Accidents in boats can and do happen. The consequences of these can be severe. Accordingly it is very important that we, as club members, reduce the risk of accidents to as low as reasonably practicable. This document contains a list of safety requirements that are to be adhered to by all members of the Hong Kong VRC Paddle Club. Safety is everyone’s responsibility; not just the Club officials (EC, coaches etc). Club members should take the appropriate action to eliminate, where practicable, a hazard or risk to prevent an injury to their fellow paddlers or themselves when we paddle.
With respect to paddling, club members are free to voice a concern if they believe that the coach or steersman is taking an unnecessary risk. The Coach or steersman is obliged to listen to the concern and should aim to address it. But if the coach decides to proceed with the activity, despite the paddler’s concern, the paddler is free to withdraw from the activity as they see fit. Clearly if there are a number of people expressing the same concern, the coach or steersman is to seek the advice of other Coaches or present members of the EC and Captains. This does not absolve the coach of their responsibilities.
Top 10 Safety Tips:
- All club paddlers complete a regular swim test – whether new or old members; each season at times agreed by coaches.
- All paddlers who are not proficient swimmers must wear a life vest when on the water in a club boat Outrigger or Dragon boat.
- A ‘safety pack’ must be brought with each OC6 that leaves the vicinity of Deep Water and Repulse Bay.
- Safety packs must be signed out and signed back in by the steersman of those canoes. If items are lost from these packs the steersman who returns the pack must inform the Safety Officer.
- Buddy system – at the start of every DB and OC session, make sure you buddy up with someone you are sitting next to in the boat – they may save your life. If anything happens to the boat during the practice, keep your buddy in sight at all times!
- There must be an adequate number of experienced paddlers in any group that takes to the water to buddy less experienced ones.
- Boat steersmen are in charge of the boat. Listen to them and follow their instructions. If you don’t understand them, ask! If you don’t agree, say so – but once an agreement is reached, stick to it, no matter your opinion.
- If you are scared, say so. Any competent paddler would think the better of you the easiest time for mistakes and accidents to happen, so always be aware of what the water and the boat is doing.
- Use your common sense when on the water!
- Observe the weather conditions before you go out on the water.
Hong Kong does have some inclement weather on occasion. In order to protect all paddlers and any EC members from libel due to negligence, the following policy exists and must be adhered to:
- If there is in place a ‘Typhoon 3 or above’ or a thunderstorm warning – black or red, as issued by the Hong Kong Observatory, within 90mins of the scheduled start of the paddle session, then all on-water paddling activities will be cancelled.
- If the weather deteriorates during the session, such that a thunderstorm or strong winds are approaching, all paddlers must get off the water as soon as possible. This will be at the behest of the Officers of the Club [Chairman, Treasurer & Secretary], Safety Officer, Coaches and Steersmen.
- If the Hong Kong Observatory issues a warning to the public stating that people should not participate in water sports during the paddle times allotted, for expectation of future bad weather, then all on-water activities may be cancelled. The Chairman of the club has the final say on all and any enquiries on this matter [If the Chairman is absent, the Treasurer or Secretary – as liable Officers of the Club – may take the decision as appropriate]
- If the water conditions on any given day are deemed to be too rough for Dragon Boat paddling, the Officers, Safety Officer or Coaches may decide to cancel on-water training
- If the water conditions at the ‘base of the ramp’ into the sea are deemed to be too dangerous to launch any boat, the Officers, Safety Officer or Coaches may decide to cancel on-water training
- All coaches and steerspersons should be aware of, and understand, the weather, both current conditions and forecast, before taking paddlers on the water. The weather can now be accessed from our website. We encourage all paddlers to be aware of weather, wind and tide conditions. Coaches and steersmen will take all precautionary measures to ensure crew safety under all weather conditions. As per the Declaration and Waiver of Liability, signed by all Hong Kong VRC Paddle Club members, individuals are ultimately responsible for ensuring that they paddle in the appropriate clothing, have sufficient water reserves, and only participate in training and/or competition under reasonably fit physical conditions with due care and attention paid to the weather conditions at the time.
Paddling in the Cold
- Care needs to be taken when paddling in the cold. It is the individual’s responsibility to ensure you have the appropriate clothing and do not get overly cold and suffer from hypothermia.
- The coach should train the team for as long as they can keep warm.
- ‘On water’ training during the winter should be undertaken as close to the shoreline as possible.
Paddling in the Heat
- Paddlers should bring plenty of water to drink during all trainings and race days, especially when it is hot.
- Sunburn and overheating should be avoided by wearing hats and sunscreen.
A paddler gets too hot and is unable to cool sufficiently through sweating. This is common in humid environments. The first signs of this are often muscle cramping and headaches – this is known as Heat Cramps. Deal with this early by reducing the intensity of paddling and drink plenty of fluids. This situation is not serious. If it is not dealt with, it will lead to heat exhaustion.
Heat Exhaustion has the same symptoms, but more are serious. The paddler may also have faintness / dizziness, be sweating a lot, and have rapid breathing. If this is not dealt with, it can lead to heat stroke.
Heat Stroke kills people. Same symptoms, but more serious. The paddler may also lose consciousness. This stage is life threatening.
Quite simply, learn to recognize Heat Cramps in yourself and paddling buddies and deal with it before the illness escalates.
- In all cases, stop the person paddling and shade them from sun.
If the person is conscious:
- get them to sip water / electrolytes and splash them with water and fan them to cool down. Do not cool to the point of shivering.
If the person is unconscious:
- GET HELP (call a rescue boat / get the person to shore)
- Check that the airway is open and the person is breathing
- Elevate their legs and lower their head
- Sprinkle the person with water and fan them to cool down
- DO NOT give anything by mouth