Rowing Safety

This document contains useful information not only covering sensible safety advice, but recommended learning and training. It is therefore thoroughly recommended that everyone should read and review from time to time.

The following was copied from Google Docs on 27/03/2018 which was last updated 19 April 2016.
This document will be updated regularly.

PSKC safety guidance – rowing

Participation in rowing can bring great rewards – of learning new skills, companionship and enjoyment of the natural environment. Balanced against the rewards, there are some hazards that you might encounter when rowing:

  • Hypothermia (mild – severe)
  • Impact (with another person, swimmers, solid object such as rock, the boat etc.)
  • Broaching
  • Capsize
  • Hyperthermia
  • Drowning
  • Immersion – partial or total
  • Injury from lifting skiff

These hazards can cause an individual damage, but the chances of these things happening is variable – we think of this as “risk”. For our purposes, risk can be thought of as likelihood, severity and consequence of a damaging event occurring.

Risk = likelihood + severity  + consequence

Take a capsize as an example of a damaging event. It’s damaging as it makes you wet and cold – putting you at risk from hypothermia. On a summer day when you are rowing 30 metres from the shore in front of the PSKC yard the risk is quite low – low likelihood you’ll capsize, low severity as it is warm and low consequence as you can stand up and walk to shore. The same capsize on a windy winter day, half way to Inchkeith Island is very different – higher likelihood you’ll capsize, higher severity as it’s cold and higher consequence as it will be more difficult to get back into your boat.

As with all PSKC activities, members participate at their own risk. Managing risk is about understanding the actual risks of an activity, and doing everything reasonable to mitigate the risk via controlling actions. We hope that this safety framework will help everyone fully enjoy the rewards that rowing can offer while managing the inherent risks.

For the purposes of this document, the word ‘trip’ means any outing of skiffs for any purpose.

Recommended training:

  • Outdoor first aid qualification
  • Coxing
  • Navigation
  • Launch/return of skiffs
  • Lifting on/off trolleys
  • Use of lifejackets
  • Understanding effect of weather and tides on conditions
  • Use of VHF radio
  • RYA Day Skipper
  • Use of drogue anchor


Assess the suitability of your trip. Consider the following:

  • Weather forecast – what is the expected weather?
  • Tides – what effect will they have?
  • Experience level and “state” of your group – are participants suitable for the trip?
  • Route – are there known hazards such as rocks or groynes or will you be far from shore?
  • Age of participants – if youth rowers are present, then the trip should comply with NGB guidance on appropriate supervision levels.
  • All members of PSKC owe each other a duty of care. If you have any doubts on the suitability of your trip, the views of all members of the crew, experienced and less experienced, must be taken into consideration. No trip plan should be set in stone – it is prudent to modify plans based on the latest information available. Nobody should feel pressured to row in conditions with which they are uncomfortable.

Have an “on shore chat” to ensure the group understand the plan for the trip and their role in mitigating risk. (For example – discuss what to do in event of capsize, the expected conditions and their effect.)

Check for any medical issues with your group that might be important to know (for example asthma).

Use an “On shore worrier.” This is a person not on the trip who you inform of your route plan, and expected time of return. Provide them with contact numbers of multiple participants in the group. In the event that you are overdue they can attempt to make contact with the group and take action if required.

Consider contacting the coast guard to inform them of your route. This is not a requirement but recommended, especially for multi day trips. Coastguard number: 01224 592 334.

Check Skiffs – is the bung fitted correctly?  Pins and oars in good condition? Rudder fittings and blade/tiller operating correctly? Hull damage?

Dress for the conditions expected.

Always wear lifejackets

Always carry the following:

  • Knife                  Anchor                Bailers x 2 tied on
  • A form of communication – mobile phone in waterproof pack or VHF
  • Tow line            Drogue anchor

Depending on the trip also consider carrying:

  • Water                Spare clothes            Cox jacket
  • Flares                VHF

If unsure of what to carry, get advice from more experienced / qualified members of the club.

Watch out for pedestrians / cyclists when carrying equipment down to the water.

Lift and launch the boat using the following procedure:

  • Move Skiff on trolleys to shore
  • Prepare boat for launch – lifting Skiff off trolleys together, attach rudder, check bung, oars in correct positions
  • Launch skiff – embarking in order from bow position following Cox instructions
  • know the weather forecast
  • know the area/route you plan to row
  • know the craft you plan to row in
  • know the experience of your crew/passengers
  • do you and your crew have the experience necessary to handle the craft in the forecast conditions?
  • what safety equipment is required for the planned trip and conditions?
  • ready your craft for the trip
  • ready yourself and your crew for the trip
  • launch!



Continually assess risk as it changes with condition of weather, group, tide. Many incidents begin with a seemingly insignificant change such as a decision to turn on a cresting wave or standing while changing rowing positions. Try to think forward and foresee the consequences of change.

Consider having a defined leader on the water. This is generally the most experienced member of the group. This does not mean that this person is a dictator, but uses situational leadership to help achieve the trip objectives safely. Depending on the group and situation, discuss decisions involving risk assessment.

Carry appropriate safety and rescue equipment and know how to use it. See the equipment list above and the recommended training below.

Prepare for your return to shore:

  • Cox should prepare crew for return and instruct on when and how to row
  • Disembark under Cox instructions at shore, in order, from Bow position
  • Lift Skiff onto trolleys together
  • use your equipment to deal with situations as they arise
  • have conditions worsened beyond the capability of your crew and passengers?
  • is your craft capable of completing the planned trip?
  • consider turning back or retiring from the race
  • replan according to the new circumstances
  • agree the new plan with crew and passengers



As soon as you are off the water, contact the “on shore worrier” and if necessary the Coastguard.

Did a damaging event happen? Report it as soon as possible to the club via the web form here:  []. It is important that the club can learn from any incident as soon as possible, and so this report will be used to improve safety policy. Incident reports will be published on the web site.

Did a near miss occur? A near miss is something that did not cause any damage but had the potential to. If you see something and are unsure if it was a near miss or not, it was. Report near misses via the web form here []. These reports will also be used to improve safety and will be published on the web site.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations

(RIDDOR) 1995 require the PSKC to notify certain injuries, illness and “dangerous occurrences” to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at the earliest practicable time after the event. Reportable injuries are:

  • a break or fracture of any bone except those of the fingers or toes
  • any amputation
  • dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine
  • loss of sight (whether temporary or permanent)
  • chemical or hot metal burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye;
  • an injury resulting from electric shock or electrical burns
  • an injury that leads to a loss of consciousness or requires resuscitation
  • an injury that requires the injured person to be hospitalised for more than 24 hours

Here is a link to the form for reporting accidents/incidents/near misses

  • recover your skiff to its trolley
  • return your skiff to the yard
  • ensure shore officer knows you have returned safely
  • provide assistance to other club members who need it
  • did your trip/race go as planned?
  • what will you do differently next time?
  • do you need to replace/replenish any safety equipment?
  • did any incidents or near misses occur?
  • does your craft have any defects?
  • report incidents/near misses
  • mark and report defects on club boats
  • write up the event for website/newsletter


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