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Health, safety and liability policy

Our Health & Safety Policy

PCC aims to provide a safe environment in which our members may enjoy themselves. The club shall take the necessary control measures to ensure club members’ health and safety on the Club’s organised events.

Our principal objective is to:

  • Ensure our members are of an appropriate level of competence to attend their chosen events; or appropriately supervised by a qualified coach.
  • Are aware of the risks relating to this water sport.
  • Are aware of their duty of care for the safety of themselves and their peers when undertaking club activities.
  • Ensure the welfare of all paddlers and in particular junior members and vulnerable adults

If you have any questions regarding this policy, please contact the Club Chairman.

Club Management of Health & Safety

The following sections outline how the club will manage the health and safety of its members.

Ensuring the safety and health of Club members

As a matter of course, the club request all paddlers wear a buoyancy aid, dry cag or appropriate cagougle (in all seasons), a helmet and – if participants are confident in evacuating their boat – a spray-deck.

The Quartermaster and event organisers regularly check all Club equipment. However if members do notice defective equipment, it is expected that it is reported to the trip organiser or a committee member.

The level of ability required for each trip is generally stated on the events programme or by the organiser at the time of booking. Members are expected to be of sufficient ability and competence to attend such activities as white-water. If members are uncertain if a trip is suitable the event organiser will be able to advice members’ based on their records (No liability is accepted for such advice).

PCC also like to make sure everyone's is doing the right thing off the water as well, which includes lifting and launching of boats. Members are advised on the best way of doing handling equipment and should also be mindful of traffic risks.

PCC recommends that paddler obtain their BC Star Awards in their selected areas of interest to support development and on water competence

Encourage good river hygiene practices such that all paddlers consider:

  • That their hands are appropriately sanitised prior to eating food/drink on the riverbank.
  • Are aware of the risks of leptospirosis also known as Weil's disease.

    This may be ingested from dirty hands where there has been contact with leptospirosis bacteria on river bank (generally stagnant waters, locality of rats habitats on river bank. Symptoms include:
    • A high temperature (fever) that is usually between 38C and 40C (100.4-104-F).
    • Chills.
    • Sudden headaches.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
    • Loss of appetite.

      If a paddler experiences any of these symptoms following a paddle they should immediately speak to their doctor explaining that they have been on the river.
  • Avoid paddling in areas of:
    • Poor water quality/stagnant waters e.g. where there is a lack of water flow
    • Heavy plant growth
    • Blue algae

(Refer also to BC's guidance on the Canoe England website).

Organisation and responsibilities

All of our coaches and volunteers provide assistance in accordance with the BC’s Code of Conduct.

Informal events

These events offer the least level of organisation - the event organiser will help get everyone in the same place at the same time. They will not do any trip planning or provide any direction or focus on the water. An example of this would be someone booking a campsite by a beach with the intention of going sea kayaking/pub accommodation near a river/canal etc, but leaving the kayaking side of things for individuals to sort out when they get there. Anyone can organise such an event. Social events and meetings are also classified as Informal events. These are not formally recorded on the club calendar and should be considered with caution for inexperienced paddlers below 3 star competency, unless informally advised otherwise by a qualified peer.

Peer trips

Peer trips mean that everyone takes full responsibility for themselves, their safety and their kit, while behaving in a responsible way that does not put other members of the group at risk. Nobody takes overall responsibility for the safety or wellbeing of the group, because the experience and skill level is expected to be similar – you are paddling with a group of peers. Group members are expected to look out for each other, while staying within their own limitations, but there is no onus to support anyone else if you do not feel confident doing so in any given situation.

Club equipment can be borrowed but arrangements for transportation of this must be made by the individual and booked out in accordance with club guidelines.

There will be a ‘trip organiser’, their role is to organise the logistics for the trip to help get everyone in the right place at the right time. They will also suggest the route of the trip. But to reiterate, they are not leading or taking responsibility for the group.

Those going on trips must expect to take part in making it happen and contribute to decisions that need making as part of the trip (e.g. is the suggested route sensible? Is it safe to go on/should the group turn back?). Participants cannot expect others to make decisions for them or on behalf of the group.

Who can organise a peer trip? In theory anyone who has completed the BC 3* training. However, people will need to be aware of their limitations. People must not be organising trips on water types or grades they have little or no experience of.

Leader guided trips

Unlike ‘peer trips’ one person will lead the group and, within reason, take responsibility for a group of up to 6 people. A leader must have a relevant leader qualification (e.g. BC 4*), except in specific circumstances (see below).

Leaders will be able to discuss with and advise individuals if the trip will be suitable for them. These types of trips are good for people with no or little experience of planning trips, limited paddling experience, or those who wish to push their limits under the guidance of the leader.

Certain 3* paddlers may be sanctioned by the PCC Committee to lead trips in a limited range of circumstances where the risks are considered to be low. Each leader must be approved by the committee.

Coached trips

Hints and tips can be picked up from peers and leaders on any type of trip and time may be set aside for practising skills. However, some trips may be organised to coach specific skills.

Appropriate qualifications are required for coaching sessions. These trips may be run in conjunction with river led trips. All coached trips are coordinated through the Coaching Officer.

Example may be White Water Coach Qualifications shall include Level 2 coaching, White water endorsement, 4* river leadership, first aid course, white water safety and rescue. Thus this coach may lead/coach 4-6 paddlers of suitable competency down the river Dart. Beside this group a second group of 3* paddlers may as peers paddle (resulting in Group A and Group B).

Delegation of River Leadership for Flat Water Paddles

It is acknowledged that not all trips require coaches or leaders to supervise. The principal focus of the coaching team should be to develop member competence and supervise more complex trips.

