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Thread: POR v Risk Assesment

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    Senior Member CambridgeSkip's Avatar
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    POR v Risk Assesment

    Evening folks

    Has anyone ever had a situation where your own risk assesment indicates that a prescribed activity rule actually makes an activity less safe? And if so is there anything you can do about it?

    The situation I have is that the troop have asked to do a night punting on the Cam in the summer, I've looked the rules up on website and found stuff on pretty much every type of boating except punting. So I give the info centre a call to see what the deal is and the deal is no permit needed but all kids must wear boyancy aids.

    Now my point of view is that from local knowledge, if a kid falls off a punt on the Cam then the biggest risk to their safety is NOT drowning as besides the river being pretty shallow the number of punts around, especially when the weather is good, means my biggest worry is them being hit in the head by another punt, which is going to be nasty. If you have to swim or duck out the way of one then having a boyancy aid on is actually going to make it less safe as it makes swimming pretty difficult.

    Now whether or not my opinion is correct (those with more experience of water activities may disagree with me) on this particular issue is, for the point of this post, beside the point. What I was wondering is if you have a situation where your risk assesment says don't do what the rule book says you should do what should you do? Follow the book? Or try to make things safer?

    Discuss!

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    GSL/ESL(YL)/TA Mark W's Avatar
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    POR v Opinion

    Roll up for the debate about cycle helmets ......
    If it was easy, it wouldn't be so much fun...
    GSL 1st Aylburton & Lydney, TA, ESL(YL), District Campsite Warden & webmanager .....only 1 hour a week, they said (not pointing out that was what was left)

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    Senior Member Mallah's Avatar
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    Reminds me of when I was trying to find the landowner of the site where I run an event we call ShiveMiShelter (an autum/winter shelter night). I contacted the local farmer who said, not mine. I contacted the Council who said, Not ours. And finaly contacted Yorkshire water who said 'IF it was our land I would have to say you can't camp there, however I don't know if it's our land or not! - hope you have a good time'
    I'm pretty sure it is YW land but he was saying - Don't ask. Sometimes that's good advice.

    He who receives a good turn should never forget it; he who does one should never remember it.

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    Senior Member The Hairy One's Avatar
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    Have you looked at Scudamore's risk assessment? They will almost certainly have one. Failing that, ask the H&S officer at Cambridge City Council for advice. You'll find them in the Environmental Health department. Do companies like Scudamore's provide buoyancy aids? If they do, use theirs - as long as they are in reasonable condition.
    Having been punting several times (including with my kids when they were about 4), I concur with you. The most likely injury I foresee is crushed hands and arms because the kids have their arms trailing over the side when the punt is accidentally rammed by another. The Cam can get very crowded in tourist season.
    To reduce the risk of collisions one option would be to go on the river at Magdalen Bridge and go AWAY from the city centre. Fewer punts go that way (and fewer drunken punters).
    Last edited by The Hairy One; 28-03-2011 at 09:16 PM. Reason: clarity
    The Hairy One

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    Punting and Bouyancy Aids

    Sounds like there are (at least) two risks:

    possible drowning

    possibly being hit by another punt


    You then need to assess the impact of having a BA or not.

    I'd suggest that you could be hit by another punt with or without a BA. However if you are hit (and say knocked out) you will be safer if you are wearing a BA.

    If the water is shallow enough to wade in, then a BA should not be a hindrance to swimming...

    Graham Scrimgeour
    ASL 122nd Inverleith Scouts

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    Senior Member CambridgeSkip's Avatar
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    GScrimgeour, I think you misunderstood, I'm less concerned with being hit while in the punt (although crushed fingers is probably the most likely injury) more with a kid in the drink, floating around unable to get out the way while in the water.

    Besides, like I said, it's less about the specifics of this case and more about the general point, if the risk assesment says the activity rules are wrong in a given situation, what do yo do?

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    Senior Member roger-uk's Avatar
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    If you go with your risk assessment and did not use a BA. Someone fell out of boat - got knocked on head and drowned. A bA woiuld probbaly have saved his life.

    If he gets knocked out of boat wearng BA he will not drown where he is knocked uncouncious or not.

    At our water activity centre all water related activities must have BA's on.
    Roger Woods
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    There is no conflict between risk assessments and rules. Rules must be followed (ignoring any potential emergency situations).

    If your risk assessments says you can't run an activity within the rules then you can't do the activity.

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    a quiver full of barbs merryweather's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    Evening folks

    Has anyone ever had a situation where your own risk assesment indicates that a prescribed activity rule actually makes an activity less safe? And if so is there anything you can do about it?
    while there may be some extreme occurences which are unforeseen and extremely rare, i don't think that any activity rule makes any activity less safe. if there was such an occurence do you not think someone would've spotted it by now? are you suggesting that there are activity rules which make certain things dangerous?

    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    The situation I have is that the troop have asked to do a night punting on the Cam in the summer, I've looked the rules up on website and found stuff on pretty much every type of boating except punting. So I give the info centre a call to see what the deal is and the deal is no permit needed but all kids must wear boyancy aids.
    irrc, correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    Now my point of view is that from local knowledge, if a kid falls off a punt on the Cam then the biggest risk to their safety is NOT drowning as besides the river being pretty shallow the number of punts around, especially when the weather is good, means my biggest worry is them being hit in the head by another punt, which is going to be nasty. If you have to swim or duck out the way of one then having a boyancy aid on is actually going to make it less safe as it makes swimming pretty difficult.
    the biggest risk to them is not drowning but being hit on the head? where did you get that one from!!?

    now let's get something straight, people who fall into water do get hit by craft, do get serious bumps on heads, and do die as a result. furthermore, people who fall into water and do not get hit on the head by craft, do die as a result - by drowning.

    local/personal opinion (yours) seems to suggest that the former has the greater fatal accident frequency rate or even non-fatal accident frequency rate. what evidence do you have for this?

    i expect that actually the latter far outweighs the former. (but the former is not nothing/zero.)

    alcohol has a big impact on water fatality stats. iirc, for most boating accidents where someone has fallen in and drowning has resulted, a very large number (high 70-80% at least) have not been wearing a pfd.

    incidents of people being hit by craft have risen in recent years as more and more powered water craft such as jet skis are being used but many of these are for incidents involving jet skis (personal water craft), &c, not punts or non-powered craft. accidents involving craft/vessels are dominated largely by motorboats and personal water craft (which are not present in your case).

    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    Now whether or not my opinion is correct (those with more experience of water activities may disagree with me) on this particular issue is, for the point of this post, beside the point.
    your opinion is important as it's driving your RA! but is your opinoin based on fears, stories, actual events, personal experience, &c? your opinion cannot be ignored.

    so once again do you have any facts/figures/evidence to support your opinion?

    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    What I was wondering is if you have a situation where your risk assesment says don't do what the rule book says you should do what should you do? Follow the book? Or try to make things safer?

    Discuss!
    but does your RA say don't do what the rule book says? I suggest it (your RA) says nothing of the sort!

    there is a risk of harm from a kid falling in. that 'harm' could be death (by drowning). a sensible control measure is for the kids to wear pfds.

    in addition - and not as a consequence of (which is where i take issue with you) - there is a risk that a kid could get hit on the head by a punt. a sensible control measure for that is to wear an appropriate helmet, such as a canoe helmet.

    i recall a similar argument in the seat-belt debate of yesteryear. iirc it went: a jammed seatbelt in an accident could lead to your death if on crashing you were trapped by it and the car caught fire; hence don't wear a seat belt to avoid this. seat belts save thousands more lives, that's why you wear them.

    you are allowed to break rules if, in unforeseen circumstances, to follow such rules would place people in danger or greater danger.

    circumstances here are not unforeseen.

    if your RA says that there is a risk in an activity - and there will always be some risk - that is unacceptable to you and the only way to reduce/remove this risk is to break a scouting rule, then you simply cannot do the activity.

    i don't see that being the case here.

    over to you camskip.

    cordially yours, TM

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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    Interesting question, but setting that aside...

    It is a water activity, if it were rowing or kayaking or canoeing, or rafting a BA would be required, in many cases (WY in all cases) a helmet is required.

    So, punting on the Cam if compared to other activities should require a BA as a minimum. If the risk is assessed as being from head injuries, say, then helmets would also be required.

    The issue is, are we going over the top? This is an activity enjoyed by many, many inexperienced tourists every year, My impression is in Edwardian dress with a picnic hamper...Doubtless, people wall into the river. Are there many serious injuries or deaths from the activity - I doubt it. Should we then wrap our kids in cotton wool and bubble wrap in order that they might do something that others do without physical restriction?

    Is insisting on a BA and helmet when there is no real threat instilling fear of danger? Is it creating a false sense of security that encourages larking about and misbehaviour likely to result in a mishap?
    Ewan Scott

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    Actually, the biggest risk seems to me (having been punting before) to be poor control of the pole, a fairly weighty bit of scaffolding (basically), and whacking people off the punt with that!

    Neil

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    Senior Member stevelinton's Avatar
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    For night punting, if the bouyancy aids are bright coloured they will have some benefit in avoiding collision accidents anyway. Also there will be fewer boats on the river to hit them at night.

    On the broader issue, I think you have to take the rules as given and do your RA within them. If you spot a way to improve the rules you can take that up with the appropriate people. It has been made very clear to me that the SA will back you to the hilt if you stay within the rules and hang you out to dry if you don't.

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    Member Padowan's Avatar
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    As an alternative approach, could you not try to mitigate the "falling in the water" event by perhaps harnessing the Scouts together in some way. That way, you don't need either a PFD or a Helmet, as you mitigate the event for which both are a precaution (although if POR state you need a PFD as minimum, then you'll need to comply with that).

    Risk assessment is all about cause and effect and you can either try to eliminate the cause (preferred) or minimise the effect - both a Helmet and a PFD are effect minimisation techniques.

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    Trying to give a bit of useful input on the punting issue, putting aside the RA vs. rules qusetion.

    If you're going night punting, then I would personally say BAs are a good idea, for anyone on the punting platform or standing in the boat. As you're probably going to be swapping around, then that means everyone in the punt. That neatly fits with POR (handily enough). A well fitted and adjusted buoyancy aid should not hinder reasonable progress through the water, and ducking under the water to avoid collision with a punt should not be recommended to kids.

    BAs help reduce the risk of drowing. To reduce the risk of injuries from collision you need a good briefing as to what you expect the people to do if someone ends up in the water.

    Number one. All the YP in the craft point at the person in the water, and keep pointing until they are back in the boat (or the rest of the crew are on dry land).

    Number two. The person in the water attempts to swim towards the punt, or the shore, whichever is nearest and easiest to climb out onto. If the shore, then the punt also heads ashore.

    Number three. Everyone keeps their eyes peeled for other boats. The pointing thing will help with this a lot. If there's risk of collision then you shout to the swimmer, and the other boat. Person in the water can then turn to face boat and push them selves off it, or pull themselves up onto it if going to be between two objects. The BA will make this a lot easier as they'll be floating much higher in the water than without.

    Don't forget a good torch, and that everyone must wear shoes, even the punter. If someone ends up in the water, the bottom is covered in nasty stuff. Obviously wash hands before eating, anyone who goes in showers when they get home. I'd highly recommend a can of coke as well. Lastly, if you go from above the mill pond, towards Granchester, then you can sing as much as you like from the boats, there's more space for side by side racing, if anyone wants to walk along the bank they can, and there's far fewer tourists/drunk students around.

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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    As an alternative approach, could you not try to mitigate the "falling in the water" event by perhaps harnessing the Scouts together in some way.
    Yeah, the Romans and the Greeks did that, chain them to the boat... can't see too many problems with that...
    Ewan Scott

    It seems that there are a lot of Nawyecka Comanch around....





    Nawyecka Comanch'": "Means roundabout--man says he's going one way, means to go t'other" Ethan Edwards - The Searchers



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