly do happen, but I’ve learnt that following these five rules can significantly reduce the risks and keep you safe however you choose to live, work, or play in in the great outdoors.
1 – DRIVING IS OUR BIGGEST RISK
Driving, whether it’s on remote dirt roads, rugged terrain, or on the way to and from an Estate, often poses the most significant risk when working in the environment. It’s therefore vital to recognise and manage the risks associated with travel of all kinds, especially driving.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
The most important aspect of travel in our work is selecting the right vehicle for the journey. Many of our team drive electric vehicles which while minimising our impact on the environment, also provides a more comfortable driving experience.
The need to charge also had the added advantage of mandating breaks and comfort stops – I appreciate many of you reading this that don’t currently drive electric vehicles will think that charging is disruptive or annoying but the truth is that it’s more of a feature than a bug once you make the change.
It’s a lot like making the change from Windows to Mac, it takes a short period of commitment but you’ll be delighted you did – everything is just better [our Head of Operations Dave Keir does not endorse this perspective!]
For the members of the team that most often visit remote and inaccessible sites, there is not yet a practical electric vehicle available to do the job, especially where ground conditions are uneven, wet, and slippery. Therefore, we always work hard to find the right compromise between the right vehicle for both the journey and the destination.
Before embarking on any journey, especially into the wilderness, it’s important to ensure that a vehicle is in excellent working condition. Regular maintenance checks can help prevent breakdowns in remote areas where assistance may be far away. A flat tire or engine failure in the wilderness can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation, so preventative measures are essential.
2 – BE PREPARED
The Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” is a fundamental principle when working outdoors. Increasingly, the climate can be incredibly unpredictable, especially in remote and inaccessible locations. To stay safe, I like to follow some of these principles.
Your calendar is your best friend, and calendar discipline is possibly one of the most impactful things anyone can do to improve their performance in business and life. Plan your time, know when you’re travelling, where you’re going, what you’re doing when you get there. And share that information with others who care about you and can help if you need it.
Packing is an absolute skill; it’s why the military spend so much time and energy teaching people what to pack and how to pack it. If you carry too much equipment, you’ll be slow and burn through energy too quickly, if you don’t pack enough, you’ll be unprepared for the experience.
As we’ve travelled more and more, I’ve enjoyed testing and improving what I pack and how. My list always includes: phone, IT kits, sunglasses, water, food, appropriate clothing, and footwear. I’m working on remembering sunscreen and (ecologically appropriate) insect repellent! All too often people don’t travel with the most basic equipment and supplies – do you?
3 – COMMUNICATE
Communication is your lifeline when working in remote areas. It can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a life-threatening situation.
If you’re going far (or wild) go together
At Oxygen Conservation, it is rare that we travel alone, especially when working remotely. This removes risks associated with lone working and offers many advantages from a productivity, learning, and culture perspective.
The Importance of Your Phone
Carry a fully charged mobile phone with you at all times. However, keep in mind that mobile phone coverage can be unreliable in remote areas. Where you can familiarise yourself with areas where you might lose signal and plan your activities and communication accordingly. I tend to travel with a phone and iPad on different networks to maximise potential coverage.
Staying In Touch
Check-in with your designated contact regularly, especially if you’re in a remote location. Let them know when you’ve safely completed your tasks or returned from an adventure. Establish a communication schedule and stick to it! Missed check-ins can trigger unnecessary worry and potential rescue efforts – we’ve trialed this process in real-time and whilst the person was perfectly safe and well, it was worrying for all involved but did show the process worked perfectly.
4 – EXPERIENCE IS AN ADVANTAGE (AND A THREAT)
Experience can be your greatest asset in the great outdoors, but it can also lead to overconfidence. It’s crucial to find a balance between utilising your expertise and respecting the ever-changing nature of outdoor environments.
Knowing Your Limits
Understanding your skill level and the conditions you can safely navigate is vital. Don’t take unnecessary risks or attempt tasks beyond your capabilities.
Overconfidence can lead to poor decision-making and increase the likelihood of accidents.
We recently took our wonderful team coasteering with wonderful guides in Pembrokeshire. The final set of natural platforms provided a number of options up to a 10-meter final jump – I was so proud to see everyone choose the level that worked for them, pushing themselves safely just outside of their comfort zones.
Don’t Assume Others Limits
It’s also vitally important to recognise the limits of those within your group, or the limitation of your equipment and conditions.
Across the last eighteen months, we’ve visited more than 70 unique Estates in addition to our own land holdings many times. On each occasion, we’re mindful of the limitations of the members of our groups and especially how the light and weather conditions change in different places.
On one occasion when visiting an Estate offered for sale privately, the elderly owner managed to get his vehicle stuck at the top of a munro meaning we had to walk for five hours off the hillside in the blazing summer heat. We were the only people in the group that had carried water and were wearing appropriate footwear. This proved incredibly important as we supported our 72-year-old guide down safely in his deck shoes.
Humility & Honesty
As beneficial as experience can be, it too often can lead to complacency. It is important to dynamically assess changing conditions and your changing abilities. Humility and honesty are so important, especially for senior leaders who have spent far longer than they might like to remember in the corner office or coffee shop rather than on the hill in the wet and cold.
It’s also important to keep learning – even experienced adventures can benefit from additional knowledge and training. Attending workshops, courses, or training seminars can provide valuable insights and help you adapt to evolving outdoor challenges – we’re planning on taking the whole team to an advanced off-road driving course in the spring.
5 – DON’T DO ANYTHING YOU THINK IS UNSAFE
The golden rule of outdoor safety is simple: if it doesn’t feel safe, don’t do it. Your intuition is your most powerful tool in assessing potential dangers.
Trust Your Judgement
Our experiences of viewing estates have included every form of vehicle imaginable, some often not as comfortable as you’d hope. This week however was the first time I’ve had to say; “No, I’m sorry that’s not safe!”
Earlier this week we visited a large Estate in Cornwall and upon arrival the selling agent asked us to climb into the back of a gator utility vehicle.
The back of the vehicle was also full of hay meaning we would be required to sit atop the bales. Therefore, we politely shared that we thought this was unsafe and wouldn’t be using the vehicle, instead we’d prefer to use our own. It’s never comfortable to challenge someone on their own land but that can be when it’s most important to trust your judgement.
If a situation or task feels risky, pause, and re-evaluate. Consult with colleagues or experts if needed. It’s better to postpone or modify a plan than to push forward when you’re uncertain. This experience served as an excellent coaching prompt to share with members of our team and every one of you reading this piece.
Work as a Team
In group settings, encourage open communication and a culture of safety. If any team member expresses concerns, take them seriously and consider alternative approaches. The collective wisdom of a team can help mitigate risks and ensure everyone’s well-being.
While the natural world offers incredible opportunities for adventure, it also presents unique challenges. By prioritising safety through responsible driving, preparedness, effective communication, a balanced approach to experience, and a steadfast commitment to avoiding unnecessary risks, you can enjoy the wonders of nature while keeping yourself and your team safe.
Remember, nature is awe-inspiring, but it demands respect and caution.
Whether you’re a business leader overseeing outdoor operations or an adventurer seeking thrills in the wild, these principles can help you navigate the great outdoors safely and successfully.
Please let me know what your principles are for safe adventure, but apologies if I don’t reply immediately, I’m going wild swimming!