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SLSA Helmet Policy

The following Q&A is provided to answer any questions that may have arisen from the recently advertised SLSA Helmet Policy. The ASRL has worked very hard to keep the policy within the bounds of the simple approach while still achieving the new safety levels specified by SLSA.

The SLSA original Policy starting point was that the Helmet was to be worn at all times in training and in surf at any time a breaking wave was present. Now we all understood that many training sessions are done on flat water and that a wave by definition can break at 1 foot high so the policy in the original form was unworkable.
We acknowledge the good faith by members at SLSA in worked with us and allowed our considerable input along this road to achieving the best outcomes possible. We believe the intent of the final policy is what we had been aiming for however some of the terminology used in the final presentation of the written word could be considered confusing. 

Q: when does a helmet need to be worn in training
A; never while on flat water of any type be it Lake, River or Harbour
A; in the surf we should be starting to consider the use of helmets at or above the 1M wave height
A; in surf it is sweeps call following your completing a Risk Assessment and making a best practice decision about the conditions and the experience of the rowers in the crew
A; if in doubt always err on the side of caution the last thing the sport needs is our sweeps making poor safety decisions that will only bring about tighter control 

Q: what is a Risk Assessment 
A; it is what every sweep does at the start of any session anyway, look at the conditions you will be rowing in and plan accordingly
A; only now under the Water Safety Policy this R/A should be documented prior to the session 

Q: how often do I need do a R/A 
A; if training on a river you could do the one assessment that will hold for the season because the issues are static
A; if doing surf work it is required to be done but again many times that we train in surf the conditions will be the same so it is possible to set up a range of condition assessments and use the one that suits if you make paper copies
A; you are covering your own tail by undertaking the Risk Assessment as well as conforming with SLSA policy so it just needs to reflect the conditions you are operating in for the session 

Q: what form must the R/A take 
A; it can be on a sheet of paper, in a workbook or SLSA have a Phone App available for you to download and use which will keep it all recorded for you
A; an example of the paper form is attached HERE
A; the SLSA Phone App can be obtained via request from this email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Q: what is the rule in competition 
A; for this season we will have two types of competition. One will be the Trial where the new Bond Surf Hazard Rating system will be in use and that will have a process for when the helmet must be worn. The second will be the standard carnival outside of the range of trial events and that will operate under the Policy 1M rule 

Q: what does the 1M rule mean for a non-trial carnival 
A; the Referee will be instructing all competitors to wear helmets at or above the wave height of 1M 

Q: how is the trial to be conducted
A; a body of Officials have been trained in the use of the Bond SHR system from most locations in Australia as TSO’s. A TSO is a trained surf observer. These TSO will be rating the surf at regular intervals during the course of the day and referring the result to the Carnival Committee. This committee can then decide on when Helmets are to be worn which may be at different levels on the SHR scale depending on incidents and other factors 

Q: who is the Carnival Committee 
A; the Carnival Committee is made up of the Referee and the 3 person experienced Boat Panel 

Q: who will select the Boat Panel 
A; the Referee will appoint a BP from the experienced sweeps competing 

Q: what is the role of the Boat Panel (BP) 
A; to advise the Referee on what conditions are like at sea so as a group they can refer to the SHR and range of incidents and make recommendation for the Referee who still has the final say to decide to wear or not to wear the helmet at any given point during the competition which may change during the day 

Q: what is the nominal introduction point for wearing helmets at a Trial event
A; the Policy sets the base point at a SHR of 13 so to go past that all the other factors must be considered by the Carnival Committee 

Q: which events fall under the trial
A; a final list will be published once all required Officials are trained as TSO officers. Only events with TSO Officers will be included in the trial 

Q: what happens if I fall out of the boat and am uncomfortable or panicky while in the water with the helmet on
A; you should be sure you are clear of eminent danger from other craft and if feeling any anxiety you may remove the helmet with no risk of DQ
Simple Summary:

  • Helmets are not required when training on flat water (e.g. river, lake, harbour, etc) under any circumstances
  • Helmets are not required in training when surf is less than 1m
  • Not wearing helmets in training in surf above 1m is allowed following a risk assessment by the sweep.
  • The 1M that has just been included into the training section of the policy is an advisory height at which we start to consider our actions. It is important that we do always consider the safety of those in the boat as taking unnecessary risk will only result in tighter control
  • In competition, the use of helmets at events operating under the Surf Hazard Rating trial has a base SHR of 13 set when the use of helmets will become compulsory
  •  At the discretion of the carnival committee as a Surf Hazard Rating (SHR) level of 13 or above is reached the decision to introduce the use of helmets may be delayed
  • The decision to delay will be off the back of the recorded incidents and input from the expert Boat Panel into the new Boat Competition Committee which will include the event Referee
  • Carnival Committee is made up of at least 3 experienced sweeps (boat panel) and the boat referee
  • At an event run outside the SHR trial the 1M rule will apply. Crews will have to wear a helmet at or above a surf height of 1M at these events
  • No DQ will apply to any competitor who after falling into the water and observing the passing of any present danger feels the need to remove the Helmet 

Hopefully that has now provided a clear indication for the do’s and don’ts of this new policy. We are continuing to seek better clarity from SLSA on the wording so the Policy is easily recognisable to mean what has been agreed and intended.

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