The report into the tragic stand up paddleboarding accident in Haverfordwest makes for difficult reading. Our thoughts are with all the families involved. We’ve taken time to read the report in full and reflect on the findings, drawing out lessons and learning in the hope that something positive can eventually come from the accident. We recommend anyone involved in leading in the outdoors reads the report closely asking yourself, what can I improve?
1. Get inspected
The report highlighted that without a governing body itcan be difficult for participants to judge the competence of SUP businesses. One way we’ve helped to overcome this is by renewing our AALA license (opens in Google Drive). Whilst not strictly necessary for providers delivering sessions to adults, it’s a very robust inspection process and helps to give your customers the confidence that your processes and premises have been inspected by HSE and approved. We’d thoroughly recommend the inspection process if you want a fine tooth-comb through your paperwork.
2. Encourage questioning
We are doubling down on our efforts to involve the group in planning for our trips and tours. This is an important part of our trips already but we’ll be looking at other ways to encourage questioning to ensure that guide decisions don’t go unchallenged.
3. Educate right from the start
This is something we’re passionate about. We find every opportunity to discuss the role of safety equipment right from the first session on the water. Having the right kit is only half the battle; paddlers need to know what it’s for and how to use it. This starts right from the first taster session briefing. Rather than just introduce safety kit, we explain why we’re using it.
4. Share paperwork
We have included links to the relevant documents in our pre-course information so customers can easily do their due diligence. Previously groups had to specifically ask for it. We have also included a safety link on the bottom of our website linking to our documents. Our AALA license can be inspected live on the HSE website.
5. Be overqualified
The investigation has reinforced our belief in being overqualified for the water you’ll be leading on. If you plan to lead on sheltered water, why not get assessed to lead on open water? We’ve looked at everyone’s qualifications and have been up-skilling so that everyone leading sessions is trained to WSA Adventure Guide level or equivalent.
6. Make emergency contact details easy to find
Since Covid online registration (or waiver) forms have massively simplified paperwork for outdoor centres. This is great for finding customer details in the future, but less good for knowing who is on the water, with who, right now – as forms aren’t necessarily tagged by instructor and date/time. Centres should consider how they know exactly who is on the water at any one time. Do you know who is in which group? Do you have everyone’s emergency contact details? We’re improving our system and training so that instructors and the office are able to quickly access this information.
7. Carry an incapacitated instructor card
What happens if you, or a staff member, become unresponsive on session? Unlikely, I know, but a card (together with a brief mention at the briefing) could tell your customers what they need to do, even if it’s just a number to ring for help. We’ve produced cards and updated our customer briefings.
You can check our documents, licenses and accreditations, by following the safety link at the bottom of any page on our website, or using following this link (opens in Google Drive)