Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

An Approach for Awareness and Assessment of Risks in Outdoor Sports Activities

Elisa Pichini1,a, Fabio Massimo Zanzotto2,c, Elena Sofia Ruzzetti2, Arianna Patrizi2, Michele Mastromattei2, Simone Bruno2, Angelo Rodio3, Angelo Seneci4, Matteo Sanguineti5 and Laura Tomassini1,b

1Department of technological innovations and safety of plant products and anthropic settlement, Inail, Italy.

2Department of Enterprise Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Italy.

3Department of Human Sciences, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy.

4Outdoor Advisor, Italy.

5Italian Adventure Parks Association (PAI), Italy.


Over the last few years, the practice of outdoor sports has become increasingly widespread, transforming itself from a niche activity for a few, generally expert enthusiasts, to a real mass phenomenon. This has inevitably led to an increase in the number and severity of injuries, because the increased number of people exposed to the hazards, but also because of the new type of people exposed: with less knowledge of the hazards, with less awareness of the risks associated with them and sometimes less physically prepared to face the specific sporting activity.

On the other hand, the positive social and economic impact that the diffusion of these activities favours is undeniable, in terms of psychophysical benefits for the sportsmen, jobs linked to the assistance and support services offered to the sportsmen themselves and, not lastly, touristic activities induced in the frequented places.

However, like all phenomena, it must be analysed and managed, considering the new technologies available (GPS, internet, etc.) too, which of course can support operators and sportsmen but which, if not suitable or not effective or not correctly used, can even amplify the existing risks.

This work describes the analysis carried out, extended to the entire field of outdoor tourist activities, with particular attention to the mountain environment, aimed at studying its criticalities. It also briefly introduces the tools currently being studied for some outdoor activities practiced in "No Wild" land (at a totally or partially managed risk). Inail has conducted the work together with university researchers, category associations and outdoor specialists.

First of all, the analysis revealed the need for comparison and - where possible - alignment between the terminologies of the various sports disciplines (climbing, canyoning, mountain biking, etc.) with respect to the various categories of generally present hazards (natural hazards, hazards associated with characteristics of the route, hazards associated with any equipment used, etc.).

A standardised risk analysis method was then adapted to identify hazards, hazardous situations and potential damages associated with various outdoor sports disciplines and different natural environments.

Finally, experimentation of an artificial intelligent system of image learning to detect hazards and hazardous situations is currently underway, as well as the definition of protocols for the self-assessment of the physical abilities and level of training of the tourist, sportsman or outdoor operator, to be related to the difficulty of the routes and the potentially present hazards.

The ultimate goal of this project is the development of tools to support the outdoor sportsman in assessing the risks to which he will be exposed, defining the level of risk he is willing to accept (consciously and compatibly with his desire of "adventure"), identifying safety measures and understanding when the help of experienced personnel (specialized guides) is appropriate. All this, starting from the information available on conventional means (guides, cartography) or modern (websites) and considering its own psychophysical limits and the risks to which the rescue teams could be exposed should their intervention be necessary.

Keywords: Outdoor sports activities, Natural environments, Awareness of risks, Risk assessment, Image learning.

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