Risk assessment
United Hospitals Head Race 

This assessment is designed to cover foreseeable risks in the conduct of the UH Head. This event is usually held in the middle of the Spring term. Boating for this event occurs mainly from University of London boathouse (ULBH), but one club boats from Tideway Scullers School boathouse (TSSBH). Invitational clubs may boat from ULBH or elsewhere. Racing will be on the ebb tide.
 
The event will be held in accordance with the principles set out in Rowing on the Tideway – A Code of Practice for Rowing on the Tidal Thames above Putney (CPRT) published jointly by the PLA and the Thames Regional Rowing Council (TRRC).  It will also be held in accordance with the principles set out in the TRRC code of practice for Tideway head races. The PLA publishes information about the event in the PLA events calendar[1] and this refers to crews taking the racing line when appropriate and to permit overtaking within the Kew restricted zones (where safe).
 
Crews will proceed to the marshalling area following CPRT. The marshalling area is shown at appendix 6, and is alongside Isleworth ait. The race will be held in two divisions, starting at Syon House Pavilion and finishing at the MAA Boathouse. Distance approximately 4000 yards.
 
There will be officials placed along the course to maintain a constant line of sight of the course. There will be officials placed on the western end of both restricted zones at Kew to monitor the progress of powered vessels against the stream and assess the need for ‘line astern’ navigation through the Kew area.
 
History of the UH Head.
This event has been held in this location for many years. There have been no fatalities or significant injuries related to the conduct of this event known to the author in this period.
2006: event was rowed over a reduced course because of difficult conditions (wind against tide) beyond Brentford Lock.
2007: Thames Barrier closure immediately prior to the event which reduced the very strong stream to more acceptable conditions, but the novice section was scratched due to concerns about the likely stream conditions.
2008: No specific issues.
2009: Collision between a coxless 4 competing in the race and a small powered launch at Brentford Lock; with swamping of the racing shell but no injuries. The incident was reviewed by the PLA and the TRRC RSA, and it was felt that the collision resulted from a failure to keep an adequate lookout on the part of both boats and there was an onus on the event to ensure that the navigation of external boats was not compromised. It has therefore been decided that coxless boats should not be allowed to enter this race, and there needs to be a review of the marshalling positions to ensure proper line of sight coverage.
2010: No specific issues.
2011: No specific issues.
2012: No specific issues
2013: No specific issues.
2014: Very significant fluvial flows during the winter months. Race format changed to exclude novice crews and race time altered to occur during the rise following low water. This provided reasonably settled conditions for the race.
2015: No specific issues.
2016: No specific issues.
 

 

 

Key risks and mitigation process

 

Key risk (reference)

Measured variable

Risk level

Risk rating

Mitigation

Responsibility

Increased fluvial flow (8)

PLA fluvial flow flag

Green flag

Green

Nil

Nil

Yellow flag

Amber

Consider:

1.   exclusion of novice 8o and all 4+s

2.   change in time of racing if possible to later in ebb or after low water

1.   CU

2.   UHBC committee

(aim for decision > 24 hours prior to race time)

Red flag

Red

1.   Cancel or defer race to another date

2.   Consider change in time of marshalling and racing if possible to follow low water; only senior and intermediate crews

1.  CU

2.  UHBC committee

(aim for decision > 24 hours prior to race time)

High wind speeds (9)

Forecasted wind direction and speed

Forecast Gusts < 25mph

Green

Course inspection by CU prior to race

CU

Forecast Gusts 25-35mph (especially easterly at Brentford Lock or southerly alongside Isleworth Ait)

Amber

Decision may need to be made on race day following high water and may need to be based on course inspection and review of actual wind speeds

Consider:

1.    Cancel or defer race to another date

2.    Shortening of course to finish at ULBH (if strong SE gusts)

3.    Shortening of course to start alongside Brentford Ait (if strong easterly gusts)

4.    Avoiding marshalling crews alongside Isleworth Ait (if strong southerly gusts)

5.    Combination of the above

(see appendix 11)

CU

UHBC Committee (decision may need to be made on race day)

Forecast Gusts > 35mph

Red

Decision may need to be made on race day following high water and may need to be based on course inspection and review of actual wind direction and speeds (note that forecast may > actual gust speeds)

Consider:

