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Thread: Weir Assessments

  1. #1
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    Default Weir Assessments

    Hi all,

    I was one of about 20 people whom attended a talk entitled "Tuesday Briefing: How dangerous is that local weir?" at the Leicester Outdoor Pursuit Centre, give by Andy Oughton on assessing the risk of weirs.

    It was interesting both on my own guestimates about how risky a weir is (beware the quiet ones!), as well as a perspective of a 'club view' needed when officially 'leading' a group, as opposed to the more SOTP angle of solo or peer/friend group paddles.

    We spent a fair bit of time in small groups 'assessing' a local weir for risk, using a system/form developed by an organisation called rescue3europe - the freely available Weir Risk Assessment form is online in a number of languages.

    I was just wondering whether anyone else has come across this form/assessment process and if so what their thoughts are?

    Part of me thinks there must be enough capable paddlers/coaches out there to have had a sort of national database of assessments for all weirs, and at varying water volumes, but another part of me recognises that even from our small gathering of 20 peeps, when 2 or more sub-groups assessed the same weir, the results varied significantly.

    So maybe what would be needed would be at least 10 assessments at a low/medium/high volume to be averaged out before an overall risk assessment could be provided?

    It's also true to say that any one given weir can be at multiple risk levels at different places along it, so a single risk assessment per water-level/volume could be very misleading.

    Ultimately, the choice as to whether to run a weir or not is down to the individual/group on the day (based on prevailing weather, composition of the group, ability to rescue etc) - and deffo nothing wrong with leaning well to the cautious side.

    The evenings talk has given me cause to ponder and the linked assessment form has some useful information, so worth a look just for that.

    Ta for readin' and any thoughts/comments 'preciated.
    Last edited by cankay.org.uk; 17th-May-2019 at 04:20 PM. Reason: typos

  2. #2
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    The linked form is a wonderful example of Natural Resources Wales going well beyond their competency.

    Anyone familiar with the more complex weirs such as are found on the Thames would realise just how much was missing from the document.
    This post may vanish at any moment.

  3. #3
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    When you're running a river with a weir I guess the time taken to complete the risk assessment far exceeds the time taken to portage ...... I would hate to do that risk assessment and find another paddler depending on it ......

    To quote Heraclitus No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
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  4. #4
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    No, don't like the form at all.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougR View Post
    The linked form is a wonderful example of Natural Resources Wales going well beyond their competency.

    Anyone familiar with the more complex weirs such as are found on the Thames would realise just how much was missing from the document.
    Cankay does acknowledge the issues of complex weirs in his post above.

    Quote Originally Posted by twopigs View Post
    When you're running a river with a weir I guess the time taken to complete the risk assessment far exceeds the time taken to portage ...... I would hate to do that risk assessment and find another paddler depending on it ......

    To quote Heraclitus No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
    Again, Cankay suggests a database of downloadable risk assessments for paddlers.

    I do agree doing it from scratch on the side of a river would be time consuming and probably as quick to portage, but running "safe" weirs often forms the highlight of a trip.
    The problem with all risk assessments is that they depend to some extent on guesswork, at least the attached assessment tries to make it an objective and less subjective assessment by applying measurable factors.
    At the end of the day it will depend on the person doing the Risk Assessment. At Work under law you are required to be a competent person when undertaking a RA, no such regulation applies in a leisure paddle (peer paddle), although this would apply to those coaching and providing guided paddles. So, how competent is the person doing the risk assessment on a peer paddle?...…..a Data Base would help in this situation but is it a practical undertaking? Perhaps on the most paddled routes.....but for all routes?
    Any one proposing a trip should at least research a route, paying particular attention to weirs. Those weirs known to pose a serious risk should at least pop up on a google search.
    In the meantime, even if you didn't use the RA in the link above, it at least provides some basic information in what to look out for.
    And at the risk of being patronising if you can't do the RA attached because of lack of competence or knowledge then err on the safe side and portage.
    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  6. #6
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    Risk Assessment is an activity, not a document. The written record of an RA is just the evidence that the assessment was made.

