MVB Canoeing Program Risk Management and Operating Procedures                


Part 1 Risk Management Overview

Part 2 Canoeing Operating Procedures

Part 3 Canoe Safety Instructions

Part 1 MVB Canoeing Risk Management Overview

Note that all canoeing events are vetted by the events coordinator for safety and risk evaluation who may consult with the committee of the club before an event is approved. Canoeing leaders are expected to follow the procedural analysis for risk assessment with every canoeing event that is programmed.

Risk Management is a four step process.

Step 1: Identify hazards

Step 2: Assess risks

Step 3: Control risks

Step 4: Review 

Hazard Risk Likelihood Consequence Risk Rating Risk Controls

Hypothermia from immersion

Injury or Death

Unlikely for a midsummer paddle in the Murray River or Lake Hume.
Moderate in spring and autumn

High in winter or in cold wet conditions



  • Canoe leader to avoid paddles in cold wet conditions and take steps to minimise immersion duration in cold to very cold water (below 18 degrees)
  • Research the canoeing route in terms of emergency exit routes & safe places
  • Dont program events in winter and/or consider cancellation of the event in these conditions


Dehydration / Heat Stroke Moderate in Summer Medium Critical



  • Clothing checklist for sun protection
  • Club provides health / safety emergency-response training/education
  • Gear checklist includes capacity to carry adequate amounts of water
  • Leader (remote and extended paddles) must make every attempt to confirm water availability and inform party members if special measures required e.g. carry extra water.

Snake Bite









  • Gear checklist includes snake bite bandage, mobile phone, emergency beacon
  • Club provides health / safety emergency response training /education
    Club provides first aid training for leaders



Unlikely in evening paddles on Murray River

Moderate in long day paddles or multi day overnight trips




  • Leader to make effort to ensure water availability and advise participants accordingly as to how much water to carry
  • Provision of training/education to advise of the risks of dehydration and strategies to avoid it

Trapped underwater


Unlikely in evening paddles on Murray River

Unlikely in long day paddles or multi day overnight trips
  • Events have a grading system so participants are aware of what the event will entail
  • Leaders to advise potential participants of the river conditions and the nature of the activity
  • Leaders must be satisified that the participants have the appropriate skills and abilities
  • Leaders must ensure that PFD appropriate equipment is worn and fitted correctly
    Leaders must ensure participants are briefed with the MVB canoeing safety procedures prior to entering water

Capsized boat

Injury and/or loss of personal belongings

Unlikely in evening paddles on Murray River

Medium in anabranches and creeks with fast flowing sections



  • Leaders must warn participants of the danger
    Leaders must be satisified that the participants have the appropriate skills and abilities
    Leaders must ensure participants are briefed with the MVB capsized canoe recovery procedures prior to entering water
    Gear checklist includes throw rope for recovery of participants if necessary

Flooded rivers


Likely in some areas



  • If an event involves paddling in flooded river conditions leaders must determine flow rates and levels and either cancel the event in unsafe conditions or plan an alternative activity

Electrical storms

Lightning strike or tree fall

Likely in some areas



  • Club provides health / safety emergency response training / education

Property damage

Leaving gates open

Likely in some areas



  • Club protocols about private property, gates, animals, vehicles, control of children etc

Vehicle accident

Accident, injury , death Likely in some conditions Critical Low
  • Leaders must implement club protocols on driving distances, sharing driving, finish time of walks, driving in unsealed, mud and/or snow conditions - overnight stays if appropriate

Part 2 Murray Valley Bushwalkers Inc Canoeing Operating Procedures

The clubs emergency contact procedures policy applies to canoeing. The secure Google drive online booking form containing personal details of participants each canoeing event will be maintained by the leader of each event and made accessible to committee persons and any other designated responsible person. A list of participants and their contact details will be also accessible to the club secretary. Contact numbers for MVB executive members will be made available to the person who the canoeing equipment is hired from. 

