Workshop: How to Create and Update your Safety Plan

summarized by David DeWinter
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Matt Logue – Executive Director, Three Rivers Rowing Association

The 3-Sentence Summary

Your organization should express its commitment to safety through its mission, vision, and values. The most effective safety plans have three components: the best practices about what is safe for rowers in your organization, partnerships with other organizations and individuals who use your waterway, and an ongoing communication strategy that ensures that safety never becomes an afterthought for your staff or your rowers. Update your safety plan frequently in response to new incidents and what-if worst-case planning.


2:59 Safety plans are unique to your organization and the waterways you row on.

Our Process

4:29 We look at 3 areas: our constituency (who we serve), our environment (our waterways, which seasons), and our safety leadership (who makes the protocols and who shares/models the protocols with our athletes and community).

7:18 Safety plans start with the mission, vision, and values.

8:17 Know your current protocols and procedures. How often are these reviewed? Are they easily accessible?

9:21 Tool: Safety Matrix. A boathouse-wide way to see what is safe to put on the water. Contains inputs (e.g. water flow rate, water temperature) and outputs (the types of boats it’s okay to row). Example Safety Matrix for Three Rivers

11:17 Course maps should be plainly visible at the boathouse. Mark traffic patterns, hazards, emergency pull-out areas, bridge traffic, etc. Example Flyover Map

13:32 Have a process for writing and reviewing incident reports. These are for everyone to learn, not to be penalized.

15:30 Do you coordinate much with other river users (marinas, recreational boaters, etc.)?

Yes, we do our best to connect with these groups through the Pittsburgh Safe Boating Council. It’s been very helpful because we share resources and look out for each other. The marinas have called 911 for rowers in distress.

Side benefit: it drives awareness of our sport and attracts new members.

We didn’t set up this council, but if someone doesn’t exist in your local community, it would behoove you to start the conversation.


24:43 Identify your safety network: individuals internal to the organization, local emergency services, other waterway users, USRowing Safety Committee.

25:47 Sometimes other water users don’t know the laws. You don’t have to strongarm others in conversations; inform them about the laws.

27:38 Detecting gaps in your plan should be part of your update process. The easiest ways to do this are (1) looking at safety plans from other rowing organizations and (2) the Thomond Weir Report.

29:50 Be aware of grants to raise money for safety-related equipment and training but also be sure to budget appropriately for safety.

Conversation Starters

31:39 Simple questions to ask to advance your safety state of the art:

  • Who is the Safety authority within our organization?
  • What is our Safety Training process?
  • Are our protocols and procedures inclusive?

32:30 We have to get past confrontational conversations to produce learning and enrich relationships. See Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

33:40 We send out safety information through several channels at least one per month: seasonal organization-wide safety meetings, coach-led program-specific safety meetings, monthly safety bulletin. Example: TRRA Safety Spotlights

36:50 More questions:

41:29 The Safety Starter Template

Challenges & Questions

43:30 What apps work best for safety? 

  • Weatherbug: Lightning (including direction) and air quality
  • MyRadar

47:04 Any thoughts on when it’s too hot to row? Is that in the TRRA matrix?

Air temperature is not in our matrix, but we do cover hyperthermia in great depth in our “Best Practices” section. You need to know the heat index, whether your athletes have water, what kind of athletes you’re working with (youth, para, adults…). There is no one threshold. Make sure your athletes are aware of the symptoms of hyperthermia and tell them to speak up.

49:29 Do your matrices have any hard restrictions, or is everything at your own risk?

We have hard restrictions. For example, if the water temperature is below 50, no singles can go out.

50:36 It’s critical to have one person who makes the call when the conditions are suspect.

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