    I really do not like the idea that RAs can be prepared and banked for use by others. A prescriptive scoring system such as the form uses does not make somebody competent to assess risk if they're not already so.

    The form omits some quite importance criteria, such as presence of anti-scour 'teeth', the volume of flow, the width of the river. It might work as a screening process to decide whether a particular weir needs review and possible risk reduction measures, but it's not helpful for assessing the risk posed by a weir at any particular time. Although it quotes the International River Grading System, it seems to consider risk to people who fall in the river, not people in boats of any kind.

  7. #7
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    A reasonable attempt, but I just think that the differences in conditions and weirs are so important that you could effectively say that each visit will be different, and then the whole thing becomes difficult to manage.

    At the end of the day, I always go with "if in doubt, portage". I have enough experience to make the decision on most weirs, but on new ones to me, or in new conditions, will still portage if there's even the slightest doubt in my mind about its safety, doubly so with a group.

    I don't like weirs, and consider them one of the potentially most dangerous things we face when paddling, along with quickly changing conditions on big open water. Note I consider both more dangerous than most whitewater paddling I get involved with.
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  8. #8
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    One of the problems with the form is that it allows you to average significant risks identified with lesser risks. At the risk of being glib, if you have identified a '5' on the form, maybe that ought to be more important than any other score.

  9. #9
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    In the water rescue world we use this form primarily for assessing and stratifying the risk posed by weirs as part of a pre-plan to help with a speedy response to incidents. Fire services will have plans for the dangerous sites in their area, and the weir assessment forms part of this, along with notes about access routes, special considerations for deploymentetc. It isn’t intended as a dynamic risk assessment tool, nor is itaimed at paddlers in boats, but people (probably not in PPE) accidentally entering the water.

    Its use is taught on the water rescue courses I assist on,and while it is subjective in many respects, the results we get from groups tend to cluster into similar levels of risk. To pick up some of Cankay’soriginal comments, it might be useful for a club to use as part of a risk assessment of a frequently used venue, but to paraphrase Chris B, risk assessment isn’t just a form. The form is evidence of an assessment having been made, and a risk mitigation strategy being put in place. This will always need to be reviewed in the light of conditions on the day.
    Last edited by Gordon G; 17th-May-2019 at 02:40 PM. Reason: typos

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    Risk Assessment is an activity, not a document. The written record of an RA is just the evidence that the assessment was made.

    So what do you call the documents that record your RA's then?.....we call ours Risk Assessments
    …...and yes it is of course a process.



    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    A reasonable attempt, but I just think that the differences in conditions and weirs are so important that you could effectively say that each visit will be different, and then the whole thing becomes difficult to manage.
    I'm probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but that's the difference between generic and the on site RA. The on site RA being adapted to conditions at any particular time or location. It is always different as you say.
    I don't disagree with either of you.
    The trouble with risk assessments is you're trying to break down hugely complex situations into simple easy to understand steps...…...to convert a judgement call into a quantifiable estimate of Risk. Its never going to be truly accurate...……..if you did make it complex enough to cover all eventualities/variants it would be unusable.
    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayobren View Post
    And at the risk of being patronising if you can't do the RA attached because of lack of competence or knowledge then err on the safe side and portage.
    Quoting myself here lol
    I should clarify what I meant by this sentence...………..If you don't have the necessary Knowledge, skills and experience of paddling those situations where running a weir may be a possibility you have no business in carrying out the Risk assessment. You have to be competent in the area you are risk assessing in order to carry out the RA. ……...I did not mean to infer that the ability to fill out the form is what makes you competent
    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayobren View Post
    So what do you call the documents that record your RA's then?.....we call ours Risk Assessments
    I call mine "Risk management plan", and the actual assessment is only part of them.

    How hard can it be?

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