During the summer months, our rivers can provide the ideal outdoor space to have fun and participate in physical activity. But how can we make sure that we plan and manage risk to ensure activities are carried out in a safe environment?
As the only Community Sport Hub (CSH) in Scotland based on the water, the River Tay CSH and its members are working hard to make the stretch of water between Perth and Dundee as safe and enjoyable as possible for all its users.
The river is packed full of activity with kayakers and canoeists paddling forwards, rowers rowing backwards, divers beneath the surface and faster paced water-skiers all participating on the river. Alongside them there is a river taxi service as well as commercial shipping vessels, making it imperative that the hub protects the wellbeing of everyone who uses the river.
Communication is key
After several near-miss incidents on the river, an extensive consultation was carried out by the hub and its members on what could be done to prevent future potential accidents from happening.
Perth and Kinross community hub officer Kirsteen Ross said,
“Safety is a driving factor of the River Tay Community Sport Hub and this has given members a clear focus and common purpose."
"The sport hub has enabled members to develop a positive, open and honest culture with a shared understanding of safe behaviours, increased knowledge and awareness of other sport’s needs and mutual respect to operate successfully in a shared space.”
The hub secured funding from the Perth Common Good Fund, Perth & Kinross Sports Council, Live Active Leisure and Calmac to purchase 10 floating marine radios and provided training to member clubs and activity providers on how to use them effectively. These radios have been significant in ensuring clubs communicate directly with one another as well as providing a direct line to the harbour master and coastguard who can assist in emergencies and inform on commercial shipping and water conditions.
Adam Burns from the Willowgate Activity Centre, one of the activity providers on the river has seen huge value in the provision of the radios. Adam said,
“The introduction of the VHF radios to the clubs and organisations along the River has greatly increased the safety and confidence of those using the river."
“For me the confidence in those using these assets has greatly increased and the communication between each club has improved. The river is there for everyone to use and the formation of the River Tay CSH has created a line of conversation between individuals and groups that once would never have spoken, helping to break down barriers, leading to a happier, safer and more utilised piece of water.”
A partnership with Calmac, Perth’s harbour operator, has enabled the hub to access and utilise Calmac’s professional experience and has also seen the harbour master chair hub meetings. Here he can provide regular updates about shipping movements to members, enabling the clubs to plan ahead and ensure members are kept safely away from the commercial vessels.
Kirsteen said, “It has been extremely beneficial having the harbour master chair the sport hub meetings as he brings a great depth of knowledge and expertise. He can effectively link the recreational and commercial aspects of the River Tay and collate data around any incidents that may occur to understand navigational risk so that appropriate control measures can be implemented.
New eye-catching river safety noticeboards have also been developed through the support with Calmac and will be placed at popular entry points along the stretch of water between Perth and Dundee. These will provide users with a copy of the River Tay safety code as well as information on recording and reporting incidents, and relevant safety information.
The hub has now secured further funding to purchase and install a publicly accessible defibrillator which will be placed on the river bank, and to deliver CPR and defibrillator training sessions to all club and sport hub members.
“The clubs and activity providers on the river have benefitted from this collaborative approach through an improved sense of community."
"New connections and relationships between clubs and hub members have been made and most importantly there has been fewer incidents or near misses."
As a result, the clubs have reported an increase in delivery due to a more proactive event and club planning process as Adam says,
“We are now able to plan our training and coaching sessions more accordingly to maximise participants time and enjoyment on the water while minimising disruption.”