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NRC Safety Advisor Report - November 2004  by John Mulholland
As we are all aware safety is hitting the headlines almost daily.  Fortunately rowing doesn't feature too often, but the problems at the Vesta Vets Head in March got into most news bulletins, especially the local London ones.  We can keep out of those headlines by being aware of our responsibilities for safety.  Mostly, it's just common sense.  As the Honda ad says; ask the question "What if?".  What if you boat in strong winds just before the tide turns; what if you add two more eights to your normal trailer load; what if you go out alone without telling anyone where you have gone?
Some things you must do for yourselves; others your safety advisor can help you with.  All clubs carry out a Safety Audit every year; use it to think about your safety.  Are your provisions adequate?  Have circumstances changed?  If you need advice, ask your CWSA; if he or she needs advice, the RWSA (that's me) will give it, or find someone who can.
Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety, and that of juniors under your care.
Safety Performance 2004
Durham SBH
Fortunately there were no injuries but the loss of a day's racing highlit the inadequacy of tin-fish as safety boats.
Yarm School trailer;
The large de Graaff trailer was due to be towed behind a hired lorry, but when the driver got to the hire firm, the only available vehicle was a short-wheelbase Transit.  It was not up to the job, and the rig jack-knifed on the long bank on the A1 past the Angel of the North.
Incidents on the River Tyne;
There have been several near misses and a few collisions on the Tyne this year; this is due in no small part to the number of clubs and colleges training on the river.  As a result, new Tyne user safety instructions have been published.  Any club wishing to train on the Tyne should speak to the safety advisers of either Tyne RC or NUBC (wherever they are boating) and ensure they understand these rules.  The essential elements of these instructions will be included in race instructions for any races held on the Tyne, so competitors should ensure they read ALL the paperwork that comes with their entry pack.
The Vesta Veterans Head was run in very difficult conditions.  One of the lessons that we should take from this is that, in my opinion, boating in difficult conditions in a non-buoyant boat adds unnecessarily to the risks.  The new Tyne Aylings eight took on less than an inch of water and would have been rowable even if swamped.  Another local crew had an older Empacher which had to pull in to the side and bail out a significant amount of water before they could proceed.  Other boats were less lucky and several crews had to be pulled from the water by the RNLI. Any club buying a new boat should give serious consideration to inherent under-seat buoyancy.  I can foresee the time in the not-to-distant future when only buoyant boats will be allowed to compete in difficult conditions, which as we all know can happen on the Tyne, Tweed, Thames and Trent.  
Incident Reports
There are two types of incidents which should be recorded.  
Reportable incidents are events involving injury, damage or could (but for the grace of God) have resulted in injury or damage.  These should be reported on the ARA forms (on the ARA web-site) and submitted through the RWSA to the ARA.  These should be completed accurately and as soon as possible after the incident because they could be required to settle negligence or insurance claims.
Recordable incidents are minor events which should be noted in the Incident Log in the clubhouse; in case subsequent events (such as an illness some days after a capsize) require further investigation.
This year we have either had a very safe year with only two reportable incidents, or people involved in incidents have not reported them.  I have second-hand knowledge of several reportable incidents for which I have seen no reports.  The ARA's safety policy is based on reported incidents.
Safety Audits
Completion of the Club Safety Audit form is now a requirement for affiliation to the ARA; so if you don't complete it you'll lose your affiliation and your ARA insurance will be invalid.  Events (regattas and heads) are also required to complete safety audits before they are allocated a date by the NRC.  These audits are just common sense, and a check list to remind you to consider all the possible dangers inherent in any gathering of people.  If you have any questions, contact me quickly.
Summary Sheets
The Incident Summary Sheets in the back of the club Incident Book must be sent to the ARA to arrive by end of Feb 2005.
Safety Page on NRC Web-site
There is now a safety page on the NRC web-site on which I will post any relevant news coming from the ARA WSC.  The next meeting is on December 10th in London; if you have any points that you think I should raise there, please let me know.
Life Jackets
When a lifejacket was tested at Tyne recently, the canister was incorrectly fitted (not screwed in far enough) and did not inflate; therefore it would not have worked in a real emergency.  Check your life jackets frequently and make sure you know how to maintain them properly.
Trailer towing
The accident in July highlights need for matching of towing vehicle to trailer.  The ARA has published a document (on paper and on CD_ROM) on the legal and practical aspects of towing boat trailers.  It also covers carrying boats on roof-racks.
Event safety plans must be submitted to me or the NRC with the application to run event.  Take note of any changes from previous years; including bigger entries, restrictions on parking etc
Safety Education
Teaching people to row safely ought to be as important as teaching them to row fast.  After all, if they are not safe, they may not row for long enough to get fast!  All beginners should be taught to check that their boat's bow ball, heel restraints and all other fittings are secure and working correctly.  They should be taught correct steering, navigation and lane-discipline.  They should be taught emergency drills e.g. capsize drills and basic first aid including hypothermia.  They should be taught how to dress appropriately for the conditions; that will be enforced at heads (if we see juniors boating with just their all-in-ones they will be sent back).
Club WSA
All clubs have been asked to include the name of their CWSA in their contact list on Ken Hastie's NRC web-pages.  Most have done so, for which thank you.  Many clubs have their AGMs in November and December; if you elect new officials, please let Ken know so that we can keep the lists up-to-date.
Safety Seminar
I would like to hold a safety seminar in the new year.  I propose to hold it at one of the region's clubs.  Do you want it at a head or regatta or on a separate day?  
Risk Assessment
This seems to be a very frightening phrase!  We all have to do them, but some people don't know how.  It's really quite simple and most of us do them sub-consciously every day.  "Is the river too high to go out?"  Is it too windy for juniors?"  "Can my car cope with a fully laden trailer?"  These are all risk assessments.  Completing your Club or Event Safety Audit is a structured risk assessment; the questions ask you to think about particular risks, your answers show how you would minimise the chances and severity of any accident.
We have made progress, as a region, this year but we can not afford to relax.  To plagiarise part of the poem exhorting people to be safe when shooting:

"All the victors ever crowned, won't replace a rower drowned".

© 2006  North East Rowing on-line