Safe BASE jumping applied to OHS: “Why am I still alive and why are my friends dying?”
One of the world’s most accomplished BASE jumpers and wingsuiters, Australian Chris “Douggs” McDougall is increasingly being engaged by high risk workplaces to drive a safe culture among workers.
With some 4000 BASE jumps and 7200 skydives to his name, Douggs has – for over 20 years – been successfully and safely competing in what many regard as one of the world’s most dangerous sports.
Douggs holds a world record in skydiving and has been World BASE Jumping Champion. He now runs the world’s first BASE jumping school, where safety is paramount.
“In wingsuiting the death rate is very high because people don’t follow a few simple rules,” Douggs said, speaking to Pro Safety Gear.
He summarises those rules as respecting yourself, never getting complacent, always learning and respecting the weather.
“If you are going to BASE jump then it is really important to know your limits. To make smart decisions constantly based on the available information.”
Talking safety to industrial workplaces:
Having worked in the oil and construction industry for around 15 years to fund his BASE jumping adventures, Douggs is no stranger to a risk assessment and says the risk management process in the workplace is the same as it is in BASE jumping.
“Every single jump we do a risk assessment. If you are cutting corners, eventually something will go wrong. I pack the chute perfect every time.”
“It’s about using the right tools for the job. Knowing and trusting your gear and building trust with your workmates.”
“An accident usually won’t happen from one big problem, but a series of little problems. That’s how most people die. So identify what the little problems are and fix them.”
“And if you get lucky then make sure it’s a mistake that never happens again.”
Douggs said that feedback from his safety talks has been positive.
“It’s been epic. It gets the message out in a way that the guys can relate to. All the old school guys come up and thank me, which is exactly what the companies are trying to achieve.
Learning to BASE jump… safely:
Anyone attending Douggs’ BASE course must have already completed 300 skydives before they are allowed in the course.
“We also recommend they learn paragliding and first aid. They must also be physically and mentally fit.”
Douggs also has strict guidelines around the way students approach the course.
“We make sure they are in it for the long game not the hard and fast game – only thinking of the thrill. You die playing that game.”
“My objective as a BASE jumping instructor is to make sure people put thought into it. To let all the information sink in and to take their time. That’s critical to safety in any dangerous activity.”
“We provide the information – the pros and cons for every single type of jump. They have to make a decision based on that information.”
“We can only give them tuition until the moment they jump and after they land. In between it is up to them. They control their own destiny.”
“At the end of the day, the only true goal is to go home safely to your family. If someone gets hurt or killed, the ripple effect that goes through that family and the industry is huge.”
“The time it takes to be safe – five minutes to do a site evaluation – could save you days, weeks, years or even your life.”
“Nothing is worth dying for. Stay smart and stay true to yourself.”
Douggs on your site:
With BASE jumping illegal in Australia, Douggs is based in Switzerland where the authorities work with the BASE jumping community to help make the sport safer.
He has been a BASE jumping instructor for over 15 years and is available for bespoke trips to conduct safety talks in Australia. He also regularly returns to his home town near Wollongong in NSW.
He can be contacted through his websites: