Watersports activities take place in a wide range of environments involving vastly differing risks. Well managed activities bring about individual health and wellbeing benefits, along with positive tourism and economic impacts.
The principal body in England responsible for developing opportunities to participate in sport is Sport England (SE). Its policy aims do not have a specific safety focus, but safety is addressed indirectly through, for example, the specification for facilities and advice on recreation management. SE provides funding to national governing bodies to assist with the development of sport and appropriate infrastructure.
Managing risk in sport is inherent in many technical programmes, i.e. canoeing self rescue, navigation and understanding weather conditions. The role of sports national governing bodies (NGB) in promoting and influencing technical and good practice activity is central.
RoSPA assists with this by working with many sports NGB through the National Water Safety Forum.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 applies to watersports activities which are commercial in their nature. In addition the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) has a remit to inspect and ultimately license centres providing adventure activities to young people of 17 years old and under. All those who provide adventure activities within scope of the Licensing Regulations 2004 must have a license.
The National Water Safety Forum provides advice that applies to all water sports activities:
Before planning an activity consider the following:
- Get appropriate training to include survival and safety training. Use the correct safety equipment; this may include a life-jacket. Consider joining a club for support and advice.
- Check the equipment that you are using to ensure that it is sound.
- Plan your activity. Always ensure that someone knows of your plans, particularly the time that you expect to return.
- Check weather forecast and conditions before setting out and be prepared to change your plans if these are adverse.
- Take a means of communication with you like a mobile phone, if appropriate, flares or a whistle.
It is a fact that people who get into difficulties whilst pursuing sporting activities have usually failed to take adequate safety precautions in light of the conditions and their ability.
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