The USPA incident reporting system has been due for a significant overhaul for some time now, and it is getting one. USPA members reported 4,277 reserve rides and 2,147 injuries that required medical care in 2018, but USPA received only 29 incident reports. Sit back for a moment and imagine the lessons lost to the skydiving community when all it would have taken is for each of those jumpers to have spent 10 minutes filling out a short report.
USPA rating holders and Safety and Training Advisors—the leaders in the field—are the key to increasing incident reporting. Reports help USPA track current trends and give direction to USPA staff and board members as they address equipment issues and training methods and establish safety procedures.
Who is responsible for filling out an incident report?
Ultimately, this responsibility falls on the drop zone’s S&TA—especially in the case of a fatality or an incapacitated victim. After an incident, the S&TA compiles statements and reports from skydivers, the drop zone owner, staff or other witnesses and files the most informative account possible to USPA. As an impartial investigator, the S&TA plays a critical role in the skydiving community. If the S&TA is absent during an incident, they should appoint a USPA Instructor to fill that role. However, anyone can fill out an incident report as an individual and can even do so anonymously.
What circumstances require an incident report?
The USPA Board recently passed a Basic Safety Requirement that mandates supervising instructors to file an incident report when any AAD (a student’s, instructor’s or anyone else’s) activates while participating in a student jump. USPA also expects an S&TA to file a report on any fatality, any incident that requires a jumper to seek medical attention and any circumstance that raises a major safety concern. In addition, S&TAs should consider filing reports regarding noteworthy malfunctions, unsafe procedures, unusual or ethically unacceptable skydives, or other extraordinary occurrences concerning skydiving operations.
Any jumper—especially any rating holder—should take the time to fill out an incident report whenever they experience an incident that could provide a lesson. Skydivers learn essential information from the mistakes of others. Unsurprisingly, the Safety and Training section, specifically the “Incident Reports” column, is the most read section of Parachutist.
What information should the reporter include?
Reports of incidents should be as detailed as possible. Use the USPA Incident Report Form and complete all applicable sections. USPA recently updated the form, which is now comprised of two sections: a description area that asks for solid facts about the incident and a conclusion area that allows the reporter to speculate as to cause. The first section is meant to gather verifiable facts about the incident, such as the jumper’s experience level, the altitude at which a malfunction occurred, the condition of the gear, etc. The second section allows the reporter to provide information that is not decisive but can provide value, such as what may have played a role in the chain of events leading up to the incident.
Where can I find information about filing a report?
Currently, the Skydiver’s Information Manual and Instructional Rating Manual do not address incident reporting, although USPA is exploring adding sections that do. For now, the USPA publication that does cover what to do after an incident—including the importance of filling out an incident report and how—is the Safety and Training Advisor Handbook. This seven-page document includes two-and-a-half pages on incident reporting. Members can also find the USPA Incident Report Form in the dropdown menu under the Safety and Training tab at uspa.org. The recently updated form is available for submission electronically or by mail as a straightforward, easy-to-use, downloadable, writable PDF.
What does USPA do with this information?
The success of USPA’s safety reporting program depends upon the free exchange of information between field reporters and USPA Headquarters. All USPA incident reports, whether formal or informal, are considered privileged, confidential documents for use only by the reporting party and USPA officials to enhance safety through education and training. USPA will not use these reports for disciplinary actions. After processing a report and compiling the data, USPA destroys all personal information contained within it. Those who wish to file a report to initiate a disciplinary action should do so in a separate report to their regional director.
USPA is engaged in a campaign to educate the membership on the importance and ease of incident reporting, but it is up to S&TAs and rating holders to ensure its success. Check out the Australian Parachute Federation’s latest compilation of incident reports over six months at uspa.org/apf to see what we’re shooting for. Following presentations at the Parachute Industry Association Symposium and the USPA DZO Conference, as well as articles like this one, the word is getting out, and we’re already seeing an increase in report submissions. Although a level of satisfactory compliance is still a long way off, it is encouraging to see a positive response. As a rating holder or S&TA, please help us by doing your part.
Ron Bell | D-26863
USPA Director of Safety and Training