RYA - Royal Yachting Association

12/24/2019 | News release | Archived content

2019… another safe, successful and rewarding year for boating? We think so!

In 2014, the RYA launched an annual Safety Advisory Notice at the London Boat Show to raise awareness of particular safety issues in order to help to prevent avoidable accidents and to protect lives. Each Safety Advisory Notice brought together six critical safety topics that had been reported in the in the preceding year in a single printed publication. Its purpose was to highlight what we had done to learn lessons from accidents, listen to the experience of others and to encourage us all to think differently about our own attitudes and behaviour when out on the water.

More recently we have gone digital! Information on accidents and incidents can be submitted to us at any time with an online Accident and Incident report form and we are now producing safety advisory video clips on important learning points which need continual reinforcement. The first two of these are linked to incidents involving the use of kill cords and the use of safety lines. The video format delivers a powerful message and has enabled us to reach far more people than the printed version. Together the videos have been viewed more times that the entire number of Safety Advisory Notices that we had printed over its five year life.

Increasing confidence

Since we introduced online Accident and Incident reporting in 2018, we have noticed a 50% increase in the numbers of reports received. We are confident that this does not mean that there are more accidents and incidents occurring, but that the reason for the increase is likely because the online system makes reporting much easier and the word is spreading through our media and regional networks. This gives us increasing confidence that if something is worth reporting, we will hear about it.

The online system has also enabled us to collate the reported information more easily, identify trends and in particular to take direct action as a result of our observations. We have seen that we are getting far fewer reports of incidents involving Carbon Monoxide poisoning; in fact in 2019 we had none so hopefully our message is getting through. However, there are a number of themes that we have seen in 2019 and in each case we have done something about it.

A year in review

We still receive reports of head injury, however none of these has been serious or required hospitalisation. That said, it made us aware that we should provide advice on concussion and helmets for sailing, advice on what is available on the market, what sailors use and the factors that people should think about and what to look for when choosing one. In particular we have made it clear that a helmet may prevent blunt force trauma but it will not protect against concussion; therefore any bang on the head must be taken seriously, not shrugged off.

The number of reports we get concerning foiling is showing an increase as the popularity of this form of the sport grows. In response, the RYA training department has put together three courses which enable would be foilers to progress from first flight to sustained foiling. At the same time, the RYA Technical team has overhauled the Dinghy Racing Safety Management Course to include guidance for training and racing events that include foiling.

Despite pressure from the ports sector for more regulation of recreational boaters on their use of alcohol, we have not been inundated with reports of alcohol misuse. There have only been two reports of alcohol related incidents and those are anecdotal where there is only a suspicion that alcohol has been involved. That said, the RYA message is quite clear: don't mix alcohol and boating. The RYA believes that drinking and boating is irresponsible conduct and we are keen to support a national alcohol awareness campaign as part of the Department for Transport Maritime Safety Action Plan.

Taking action

It goes without saying that we pay particular attention to Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigations involving recreational craft and we are frequently involved in the process. This helps us to follow up on any recommendations and where necessary take steps to implement training course improvements and the safety information we provide.

This year we played a key role in communicating MAIB safety information to boaters following a fatal inversion of a sailing boat with a retractable keel. We have also played a pivotal role in bringing an international standard for an offshore sailing lifejacket to fruition, contributed to a British Standard on throwlines and as a member of the British Standards Institute committee responsible for the UK input into International Standards relating to small craft and personal protective equipment.

We've also followed through on MAIB recommendations to press for a revision of standards for Carbon Monoxide detectors, man overboard prevention, safety harnesses and lines and keel construction.

If you see it, say it

Overwhelmingly though, most accidents that are reported to us are just that - accidents. Some are tragic such as a fatal heart attack, others involve groundings, poor navigation, engine failure, minor cuts and bruises and the occasional broken bone. The RYA addresses all of these through its world leading training programme for leisure and professional boaters. The evidence that we gather from Accident and Incident reports helps us to analyse and understand what is going on and what we need to address. For that reason, we encourage everyone to keep the reports coming in.

The RYA's key safety messages; look after yourself, have a plan, keep in touch and know your limits underpin the RYA ethos of self-reliance and responsibility for safety on board. Our purpose is to promote and protect safe, successful and rewarding British boating. A safe mind set and adopting good practice are vital if this is to be achieved, but the evidence from 2019 shows that our 'education not legislation' message is working and that boating activities are overwhelmingly safe and fun.

For top tips on a whole range of boating topics, visit the RYA safety hub at www.rya.org.uk/go/safety.