Recent research is providing valuable insights into safety by applying sociotechnical systems (STS) theory to led outdoor activity (LOA) work systems. The LOA domain involves provision of supervised or instructed activities such as kayaking, rock climbing and camping. Despite these successful applications, questions persist regarding the extent to which STS theory and methods are applicable, given the apparently simplistic nature of the domain. This paper seeks to evaluate the validity of systems theoretic approaches by comparing a typical LOA work system with established characteristics of STS and complex systems. Features of the LOA work system are compared with established characteristics of complexity, then considered in relation to STS theory principles. The findings show that this system of work is indeed both complex and sociotechnical. It is concluded that application of STS theory and methods is both appropriate and required to attain improvements in practice and safety in LOA work systems.
Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science / Vol. Article in press