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*Dr Matthew J.I. Woolley PhD (OHS), LLB, BA (Soc), GDip. Legal Practice, Dip. Public Safety, Dip Project Management.


Dr Matt Woolley - CEO of Global Surf Parks - is an expert in surf park occupational health and safety systems, enterprise governance, incident analysis and regulation with a specific focus on organisational design and capability.

Placing too great of a sole focus on supervision within aquatic environments leads to loss of safety control within surf parks. With so many competing focus points in a surf park environment (water movement, rotating surfers, surfers taking off near impact zones and surf craft, there is a need for a broader approach to surf park safety.

While supervision is without doubt an essential element of a surf park safety system, it is also important to consider the full range of contributing factors that lead to surf park incidents.

Design flaws. Flaws associated with depths and bathymetry, access and egress points, wave characteristics v zone limitations and operating systems are some of the factors that can lead to a loss of control within your surf park.

Systems flaws. If your risk management systems isn't properly structured and designed for your surf park environment from the outset, you're likely to see issues with implementation, effectiveness, miscommunication and substandard safety performance outcomes. Retro fitting a flat water aquatic management system to your surf park might provide early confidence but that confidence is likely to be short lived.

Organisational approach. Instilling an absolute focus on surf park safety from the top down is a clear and critical starting point for all developers and operators in the sector. Strong safety leadership from the outset will set the scene for the design of role requirements and will shape culture well prior to opening day.

Recruitment. Resourcing your surf park is likely to be a consideration that presents itself 12 months out from commissioning and opening. Leaving recruitment and training to occur any closer to the opening date is likely to result in rushed decision making and unnecessary difficulties with implementing and controlling the surf park system.

The preferred approach is to consider the social, mental and physical requirements of each role within the surf park team to enable the determination of complexity and the type of experience, skills, qualifications and attributes are needed. Too often we've seen the wrong person recruited for a role that only creates frustration and ultimately the need to reconsider recruitment needs.

Similarly with recent approaches to these problems in aviation, health care, construction and emergency services, surf park safety performance is likely to reach acceptable, sustainable levels by adopting a risk approach that looks at the entire surf park system, what makes it tick, what creates problems and where opportunities for efficiency and safety lie.

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