1.    Cancel or defer race to another date

2.    Other options shown in ‘amber’ risk rating but only if actual gust speed appears < 35mph and stable direction

CU

UHBC Committee (decision may need to be made on race day)

 

Table of risks and control measures

 

Risk Assessment Matrix

 

Most likely severity of harm

 

Likelihood of harm

 

Slight harm

 

Moderate harm

Extreme harm

Very unlikely

 

Very low risk

1

Low risk

2

Low risk

3

Unlikely

 

Low risk

4

Medium risk

5

Medium risk

6

Likely

 

Medium risk

7

Medium risk

8

High risk

9

Very likely

 

Medium risk

10

High risk

11

Very high risk

12

 














Updated in accordance with suggested risk level estimator: Row Safe 

 

Note that the risk assessment matrix is a subjective tool and the individual cells are numbered for reference purposes only.

 

  Risk Issues Probability of accident Likely severity Risk estimation Control measures
1 Risk of collision with other oared boat, powered vessel or fixed obstruction
 
Novice and inexperienced coxes.
Coxswains fail to attend coxswains’ pre-race meeting
Lack of adherence to competitors instructions
 
Risk of meeting powered vessels coming upriver during race (river not closed); especially in Kew restricted zones.
[1]
Likely Slight Harm Medium
7
  1. UH sets basic minimum coxing experience criteria (min 30 outings);
  2. Emphasis on responsibilities of individual club captains at UH committee meeting and elsewhere to ensure compliance with marshalling instructions and attendance at coxswains’ meeting.
  3. Coxswains’ meeting – emphasise the need to adhere to the CPRT and the specific variations agreed with the PLA (relating to following the navigation line and navigation through the Kew RZ’s if and when it is safe to do so)
  4. Emphasise need at briefing for officials’ launches to be in designated position throughout marshalling and race.
  5. Race officials monitor powered vessel activity (in conjunction with downriver ‘spotter’, specific role for officials 5 and 6 to monitor Kew RZs and provide instruction to competitors during race. Event needs to ensure that there is appropriate tasking for these roles.
  6. Sanction on crews for significant contravention of CPRT via standard BR/PLA reporting process.
2 Radio communication failure Immersion of handset/ severe rain
Handset battery failure
Handset failure.
Length of course.
Positioning of booster station.
Unlikely Slightly harmful Low
4
  1. Mobile phones as back-up;
  2. Total system failure will require control to consider suspension of event.
  3. There may be some difficulty in maintaining clear radio contact between start and finish despite optimum positioning of booster station (on roof level of ULBH); therefore:
  • Two radio groups designated: Start group (L1,2,3,4, safety & BM 1 & 2); Finish group (L5,6,7,8, safety & BM2,3,4&5)
  • Direct contact (mobile telephone back-up) essential between L1 and BM3 and BM5
  • BM2/L5 to act as relay for both radio groups IF NEEDED
3 Use of inexperienced race officials Use of relatively junior personnel (student based)
Limited availability of licenced umpires
Likely Slight harm Medium
7
  1. Invitation of other licenced umpires by CU
  2. Role allocation by CU (high risk area – Kew RZs)
  3. Briefing by chief umpire
  4. Overall control by chief umpire waterborne in start area
  5. Adherence to radio code
4 Launch engine failure Borrowed launches.
Engine failure/ lack of petrol during event; but 7 other launches in action
Launch failure prior to event, with no available spare
Grounding of engine due to low water depth
Likely Slight
Harm
Medium
7
 
 
  1. The event will not commence without eight fully functioning launches.
  2. Launch drivers need to be aware of the risk of grounding up river towards Syon.
  3. If a launch failure occurs during the event, then control will take immediate steps to identify a reserve launch. If one is not available, then the control/CU will review whether suspension of racing is appropriate. It may be possible to transfer one or two race monitors to the single (e.g. 4 and 7).
5 Inadequate launch safety equipment Borrowed equipment
(responsibility rests with the individual club captains)
Very unlikely Moderate
Harm
Low
2
  1. UHBC will not allow the event to start without nine fully equipped launches
  2. If a reserve launch is brought into action then control to check launch.
  3. UHBC identifies responsibility of individual club captains at UHBC committee meetings and elsewhere to provide equipment in line with British Rowing ‘Row safe’.
6 Immersion in the Tideway Risk of immersion, hypothermia and drowning.
 
