More on Peer Trips
Responsibilities / Duty of Care
Peer trips mean that everyone takes full responsibility for themselves, their safety and their kit, whilst behaving in a responsible way that does not put any other member of the group at risk. Nobody takes overall responsibility for the safety or wellbeing of the group. Group members are expected to look out for each other, whilst staying within their own limitations, but there is no onus on anyone to support anyone else if they do not feel confident doing so in any given situation.
Nobody on a peer trip has any duty of care for the group. Organisers have no more authority over the group or responsibility for the group than any other participant.
It is not pragmatic to run all aspects of a trip by committee so there will be a ‘trip organiser’. Their role is to organise the logistics for the trip to help get everyone in the right place at the right time. They will also plan the route, identify the put-in and get-out etc. However, it is each individual’s responsibility to check they are happy with the suggested route and plan. If anyone is not content they must either discuss changes with the organiser and group or decide not to go on that trip.
If people join a group trip the expectation is that they will remain part of that group until the trip is completed. Every effort must be made by the group to paddle so all members of the group are within their capabilities and comfort zone. Once the trip is underway, people must only leave the group if they consider the group is taking unacceptable risks or proposing actions that would put them at undue risk. People must not leave for trivial reasons such as running out of enthusiasm or wanting to do something beyond the group’s ability. If anyone does take the drastic step of leaving the group, they must inform the trip organiser they are leaving. Hopefully this situation will not arise on BCC trips.
Minimum Skill / Experience Levels
Trip organisers may stipulate minimum skill / experience levels. Participants without these skill levels must not go on such trips. Those with the minimum skill/ experience level must not assume the trip is suitable for them, but must satisfy themselves that it is. The trip organiser can advise on the conditions expected on the trip and explain why they have set the minimum skill/ experience required at that level, but they can not decide for others if the trip is suitable for them (organisers can decide if it is clearly not suitable). If anyone feels unqualified to decide for themselves then this is a good sign that they should not be going on that trip. If in doubt do not put yourself and others at risk. The group must aim to paddle at a pace and in conditions where all participants are within their capabilities and comfort zone.
Group Skills/ Experience
Skills other than paddling skills may be useful. Trip organisers need not have these themselves, but depending on the trip the group may need to ensure someone in the group does. These include, first aid, foundation safety and rescue, basic/advanced white water safety and rescue, some 4 star training (but not necessarily assessed), VHF licence/training, BCU coastal sea navigation course, any equivalents, lots of relevant paddling experience etc.
Participants should play their part in planning for the trip. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure they have considered all relevant factors for themselves and do not rely on others to do this for them. Factors can include: recent rainfall/river levels, emergency get-outs, weather forecast, tides, sunset etc.
Prior to getting on the water, the group should agree a set of hand signals and make sure all participants understand them. Participants should exchange mobile numbers.
If any participant has any medical condition that might affect them on the trip (e.g. asthma) then they should alert the group to this prior to the trip and any action/ assistance they might need from others, including where their medication is should they be carrying any.
Before embarking on a trip the group should agree a course of action in the event of an emergency. Emergencies are unexpected, often happen quickly and invariably require a decisive response. These situations do not lend themselves to decisions by committee. Agree procedures in advance and be clear on who is going to do what. Be prepared for the eventuality that any member of the group could be incapacitated and someone else may need to carry out their role.
Decisions on the Water
Trips inevitably involve making some decisions during the trip. Consistent with the concept of peer trips these need to be made by the group and individuals should not rely on or expect others to make decisions for them. Everyone should contribute and agree decisions.
On the water it may be prudent to nominate someone to act as a ‘focus’ for the group. This does not mean that they are in any way responsible for, or will lead the group, or make decisions for the group. They can act as a ‘marker’ so group members can make sure they don’t get too far ahead or behind of them and so ensure the group does not get spread out. They can also set the pace to ensure nobody struggles to keep up, and pause when the group need to make decisions before proceeding, but they have no duty of care for the group. Only one person should act as the focus at any one time, however different people can act as the focus for different sections of the trip.
This will be up to the group organiser, but groups should not normally be less than 3 and 4 would be better. This is in case someone needs to stay with a casualty while others seek help. Ideally nobody should be left on their own or be paddling on their own. Large groups get difficult to manage so about 6 would be a good maximum to aim for. If there are more people wanting to go on a trip consider splitting into 2 or more groups of 4-6 people.
Individuals are responsible for their own kit, ( clothing/ BA/boat/ paddle etc), but the group needs to ensure they have the appropriate set of ‘group kit’ between them. Group kit could include, first aid kit, tow line, pump, set of spare splits, extra flask etc. I.e. kit members of the group should have between them, but not something everyone needs to carry. The trip organiser can help coordinate provision of this but is not responsible for providing it -the group is.
Groups should consider having a ‘buddy system’. This is where someone not on the trip is tasked to raise the alarm if the group do not call them to say they are back safely at a predetermined time. Both parties need to understand the ‘rules’ clearly. The ‘buddy’ must have enough information about the trip route, timings, groups size, boat colours, participants’ details, phone numbers, vehicle reg, etc to give the emergency services detailed information on where and what to look for. Those on the trip need to ensure that they will be able to call the buddy at the predetermined time -is there a decent phone signal at your destination, have you allowed time for reasonable delays/ lunch stops etc in addition to paddling time ? The result of a missed call is either calling out the emergency services on a wild goose chase, or the buddy failing to raise the alarm when people are in real trouble. Therefore everyone needs to take their responsibilities seriously and be crystal clear what the arrangements and their duties are.
Keys & Code
Remember that on peer trips it is most likely people will be borrowing boats / kit from the club. Make sure someone has a key to get into the building and the current safe code. The safe code changes weekly and can be requested from mailto:email@example.com
[Link to RAs]
[Should we have some generic risk assessments / checklists, with usual caveats about not being site specific or comprehensive, guide only etc ?
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These notes are for guidance only. Canoeing and kayaking are “Assumed risk” water contact sports that may carry attendant risks.