Thus where paddles are viewed by the club committee to be of low risk it is in the committees view appropriate for such event to be lead by competent club paddlers outside the coaching group. This relieves pressure on the advanced paddlers to support activities and promotes family paddles. These will generally be identified as peer-peer paddles and attendees will be equally responsible for their own safety and that of their peer paddlers.

Training and competence

Paddlers should have sufficient technical competence and endurance to undertake the requested paddles. Whilst PCC do not retain any liability for members it is viewed in the best interest of our members that a level of control is retained to protect the safety of individuals and their paddling peers. Thus the event organiser retains the right to decline request if deemed in the best interest of the club and the individual.

New member shall undergo safety training at the earliest opportunity following membership as part of a PCC induction session. They shall be assessed for level of competence at the earliest opportunity by one of the coaches. A personal development plan shall be compiled to assist individual development, record training sessions and BC courses attended, and record resume of events attended (experience gained).

The personal development record may be used to:

  • Assist the training officer and coaching team in developing a personal training plan.
  • Qualify competence of the member to attend specified club events and or their supervisory requirements.

All members shall have:

  • Club induction training.
  • Attended the pool safety and rescue practical training.
  • Safety and etiquette on the river

The club have a policy of knowledge share and encourage peer – peer training during club events.

Trip Guide, Trip Forms, and Risk Assessments

The following documentation should be considered when coordinating events. Documents and forms are available from the Club website, within the “Documents” tab.

Trip Guide

The trip provides an overview of the trip including useful details for paddlers. This should include:

  • Summary of trip, route and schedule.
  • Minimum competence level based on technical complexity and endurance level.
  • Required safety equipment.
  • Protective clothing required.
  • Maximum/ minimum numbers.
  • Refreshments.
  • Guideline on effects of weather conditions, tidal conditions, river flows etc.
  • Consideration to safe offloading of boats both from adjacent risk such as roads, personnel and bridges etc and lifting of heavy loads.
  • Name and address / telephone number of the Club for emergency use.
  • Location of the nearest casualty department.
  • Fire and emergency risk associated with accommodation where applicable.

Generic Risk Assessments

Each coached trip guide should be accompanied with a generic risk assessment reviewed by a club member with sufficient technical knowledge and competence to undertake such assessment.

Additional risk may be noted in blanks rows. This should be undertaken in line with BC guidelines.

Consideration should be given to:

  • Applicable diseases whether in UK or overseas water, vaccinations, precautions etc.
  • Equipment.
  • Hotel fire safety.
  • Travel safety including securing of boats etc.
  • Overseas insurance guideline.
  • Contact details of club contact in event of emergency.
  • List of the current Management Committee members to be notified in event of incident.

Trip Form & Dynamic Risk Assessment

The “Trip Form” should be completed on the day. This includes a dynamic risk assessment detailing any additional risks not covered by the generic risk assessments. The form includes:

  • Trip organiser.
  • On water leader.
  • Kit holders and first aiders.
  • Trip members – emergency contact details.
  • Incident reporting.
  • Dynamic risk assessment.

Equipment

  • The Quartermaster will carry out annual safety checks on all Club equipment and ensure that necessary repairs are carried out before the equipment is available for hire again.
  • In addition, the Club will endeavour to ensure that all equipment used on Club courses and events is fit for its purpose and is checked accordingly by the Course/Event Organiser.
  • Generally, equipment borrowed by Club members for use other than on courses will be at the paddlers own risk.

Safety Briefing

Prior to water entry the event’s organiser will ensure that all members gather for a safety briefing

This should include:

  • Trip preamble by reference to trip method statement.
  • Equipment check.
  • Ascertain weaker paddlers and allocate buddy where appropriate.
  • Clear identification of any potential exposures and subsequent control measure by reference to trip risk assessment.
  • Head count.
  • Safety equipment checks and confirmation to members which boats have equipment and who first aiders’ are.

Club Trips

Club trips, as opposed to courses, are defined as any trip which uses Club equipment or as specified within the Events calendar. Club trips will be advertised on the Club website and incorporate a checklist to include:

  • Name of the Organiser.
  • Proposed rivers to be paddled, including grade (subject to river conditions).
  • Level of paddling ability required.
  • Whether any river leading is to be provided (by Level 3 Coach or person of equivalent experience).
  • Whether or not any instruction will be given.

It must be noted that informal paddles are arranged between club members and whilst these activities are encouraged PCC consider this outside club jurisdiction. Thus whilst PCC cannot enforce safety guidelines detailed within this handbook they are promoted as good practice and should be adopted by all members.

Club Courses

The course details, syllabus, qualifications / experience of course leaders and summary details relating to safety aspects are to be lodged with the Coaching Officer prior to commencement of the course.

Disaster Plan

In the event of a serious accident occurring, the Club will immediately appoint someone to organise an agreed statement of events, deal with the media, BC and other relevant bodies.

The committee should be notified at the earliest opportunity.

Overseas Trips

There are principally two type of overseas trips:

  • Club organised trips.
  • Third party company organised such as Fluid Skills, Gene17.

Club organised trips are generally limited by membership capabilities and cost. Where a small group of paddlers are keen to experience overseas paddling but cannot generate sufficient membership interest the club encourage booking with approved third party companies. Members can discuss these with the coaching officer or other experienced paddlers. It is encouraged to state intentions to the wider club community where appropriate.

Organisers of overseas trips should be aware that in the event of an accident, criminal proceedings may be brought under local law which can be complicated and costly.

All participants should ensure that they have the relevant protection in place including but not limited to:

  • Relay insurance for their vehicle.
  • Personal insurance (extended to cover canoeing activities at the right level).
  • Emergency contact numbers.
  • Additional insurance to cover loss or damage to any Club equipment.
  • Cross boarder VISAs
  • Local river licence/ authorisation to paddle river.

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