Very unlikely Extreme Harm Low
3
  1. All private matches based at ULBH will have appropriate rescue boat provision from recognised provider.
  2. The event cannot commence without adequate safety boat cover.
  3. Back up via RNLI if needed.
  4. All coxes will wear buoyancy aids/lifejackets in line with BR Row safe
  5. Rowers will need to satisfy individual clubs regarding competence to swim; if not competent then they must wear an appropriate buoyancy aid or lifejacket.
  6. If rowers are competent to swim then they will not wear specific buoyancy aids in line with national standards for rowing as set out in BR Row Safe
7 Medical evacuation LAS ambulance.
Evacuation route via ULBH
Very unlikely Extreme Harm Low
3
  1. CU medically qualified.
  2. Other officials will also have basic life support provision ability.
  3. LAS outside of UH/ULBC control.
  4. Designated primary evacuation route via ULBH.
8 Fast ebb stream conditions (high fluvial flow) PLA ‘flag’ system
Greater chance of high fluvial flows during winter months
Likely Extreme harm High risk
9
  1. CU and organising committee to review ebb flow rates over previous few days, and aim for early notification (>24 hours) to competitors about changes to the planned events.
  2. If ‘red’ flag then event may not proceed on the ebb and no oared boats should be allowed on the Tideway; rowing may be possible during the time between low and high water but the stream speed may still be high and on the ebb and the CU & organising committee may sanction senior crews only to race in this period provided there is a direct assessment of conditions immediately prior to such racing.
  3. If ‘yellow’ flag then only senior crews may boat on the ebb and the CU and organising committee may sanction senior crews to race in this period provided that there is a direct assessment of conditions immediately prior to such racing. It may be possible for the CU and organising committee to sanction intermediate and novice crews to race during the period between low and high water but only if there has been a direct assessment of conditions immediately prior to such racing. No crews comprising members who have less than two term’s rowing experience should boat during the ebb stream in ‘yellow’ flag conditions.
9 Poor weather conditions High wind speeds
Heavy rain
Limited visibility
Fog
Likely Extreme harm High risk
9
  1. CU and organising committee to review weather forecasts over previous few days and aim for early notification (>24 hours) to competitors about adverse weather conditions.
  2. If gusts are forecast >35mph in a direction parallel to the river and against the stream then there is a high likelihood of unrowable conditions especially near high water (e.g. at Brentford on the ebb with an easterly wind).
  3. However the Mortlake reach is relatively sheltered from the prevailing southwest wind direction and it may not be possible to accurately predict the impact of high wind speed on the water conditions until the time of the event.
  4. If there is doubt then the organising committee will instruct a delay in boating from ULBH and TSSC until there has been a course inspection by the CU.
  5. The CU and organising committee may determine that it is possible to achieve safe racing conditions by curtailing the course (including starting at Brentford Ait or finishing at ULBC) – see appendix 11.
  6. Heavy rain or other climatic conditions may temporarily reduce visibility and the CU will monitor the situations during the event.
  7. If the visibility is reduced such that the railway bridge cannot be seen clearly across the width of the river from the balcony of ULBH then the event should be suspended.
10 Navigation of powered vessels in regatta area Navigation of other vessels must not be impeded
Adequate look-out by coxes, marshals, umpires
Likely Slight harm Medium
7
  1. Limited volume of powered vessel traffic on Tideway in the autumn/winter
  2. PLA notice to mariners to cover all events
  3. Effective use of bank marshal (spotter) downriver of race finish to advise of oncoming vessels; to liaise with start.
  4. Experience of race starter/officials
  5. Monitoring of VHF channel 14 by CU and safety launch (VHF licenced).
11 Watermanship of competitors proceeding to marshalling area
  • Failure of cox to keep adequate look-out.
 
  • Failure to adhere to PLA byelaws & CPRT
Likely Slight harm Medium
7
  1. See 1 above;
  2. Supervision by  launches of CPRT rules in inshore zone
  3. Officials 4 and 7 to be on station promptly and monitor crossing points. Official 4 to control Syon crossing point, official 7 opposite UL.
  4. Pre-race information to coxes, only experienced coxes (30 hours experience minimum) permitted to race; emphasise care to be taken when proceeding to the marshalling zone to avoid other crews proceeding in the opposite direction on the flood (especially at the crossing points (upstream of ULBH and at Syon crossing).
  5. Port-hand buoys helps control risk by identifying correct navigation channel.
 
