Residential, Youth Hostel, UK.
Head injuries from an accident prior to the field course. The mental effect, apart from lack of co-ordination, was to become somewhat 'fearless' and we had to watch carefully as the student had little perception of personal danger. Illustrated by rather irrational behaviour on water — had to be supported by fellow students.
Staff did know the circumstances but not the precise behavioural outcomes. We had assumed we had it under control by making it clear that the student was not to go out on the water at all. We thought the social coherence within the student group would have been sufficient to manage the situation safely.
We thought we knew the students well; they themselves were very watchful and the social benefits of joining the trip appeared to outweigh the medical difficulties. In fact we were shocked to find a dangerous situation developing.
The near-crisis highlights the need for continued vigilance and watchfulness when erratic behaviours are a possibility. Perhaps some form of 'buddy' system should have been adopted as a one-to-one. I suppose the moral of the story is to say that we 'thought we knew' what were the likely outcomes and had legislated for these but still potentially dangerous situations can arise and a second line of protection has to be put in place.
Page updated 14 December 2001
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© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
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