Culture of Safety

summarized by David DeWinter
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Toni Martinez – Safety Committee, USRowing
Catharine Labine – Safety Committee, USRowing; Girls High Performance, Maritime Rowing Club
Matt Logue – Executive Director, Three Rivers Rowing Association; USRowing Safety Committee
Jim Cooper – Boatman/Coach, Norwalk River Rowing; USRowing Safety Committee

Supplementary Material

USRowing Safety Expectations

The 3-Sentence Summary

With multiple avoidable rowing-related deaths and serious injuries in 2021, boathouses should incorporate safety into their DNA: their mission, vision, values, culture, and conversations throughout their communities. An effective safety policy incorporates processes (e.g. safety meetings, “fire drill” practices), tools (e.g. posters, life-vests, high-vis clothing), and education (e.g. community newsletters). You may encounter resistance leading these conversations on updating your safety policies, but active listening, humility, and appealing to the mission can be great tools for breaking through.


0:41 John J Carlin award goes to Katalin Kariko


5:42 Objective: integrate safety into the everyday culture of your boathouse.

Building a Safety Culture

7:34 Several examples of safety tragedies in 2021: we should not ignore the teachable moments from these incidents.

9:23 The best safety approaches start with critical conversations. You may need to be prepared to respond to “We’ve always done it this way” or “Now’s not the time to talk about that.”

10:52 We must go beyond “right” and “wrong” to communicate effectively.

12:09 Safety starts with the mission, vision, and values of an organization. Additionally, who is responsible for safety protocols and updates?

Dismantling Fixed Mindsets

16:42 Symptoms of organizations with fixed mindsets around safety:

  • “We’ve always done it that way. It’s never been a problem before.”
  • Challenges working with neighboring clubs and programs to create a cohesive safety plan
  • Overly defensive reaction to parent safety concerns
  • Overly confident or inexperienced coaches
  • Impulsive/emotional responses

21:38 Ways to break down these challenges:

  • Appeal to the mission, vision, and values
  • Listen first, ensure you understand their point of view so they feel heard; be patient and humble
  • Be nimble enough to respond positively to blind spots

Safety Reminders

24:59 Ideas to keep safety top of mind:

  • Frequency of safety meetings (at least every quarter to address seasonal changes)
  • Posters
  • Newsletter / Social Media
  • Volunteer days to tackle safety backlog or work on boats (heel ties)
  • “Fire Drills” to practice. Filming them helps share with more of your community
  • Audience-specific conversations

Equipment and Technology

32:03 Small things make a big difference:

  • High-vis lime-green clothing
  • Low profile life jackets
  • Marine Radios: Standard Horizon 6w VHF
  • Launch/Shell Lights: RowKraft Beacons
  • Weather Stations: VHF radios have a weather channel, too
  • Electronic/phone-based logbook systems – who’s currently out on the water?

38:36 Paying for Safety: part of the value of knowing your community is you broaden your knowledge of cost-effective tools and technologies. Your budget should be safety-informed. (That’s why it’s important to have safety prevalent in your mission, vision, and values.)

Safety Education

43:36 Other sources of information

  • Other USRowing Convention Safety talks
  • Quarterly Safety Webinars from the Safety Committee
  • USRowing Coach Education
  • Monthly Safety Spotlight in the USRowing Newsletter
  • Reach out to the committee! We can make recommendations but we’re not the police

47:53 Committee Contact Info


50:54 Should you wear life vests while you row?

It’s costly, effective, but not universal yet. Each program needs to do what prioritizes safety for its members.

55:27 SafeSport concerns are handled by a separate part of the organization.

56:22 Electronic boat sign-in/sign-out systems are becoming commonplace. Example: iCrew

58:26 iCrew has one page which shows who’s on the water. Coaches check throughout the day and make sure everyone is back before locking up the boathouse at the end of the day.

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