Risk Assessment for Rowing Events on the Cam

Risks involved in racing on the Cam other than in the bumping races, and safety precautions to be taken by the event organisers. Risks involved in side-by-side and time races for rowing and sculling boats on the Cam are similar for all events varying only slightly with the arrangement of the event. They may be summarised as

  • Those due to collision between moving racing boats, and between racing boats and other boats, the severity ranging from slow collisions resulting in minor damage to the boats and equipment, to injury and/or immersion of the participants.
  • Those due to collision with stationary objects, e.g. the bank and moored or stationary boats and logs.
  • Those attributable to poor weather.
  • Those attributable to unsafe boats or equipment e.g. lack of bowballs, heel restraints etc.
  • Those resulting from carelessness on the bank.

Race organisers should take steps to reduce or remove these risks, and the list of risks and appropriate actions is listed below. They should answer the questions on the Risk Assessment form (see below). If the organisers are uncertain of the size and tolerability of any risk, they should use the method in the appendix for estimating and classifying risk. The race organiser will be responsible for making decisions or seeking advice on whether racing can continue if conditions are poor, or that crews are disqualified, if there are beaches of safety requirements.

Action Checklist for Organisers

1 Ensuring that boats and crews are suitable to race, using BR/FISA standards

Clubs should be informed that they should check themselves, and should confirm on entry, that

  • all equipment, and
  • the competing club

have conformed to CUCBC/BR safety rules Crews from CUCBC clubs should have returned an annual safety audit form to the CUCBC and the college club safety officer should be responsible to ensure, via the boatman, that the boats and crews entered are fit to race. Non-CUCBC crews should be informed that they will be required conform to CUCBC standards, and spot checks may be made. Marshals should act on any defects seen on the day. If boats and crews do not conform they cannot race; they should be disqualified or should rectify the shortcoming if the opportunity is available.

2 Ensuring that boats are properly marshalled

Check that

  • There are enough marshals to see the whole course and marshalling areas and they will be close enough to act in an emergency (no further than 250 metres away from each other).
  • They are equipped with appropriate communication equipment.
  • They can stop the race if necessary.
  • They are equipped with proper safety equipment.
  • They are aware of the race safety plan, including the location of medical or first aid, and the location and address of access points.
  • There is a "barge" marshal able to halt other boats entering the course.

3 Ensuring the race is NOT held under unsuitable weather conditions

Bear in mind that poor conditions, which in themselves would not be sufficient to cause racing to be stopped, may combine to have that effect. The acceptability of conditions must be judged on the spot using the guidelines below, and if it is decided to continue racing despite poor conditions, the organiser should seek advice from a senior member of the CUCBC. Poor conditions will include those affecting the controllability or safety of the boat.

  • Poor visibility. Each crew must be able to see another boat within 200 metres.
  • Excess wind. On the spot judgement takes precedence, but if a boat drifts sideways more than its own length when spinning, it is probably too windy.
  • Excess current; as for wind.
  • Ice. More than 1mm thick more than 2 metres from the bank.

And those affecting the crews. If weather conditions impose a risk of harmful exposure, it can be reduced if proper precautions are taken (mainly clothing, but sun cream if appropriate). The risks include

  • Excess cold or wind chill, or
  • Rain, or
  • Excess heat or sun exposure

The risks can be reduced if the crew's clothing is appropriate to the weather conditions and time to be spent on the water. This is the responsibility of the crew, but check that advice has been given to crews on forecast weather conditions and likely waiting times.

4 Controlling bank parties

How will bank parties be controlled?


The risk in the case of collision between eights and fours is small as rowers are usually protected by robust equipment, On nearly all of these occasions damage is mainly to equipment, but sometimes a crew member catches a crab, which can be uncomfortable, but still only slightly harmful, but if an oarsman is ejected or falls from the boat the risks are those of immersion (drowning and hypothermia), and being hit by blades or boats. This situation would be slightly harmful or harmful and unlikely, thus tolerable or moderate. Uncoxed boats (pairs, doubles and singles) are at greater risk, partly because

  • they can see less,
  • the steerer's mind is on racing,
  • the crews are more exposed to damage by another boat
  • they are less stable.

The rarity of drowning suggests as long as a sculler or oarsman can swim, and stays with his/her boat, falling in poses a moderate risk at most. However, the increased probability of immersion increases the prevalence of moderate risk. The BR Water Safety Code publishes a risk estimator in the form of a matrix;

  Slightly Harmful Harmful Extremely Harmful
Highly Unlikely Trivial risk (1) Tolerable risk (2) Moderate risk (3)
Unlikely Tolerable risk (4) Moderate risk (5) Substantial risk (6)
Likely Moderate risk (7) Substantial risk (8) Intolerable risk (9)

It should be the aim of the organisers to reduce all risk, acknowledging that it can never be nil. Most importantly, an intolerable or substantial risk should not exist [(6), (8) and (9)], and every effort should be made to ameliorate moderate risk. For example, under (9) racing boats should never be allowed to row at full speed in opposite directions on the same water, and under (6) or (8) boats should not be allowed to race in poor visibility. More realistically, collisions can occur between boats moving to the start and boats coming the other way. Given proper marshalling, this would be unlikely, but could be slightly harmful, thus being classified as tolerable risk. It is the responsibility of the race organisers to envisage all reasonable risks and to take steps to reduce them as much as is practicable.

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