 
12 Supervision of marshalling area Crews rowing at firm pressure in congested area
Failure to keep line astern
Crews turning
Impact of fast stream (excess land water)
Likely Slight harm Medium
7
  1. 3 launches in marshalling area;
  2. Marshals in this area generally under direct supervision of CU;
  3. Pre-race instruction to coxes, experienced coxes only
  4. Race scheduled for as late as possible in the day to reduce conflict with non-event crews.
  5. Requirement for line astern marshalling;
  6. No firm pressure / racing starts in marshalling area;
  7. Official 4 to hold crews below Syon crossing if excess congestion.
  8. Chief Umpire to exclude novice crews if conditions unsuitable
 
13 Turning of competitors on the stream
 
Unsafe river conditions immediately prior to race
Unobserved obstruction on course
Motor vessel against stream on course (especially at Kew RZ)
Non-compliant external crew
Novice boats have a larger turning circle;
Failure of cox to keep adequate look-out;
Failure of marshalling launches to supervise turning;
Crews turning too far onto the starboard aspect of the fairway alongside Isleworth Ait
Likely Slightly
harm
Medium
7
  1. Adequate supervision by CU/marshalling launches;
  2. Adequacy of experience of race officials;
  3. Area under direct supervision of CU during racing periods;
  4. Pre-race information to coxes, experienced coxes only;
  5. Chief Umpire to check whole of marshalling area and check with control prior to starting race.
  6. CU will not start to turn crews until the river conditions (including other river traffic) appear suitable.
  7. Chief Umpire to ensure adequate time gaps between each crew being set off to reduce likelihood of bunching at Kew RZ
  8. Attention by marshals to keep crews against stream in correct position on Middlesex side.
14 Watermanship of crews during race Failure to keep adequate look-out
Failure to adhere to CPRT (modified by event NTM)
Conflict with motor vessels
Difficulty in communication between officials and coxes
Cox failing to return to the starboard aspect after overtaking in accordance with event rules and CPRT
 
 
 
 
Likely
 
 
 
 
Slight
Harm
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Medium
7
  1. Pre-race information to coxes;
  2. Ensure all coxes have key minimum competencies as assessed by club captains; specific requirement on all club captains to disclose problems with competency at previous UHBC committee meeting
  3. Crews will be seeded in last year’s finishing order to attempt to reduce the amount of overtaking required.
  4. Launch 4 will be on the Syon crossing point to monitor both UH crews racing on the stream and non-UH crews crossing from Surrey to Middlesex against the stream.
  5. Chief marshal will delay race start to avoid possible conflict in kew RZs with oncoming powered vessels
  6. Chief marshal will establish sufficient gaps between crews at the start to reduce risk of overtaking/bunching of crews
  7. Launches equipped with adequate megaphone and flags
  8. Line of sight by marshals along whole course
  9. No coxless boats in event
15 Navigation in Kew Restricted Zone Variation of CPRT by event (agreed with PLA)
Potential narrowing of channel in RZ’s by oncoming powered vessels
Likely Slight harm Medium
7
 
  1. Lead Official in L5 to assess river conditions in Kew RZ as race approaches;
  2. Officials 5 & 6 to enforce ’line astern’ racing if conditions not safe (e.g. oncoming powered vessel)
  3. Significance of instruction ‘line astern’ to be emphasised at coxes meeting
  4. Abandonment protocol to be emphasised at coxes meeting
16 Race finish and turning
  • Ebb finish – possibility of drifting down to Ship crossing
Unlikely Extreme harm Medium
6
  1. Dedicated finish marshal to ensure crews do not stop in  Chiswick Bridge restricted zone & they exit before turning
  2. Novice crews coxed by experienced coxes;
  3. Procedure for turning in pre-race information to coxes
17 Watermanship of returning crews
  • Adherence to PLA byelaws
  • Failure to proceed in in-shore zone in accordance with CPRT
  • Crews retuning to ULBH against ebb stream crossing across racing crews
Unlikely Moderateharm Medium
5
  1. Officials to ensure crews turned and following correct course back to boathouse.
  2. Emphasis on proper navigation in in-shore zone at coxes’ and officials’ meeting.
  3. Official 7 to monitor returning crews especially whilst race still in progress.
 
 
 

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