River Risk Management

Rivers are dangerous places to work and play in or near. Every year several dozen people drown in New Zealand rivers. Many of them are swept away when trying to cross swollen rivers, some are carried away by flood waters, others are lost in sporting or adventure tourism accidents and a number are killed when cars career off roads into adjacent rivers trapping the occupants underwater.

Trampers who are swept away are either caught unprepared by the swiftness of the current in some parts of a river, slip on rocks covered with algal slimes or step into holes carved out by the torrential flow.

School classes or community groups should be extremely careful about undertaking monitoring work in or alongside rivers and fast flowing streams.

In all but the shallowest creeks with sluggish flow special precautions should be taken before students or samplers are allowed to enter the water or work from steep banks alongside running water. Inexperience school pupils frequently take unnecessary risks through ignorance of the dangers or when showing off to their peers.

Some Risk Opportunities

High spirited foolishness and skylarking can result in students being pushed in.

Action: Outline the risks before the visit. Mention the importance of good ambassadorial behaviour when on an out of school activity and maintain a high standard of discipline.

During monitoring, activities bare earth banks can become extremely slippery with spilt water resulting in students slipping and falling into the water.

Action: Outline the risk before the visit and seek sites for entering and leaving or collecting samples that minimise this risk

Tree roots, small bushes & etc along a stream bank, used by students as hand-holds when reaching out into the water for samples, may not be strong enough to support their weight.

Action: Try to avoid sampling at such sites or if absolutely necessary provide a strong rope that can be tied off against a strong post or tree trunk.

Lack of previsit site assessment or insufficient planning for the sampling programmes may result in unnecessary risks being taken.

Action: Make a preparation visit to the site before the class trip to plan carefully where each exercise will be carried out. Do not expect to sort out details on arriving at the site. Also plan how all of the students will be occupied throughout the time beside the river as students with nothing to do often cause trouble or get into trouble.

General Preparations

Refer to general safety quidelines.

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