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Risk Assessment

Allan Hewitt - BPA Advanced Rigger/Examiner & AFF Instructor

It won’t happen to me

Although statistics prove skydiving to be nothing like as high risk as some non-skydivers may perceive, it can never be entirely risk-free, as with any action sports. The risk is reduced to an acceptable level by strict operational procedures. Parachute associations investigate every incident to educate skydivers, instructors and riggers to prevent the same mistake from recurring.

It is now mandatory for students to wear an automatic activation devise (AAD) and most skydiving students carry on to progress in the sport and continue to wear an AAD on every jump. They also use other safety equipment such as audible altimeters in conjunction with wrist mounted altimeters. In skydiving it is now seen as very “uncool” not to wear an AAD.

Some countries however are a great deal stricter than others; in Britain we have the BPA (British Parachute Association) which is arguably one of the strictest and safety conscious countries in the world. The BPA have an excellent track record for safety brought about by years of knowledge, used to establish rules and regulations for the benefits of fellow and future skydivers.

The word accident may imply that accidents are unavoidable. A life without risk is impossible but the risk of accidents can be reduced by simple precautions and thinking ahead.

Be aware of the potential for risk. Treat all risk situations with all due respect. Once an accident has happened it is too late to go back and take precautions.

Intentional risk taking is a feature of youth, especially male youth and this is reflected in the statistics of accidents. It is neither feasible nor desirable to eliminate all risk taking behaviour in young people. Fortunately in skydiving the danger is more apparent than real. This is why strict rules and regulations that have been agreed by the governing bodies should always be adhered too.

"Why we jump. The explanation used to be simple: jumpers were crazy! Some psychologists talked of Freudian death wishes, while others believed in fear displacement, or denying one's fear in their lives by directing their attention to another more manageable one. Others theorised that participants in high risk sports were acting out psychopathic fantasies in an attempt to make up for feelings of inadequacy or to demonstrate omnipotence.

Fortunately, in the last 25 years, the behavioural psychologists have decided that pursuing a high risk sport is not all that bad. Perhaps more of them have tried skydiving. Bruce Ogilvie, professor of psychology at San Jose State University conducted a study of 293 high-risk competitors including skydivers, race car drivers, fencers and aerobatic pilots in 1973 using psychological tests and personal interviews.

Ogilvie found risk-takers to be success oriented, strongly extroverted, above average in abstract ability and superior in intelligence when compared to the general population. He found these athletes are rarely reckless in their risk taking; their risk-taking is cool and calculated. He estimates that 6% of the athletes compete out of anger or out of deep feelings of inferiority or because they are trying to prove something about themselves. The other 94% are emotionally stable."

Skydiving is a sport undertaken by a broad cross section of society who have been professionally trained and usually they will then have spent several thousands of pounds on equipment. The equipment we use is made using computer aided design, and the manufacturing process is state of the art to ensure excellent quality. The parachutes are designed to open safely and land softly

Accidents happen, but most skydiving accidents are avoidable if simple precautions are taken. Compared with the 1980s and 1990s, the number of skydivers today is many times higher, each skydiver does many more jumps annually and the equipment has become smaller and faster but the number of skydiving accidents have fallen drastically.

The equipment is generally much safer than it was, especially since the introduction of the automatic activation device, which acts like a safety net and prevents skydivers landing without a fully deployed parachute.

The maintenance and servicing of equipment is much better with well qualified engineers preventing poorly maintained equipment from being used.

Training instructors and students is now of a very high standard with student being the category least at risk and highly experienced competition jumpers being in the category of greatest risk as they are the ones pushing the envelope.

Skydiving safely is all about knowledge. If you know why and how an accident can occur; you can easily avoid it.

Read the article Staying Safe to find out how.

BPA injury rates 2007-2011

BPA Statistics

Total Jumps


1 in 553
1 in 485
1 in 808
1 in 1.204


Skydive Verzekering

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