Leaders will carry a waterproof bag containing the following

  1. A mobile phone with the canoe supplier’s number and co-leaders programmed into the memory
  2. A whistle, extra bottle of water, sunscreen, and list of participants, a laminated river map.
  3. Tow ropes and floats, basic first aid kit, heat blanket(silver), mobile phone, whistle, fresh drinking water, laminated map of area of paddle

Safety Guidelines

  1. All participants must wear an approved personal flotation device (pfd)
  2. It is desirable for participants in such events to be able to swim but it will be left to individuals to assess whether they have appropriate swimming ability for an event
  3. Groups of 6 vessels or more require at least 2 leaders (leader plus a co-leader)1 leader to be in front canoe and the other leader to be in the rear canoe of the group of six
  4. An upper, limit of 18 participants in a river paddle is suggested which is a ratio of leaders to paddlers of 1: 9 which is in accordance suggested in the safety guidelines on the Canoe Australia website as evening canoeing will only take place in fine weather
  5. In the case of canadian canoe usage Inexperienced paddlers are to be in a boat with an experienced paddler
  6. In the case of siton kayak usage inexperienced paddlers are to be mentored and guided by an experienced paddler or paddlers
  7. Children are the responsibility of the parent accompanying them and children will paddle with that parent - this to be at the discretion fo the leader who can intervene if a safer arrangement is required
  8. When Canadian canoes are used, the front paddler in each boat scouts all doubtful parts of the river and alerts the rear partner who then sets the course dependent on the information received. The front boat is never passed and sets the pace
  9. The front boat, middle boat and end boat are to be equipped with safety equipment to ensure that if a rescue is necessary there will be a quick response
  10. Canoe safety training is a separate activity and the maximum number of participants in a training session is 15 
  11. At each event there will be co leaders depending on numbers and one main leader who will give instructions on safety at the beginning of each activity and should the need for a rescue occur will give instructions to whole group during this time and be responsible for contacting appropriate persons.
  12. Participants will be encouraged to take part in canoe safety training session with a trainer if not previously undertaken.
  13. Canoe events are to be cancelled if river levels are deemed to be of an unsafe level. This decision will be made by the main leader with assistance from any co-leaders and advice from a local river expert. If required cancellation of the paddle will be made by mid afternoon with all participants notified by 4pm.
  14. The leader has the right to disallow unuitable craft that are deemed unsuitable for the event  

Procedures to be Reiterated With Participants Before Every Event

  1. As soon as you have paid get lifejackets and make sure that they are properly fitted
  2. Valuables, keys and non essential electronic gear be left behind or placed in a waterproof container attached to you or your vessel
  3. Do not enter the water until the leader revises the safety guidelines
  4. Once in the water, paddle upstream until the whole group is launched.
  5. The leader will indicate when the group should set off by blasting a whistle to get group together.
  6. Life jackets must be worn at all times when in the canoes
  7. The person in the front of the canoe is responsible for identifying and alerting of approaching hazards.
  8. Each craft has a responsibility to the craft behind. It should not lose visual contact.
  9. The party needs to be compact at all times.


  1. 1 whistle blast – reform the group
  2. 2 whistle blasts - the group will pull in to the bank
  3. 3 whistle blasts - paddler in the water - rescue procedures occur.

Rescue Procedures

  1. Rescue will occur under the leader’s direction
  2. If your canoe capsizes, hold on to your canoe and wait for assistance.
  3. If canoe is stuck on a log another canoe will assist you to shore.
  4. Others will rescue the canoe and equipment

Canoeing Event Protocols

  1. Book in early dont leave it to the last minute
  2. Arrive on time - text the leader if going to be delayed
  3. Have the correct money with you for paddle and bbq
  4. The group will always proceed at the pace of the slowest paddlers
  5. In a recovery situation (capsize, boat stuck etc) instructions must come from the leader only
  6. If there is an incident do not leave the scene and proceed to paddle unless instructed to do so by the leader


Risk Management for Leaders

The club will auspice and encourage canoe leaders to obtain the Canoe/Kayak Lifeguard award and a recognised First Aid qualification


Australian Canoeing Education and Safety Technical Committee Safety Guidelines

"Minimum requirements for the conduct of safe non competitive canoeing and kayaking activities”

Published March 23 2011 and available from the Canoeing Australia website

 Part 2 revised at MVB Inc Committee Meeting held on October 17 2016 - to be reviewed and ratified at next Committee meeting

Part 3 MVB Canoeing Safety Instructions

Canoe Safety Instructions 1 - Procedures and Protocols witten by Events MVB

Canoe Safety Instructions 2 - Steering and Manouvering a Canoe written by Lin Starke

Canoe Safety Instructions 3 - Avoiding Obstacles written by Lin Starke

Canoe Safety Instructions 4 - Other Boats written by Lin Starke

Canoe Safety Instructions 5 - So You are in the Water written by Lin Starke

Canoe Safety Instructions 6 - Basic Canoe Strokes witten by Events MVB