Health & Safety Guide

Coastal rowing is an enjoyable and safe activity but it is not risk-free. By adhering to the rules and guidelines, along with some experience and a sensible attitude, the risks can be minimised.

Our Health and Safety procedures will be reviewed regularly. If any member has concerns about procedures not being adhered to, or that the procedures themselves are deficient, then they should raise the issue with a member of the committee.

Incidents will be recorded on an incident report form and submitted to the committee. A Health & Safety report will be prepared by the committee for the AGM detailing accidents that have occurred, issues raised, actions taken and any further recommendations.

Basic Rules:

  • When at sea the Cox is in command of the skiff.
  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) must be available for everyone in the boat and can be worn at anytime. The cox is at liberty to decide if they must be worn at any time. For non-swimmers the PFD must be a lifejacket and it is their own responsibility to ensure that there is one aboard.
  • The Cox must wear a PFD at all times.
  • All rowers must be in good health – if in doubt consult a doctor before taking part.
  • Rowers are advised to take drinking water to help prevent dehydration.
  • Beware of the elements (wind, rain, sun, snow…) and dress accordingly.
  • Contending with difficult weather conditions is part of the fun of rowing, but safe enjoyment is the aim, not recklessness.

Equipment – Rowing equipment must be maintained in good order. If you notice any damage to the skiff or other equipment report it to the Cox.  The Cox shall notify the Bosuns (in charge of maintenance).  Damaged equipment should be marked or “quarantined” to ensure that it is not used by others unaware of the damage.

The following equipment must be carried in the boat for all trips:

  • Personal Flotation Devices for all crew and passengers;
  • cushions;
  • footrests;
  • a means of communication to shore;
  • a tow-line in the bow of the boat;
  • 2 means of bailing the boat, attached to the boat.

For regattas the following equipment are likely to be requested by organisers:

  • a VHF;
  • an anchor.

The list of requirements will be confirmed by the regatta organisers, and additional items may be included depending on local conditions e.g. paddle for manoeuvering in harbour, fenders, grab line.

For expeditions, depending on the route and conditions, the following may be considered useful:

  • a drogue;
  • a whistle, or other sound signalling warning device, capable of attracting attention over 200 metres;
  • a grab line at least 15m (50ft) long with a large knot tied in one end to assist throwing;
  • thermal exposure blankets for every member of the crew;
  • a basic first aid kit (contents recorded and checked as before);
  • a sharp knife in carrying sheath.

Communication – a means of communicating to shore must be taken on all outings, ie a VHF radio, a two-way radio to shore or a mobile phone in a waterproof case.  For most of our training outings the latter is sufficient.  However, if rowing is taking place in adverse weather conditions, unfamiliar waters or open sea, then a VHF should be carried and attached to the boat.  Coxes must familiarise themselves with the basics of VHF communication for that purpose – see our VHF Guide.

Induction – all new members should receive proper instruction in procedures, safety guidelines and rowing techniques from experienced members, so that no-one puts themselves or others at risk when on the water.  Members should familiarise themselves with Club policies and procedures.

Rowers & Coxes – all persons participating in rowing must be in good health and have a basic level of fitness (we expect members to be able to: cycle for 45 mins; run for 30 minutes; swim for 45 minutes or walk briskly for 2 hours).  If in doubt they should check with their doctor before starting to row. If any medical conditions require precautionary measures, they should be brought to the attention of the Committee to ensure reasonable adjustments are made.

Captains – Captains have a particular responsibility for the safety of crew and boat when at sea and must comply with the criteria in the Captain Self-Assessment Checklist. In particular:

  • Captains shall ensure that the crew is aware of the appropriate safety procedures at all times.
  • Captains shall ensure that the whole crew are dressed suitably and adequately protected for the weather conditions they are likely to encounter.
  • Captains shall ensure that the requirements for Personal Flotation Devices are complied with at all times.

Races hosted by the Club – all races hosted by the Club shall follow the procedures set out by the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association and must be individually assessed in terms of Health and Safety.

Adverse weather conditions – it is important to recognize that contending with difficult weather conditions is part of the attraction of coastal rowing. However, safe enjoyment is the aim, not recklessness.

Night Rowing – rowing is not to take place after sunset unless part of a properly organised event. Additional equipment may be required such as the inclusion of flares. Craft must be properly illuminated and carry a VHF.

Other water users – rowing should be carried out at all times with awareness by the participants of the right of others who share the water.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) 

There are 2 categories of personal flotation device: buoyancy aids and life jackets. Both exist to help you float, but there are some key differences:

Life jackets are designed to keep the wearer afloat and upright with their airways clear of water regardless of swimming ability or the state of the wearer (even if the wearer is incapacitated). They are bulky and when worn in the water they limit swimming ability. They have a minimum Newton rating of 150N – this is essentially a measure of how buoyant they are.  Life jackets can be made of solid foam but these are very bulky. More commonly available are inflatable life jackets which are less cumbersome to row in as they only need to be inflated in a situation when they are required.

It is possible to get both manually and automatically inflating life jackets.

Buoyancy aids are considerably less buoyant (often with a rating of 50 N) and will not ‘right’ a person automatically – in order to keep ones airways clear/face out of the water, the wearer must be conscious and able keep themselves upright. These are intended for use by those who can swim and are reasonably near to the shore/bank, or who have help/a means of rescue close at hand. These are always solid foam and do not restrict movement/swimming ability as much as an (inflated) lifejacket.

Coastal rowing & PFDs

There are pros and cons to both lifejackets and buoyancy aids when it comes to coastal rowing. A properly worn and inflated lifejacket will keep an unconscious person/non-swimmer upright in the water. However through experience we have found that solid foam lifejackets are too physically restrictive for comfortable rowing. Automatically inflating lifejackets are not suited to rowing as they go off too often with water splashing into the skiff.

Our view is that the best option for rowing is a manual lifejacket which of course requires the wearer to be conscious in order to inflate it. There is a chance that any inflatable lifejacket does not work properly (e.g. due to a faulty gas canister/hole in jacket) however with regular lifejacket maintenance this risk will be minimal.

Buoyancy aids are less bulky than foam lifejackets; cannot fail in the same way that an inflatable lifejacket can and are easier to swim in compared with an inflated lifejacket. However their bulk means they are not ideal to row in over any considerable distance.

The EACRC has a lifejacket policy which must be adhered to at all times which is:

  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) must be provided for everyone in the boat and can be worn at anytime, and the Cox is at liberty to decide if they must be worn.  For non-swimmers the PFD must be a Lifejacket.
  • The Cox must wear a PFD at all times. For non-swimmers this must be a lifejacket.

EACRC provides a set of buoyancy aids plus a couple of foam life jackets for use of its members.

Beyond this, we encourage members to review the PFD options available and choose to use what they feel most comfortable with – both for safety and for training and racing in. We recommend for any longer rowing expeditions (beyond the usual local training) that life jackets should be taken for all crew.

Should a rower prefer an alternative type of PFD (e.g. an inflatable life jacket), it is up to the individual to buy one. It is then their responsibility to repair and maintain their life jacket.

Further information on maintaining life jackets available here.