Rowing Safety


Rowing is a challenging and enjoyable sport. However, like all sports, and water sports in particular, there are inherent risks. Rowing in the ACT also has some particular risks as an inland lake environment located in a cool climate. There are many roles undertaken in rowing in addition to rowing itself including, for example, boat racing officiating, coaching, driving tinnies and assisting rowers around the club site. Whatever the role, all those participating in the sport need to be aware of the risks and actively take action themselves to mitigate those risks.

If you are participating in the sport of rowing in the ACT you must read relevant safety documents, such as those above and determine what strategies you need to put in place to address any risks. If you are in any doubt about any aspect of your safety while participating in the sport, you should seek guidance before exposing yourself to that risk. Such guidance would normally be available from your Club captain or safety officer.

Even where every precaution is taken, like in any sport, participants need to recognise they could find themselves in a position where injury or death could result. For example:

  1. collisions;
  2. falling out of boat, swamping or capsizing with the risk of drowning or hypothermia in the ACT, particularly during the months from June to August;
  3. weather extremes. In the ACT, white water conditions can arise rapidly where there are storms;
  4. physical injuries when moving boats or other equipment, in training onshore or simply the hazards around building. Persons engaged in rowing or rowing related activities may be covered by insurance against personal accidents under a policy maintained by Rowing Australia. However, this insurance will not cover property loss or damage and may not cover injury caused to third persons. Clubs take out their own insurance in respect of property including boats and equipment. Any participant who has a need for insurance cover of personal equipment and property should make private arrangements with an insurer.

Rowing Australia, in concert with State Associations, has developed a number of tools to assist rowing clubs and the rowing community to enhance safety.

Safe On-Water Code of Conduct

The Code outlines in simple terms the expectations of safe use of waterways and the relationships that exist between users of those waterways.

On-Water Safety Guidelines – A Practical Guide for Rowing Clubs in Australia

The Guidelines expands in layman’s terms how the Code can be applied by Clubs and individuals. In particular, it outlines the recommendation that each club appoint a ‘Safety Officer’ to monitor safety issues within their own club.

Safety Assessment Checklist

This Excel spreadsheet is designed to be a fast and simple check list that will enable a Club safety officer to rapidly assess where weaknesses exist in safety procedure and equipment.

The document is outcomes focused can be easily considered by Rowing Club Committees to ensure that members are using waterways safely and responsibly in line with RA’s recommended guidelines.

 Incident Reporting

As an important part of ongoing safety management within the ACT, Rowing ACT collects information detailing rowing related incidents on ACT Lakes. This information is used to analyse and assess risks and potentially risky occurrences with the intent of more appropriately managing such risks.

It is important that all individuals who witness or are involved in and incident or near miss report such an occurrence in a timely manner to assist in managing and mitigating the chances or likelihood of reoccurrence.

The Rowing ACT Incident Report Form should be completed to report any collision, near miss, and winter capsize. The Rowing ACT Committee defines a winter capsize as any capsize which occurs between 1 June and 30 September within any calendar year.

Rowing ACT Incident Report Form – PDF

To promote safety and to assist Member Clubs meet their safety requirements, random checking will be made by Boat Race Officials at our regattas.  The key checks will be as follows.

Bow Balls.  The bows of all boats shall be fitted with a solid white ball shape, minimum diameter 4 cm. If this is an external part it shall be firmly affixed to the bow of the boat such that it does not significantly deflect if a side force is applied. If it is an integral part of the hull construction, it shall afford equivalent protection and visibility.

Quick Release.  In all boats with the foot stretchers, shoes or other devices holding the feet of the rowers shall allow the rowers to get clear of the boat without delay. Where shoes and other devices holding the feet will remain in the boat, each device shall be independently restrained such that the heel will not lift more than 7cm.   Where laces, Velcro or similar materials must be opened before the rower can remove his feet from the shoes or other device, these must be able to be released immediately by the rower with a single quick hand action of pulling on one easily accessible strap.

Blade Thickness.  The edges of blades, measured 3 mm from the outer edge of the blade for oars and 2

mm for sculls,  must have a minimum thickness throughout as follows:

  1. oars 5 mm;
  2. sculls 3 mm.

Coxswain’s seat.  The opening of the coxswain’s seat must be at least 70 cm long and it must be as wide as the boat for at least 50 cm. The inner surface of the enclosed part must be smooth and no structure of any sort may restrict the inner width of the coxswains section.