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Safety on the Water

Everyone should be familiar with our Safety Rules and Emergency Action Plan

You should also read British Rowing's safety guidelines

Here are the Navigation Rules, which apply to our reach of the river

And here's a Map of our reach

Also guidelines for traversing locks

Incident Reporting

If you have an accident on the water where someone is injured or equipment is damaged, you MUST report it to British Rowing - see their Incident Reporting webpage.

Any incident involving a motor vessel MUST be reported to the Environment Agency, tel.0800 807060. Make sure you note the name of the vessel, and obtain witness statements if possible. If you spot a vessel behaving dangerously, report it to the nearest lock-keeper.

Shepperton Lock 01932 221840
Sunbury Lock 01932 782089
General enquiries 01709389201

All incidents, including near misses, capsizes, navigational errors etc. must be reported to our Safety Adviser, Nigel Base, either by email (safety [at] weyfarers.org.uk) or using the incident log book which is be located under the Safety Notice Board in the Hut.

Here are the Incident Reporting Guidelines

Row Safely

Rowing is a very safe sport.  Serious incidents are so rare that they make front-page news, unlike many sports where broken bones and other injuries happen all the time.  British Rowing publishes safety guidelines "Row Safe" which clubs must abide by, and each club has to carry out an annual Safety Audit including a Risk Assessment and Safety Plan.

In addition, every rower should carry out their own “Risk Assessment” before each outing.  There are three things you need to check before you take a boat out:

  • Yourself
  • The river
  • The equipment

Are you fit to row?

A health warning

Rowing is an endurance sport, which means that it places considerable demands on the body.  You should NOT ROW if

  • You feel ill or are suffering from a cold or flu etc.
  • You have a joint injury, for example backache or a sprain

The Thames at Weybridge is fairly clean these days, but any cuts or abrasions should be covered by waterproof plasters and you should never drink the river water or touch your eyes with wet hands.  There is a small risk, particularly in summer, of the following:

  • Weil’s Disease (Leptospirosis).  This is carried by rats and can result in flu-like symptoms or, in extreme cases, jaundice.  It is easily treated with antibiotics.
  • Blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria). This can cause allergic reactions, nausea and vomiting.  Again, it can be treated with antibiotics.

If you feel ill after rowing, always consult your doctor.

Be prepared

Rowing is an outdoor sport (which should be obvious!).  Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather.  This means warm clothing in winter - several thin layers are more effective than one thick layer, since warm air is trapped between the layers. A woolly hat is advisable (looks are not important!) since the body loses a great deal of heat through the head.  If your hands suffer with the cold you can try wearing cycling or weightlifting gloves, provided you can still control the oar(s).  “Pogies” – mittens which cover the blade handle as well as your hands -  are also available.  In summer, beware of sunburn and heat stroke.  Remember that sunlight reflects off the water and always wear sun cream or a long-sleeved top if you burn easily.  A suitable hat is also advisable to keep the sun off the back of your neck.  A lightweight, preferably breathable, waterproof top is essential year-round.  Coxes MUST wear a lifejacket.

Make sure that you have something substantial to eat at least an hour before rowing – even healthy people can suffer from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) when doing strenuous exercise.  Bring a snack with you to eat afterwards, preferably one containing complex carbohydrates, for example wholemeal bread, fresh or dried fruit, a cereal bar etc.

Take a water bottle with you in the boat.    When exercising, especially in hot weather, you need to drink about half a litre every hour, preferably in small sips at regular intervals.

Look at the River

The Environment Agency, which administers the non-tidal reaches of the Thames, issues warnings when conditions are deemed to be dangerous to navigation.  The severity of the warning (yellow or red) depends on the amount of water flowing through the sluices at each lock, and may vary on different reaches of the Thames.

A board on the door of the Ladies’ changing room at the Club will show the current state of the river:

  • White – normal conditions.  Everyone may row, provided at least one crew member has a certificate of competency or is supervised by a coach.
  • Yellow – (floating raft level with the bottom concrete step).  No beginners, young juniors or single sculls..  All crew members must have passed the Certificate of Competency
  • Red/yellow stripes (water covering the bottom step). As above, but at least one member must have a Certificate of Watermanship.
  • Red – NO ROWING

You should also use common sense in deciding whether it is safe to row.  DO NOT ROW if:

  • There is a strong wind, causing significant waves
  • The river is partly or completely iced over, or the temperature is below freezing
  • There is a thunderstorm
  • It is foggy or dark – you will not be able to see where you are going, and other river users will not be able to see you

Check your equipment

The three checks specified in British Rowing's "Row Safe":

  • Bow ball.  This should be in good condition, so that if you are involved in an accident with another boat you minimise the risk of injuring someone.
  • Heel restraints.   These should be in good condition and not so long that the heel of the shoes can rise above the point at which they are fixed to the stretcher.  If the boat capsizes, this should jerk your feet out of the shoes so that you do not become trapped in the boat.
  • Hull and buoyancy compartments.  Make sure that there are no holes in the boat, and that the compartment covers are firmly secured.

Additional checks which we recommend:

  • Rudder working and rudder strings in good condition
  • Riggers firmly attached and top nuts done up
  • Collars on the blades secure

If you find anything wrong with the equipment, don’t just put it back on the rack.  Enter the details in the equipment log and make sure that the Captain, a Vice Captain or your coach is aware of the problem.

And finally….

Tell someone that you will be out there and write it in the log book.   NEVER go out in a single scull on your own – always make sure there are other boats out or that someone on the bank is watching you.


Safety on Rowing Tours

Make sure you read the British Rowing Safety Guidelines for Touring Rowing

Each boat should have:

Paddle - essential for manoeuvring in locks
Mooring spike and ropes
Something to cushion the boat when leaving on hard ground, e.g. foam pads, tubular pipe lagging
Bailer and sponge
Buoyancy aids for ALL crew members.  The cox must wear a buoyancy aid at all times, the others should be kept within reach in case of emergency.
At least one mobile phone (in a waterproof container)
Charts or maps of the waterway
Emergency contact information