Rafting activities usually involve the movement of participants down a river on inflatable crafts of various sizes, designed for more than two people. Many rafts have the capacity and buoyancy to carry equipment on extended journeys.

Typically, rafting activities involve travelling on rivers where the gradient fall is sufficient to create white water, and may involve travelling through gorges.

This guideline does not include paddling in canoe or kayak style craft including inflatable canoe and kayaks, sometimes referred to as sport rafts. Separate guidelines have been developed for canoeing and kayaking.

These guidelines do not apply to activities using inflatable mattresses, student-built or staff-built rafts, or inflatable tubes. If an overnight component is planned, please also refer to camping guidelines.

Rafting activities usually involve the movement of participants down a river on inflatable crafts of various sizes, including inflatable canoes.


Rafting definitions

D-rings — Metal rings attached to a raft to provide an attachment point for equipment.

Dry bag — A purpose-built waterproof bag to keep clothing and equipment dry.

Flip line — A length of climbing webbing, used to assist with flipping rafts, and normally attached to a karabiner. All guides must carry a flip line.  It can also be used to assist in other rescue situations.

Foot entrapment — A foot jammed under a submerged object.  This may occur in moving water when a person washing downstream attempts to stand.  The force of the water may force the swimmer’s body downstream, lodging them midstream.

Grab lines — A line secured to D-rings around the perimeter of a raft to allow a firm grasp of the raft.

Guide — Staff member responsible for delivering the technical aspects of rafting.

Karabiners — A specialised clip typically used for joining ropes and harnesses during rope activities.

Lining — The process of floating a raft through a rapid without passengers, and secured with ropes.

Mechanical advantage — Techniques used to dislodge rafts or other objects lodged on midstream blockages (e.g. rocks or logs).  These techniques require specialist use of rescue hardware and may include rescue ropes, karabiners, pulleys and prusik loops.

Rescue boat — A kayak or other craft used to offer a mobile platform to assist in the rescue of other craft or equipment.

Self-guiding — Where a raft is manoeuvred by a student or adult (rather than a qualified or experienced rafter).

Sieves — A random arrangement of midstream objects, usually rocks, that allow the flow of water but hamper the movement of solid objects.

Strainers — Usually created by trees that hang over or are in flowing water and block the movement of solid objects, people or craft, but allow the flow of water. 

Throw bags — A length of buoyant rescue rope contained in a bag.  Throw bags are designed to be small enough to throw out to people requiring assistance while the guide/rescuer holds the other end of the rope. 

Trip leader — The guide with overall responsibility for the technical aspects of river travel.

Wrap — A craft or other object is held mid-stream by the force of the current against an obstacle such as a rock or log.

Transport Safety Victoria - Maritime Safety provides the following definitions of waterways in Victoria to aid guidance of minimum safety equipment and preparation:

  • Inland waters - rivers (inside the seaward entrance), creeks, canals, lakes, reservoirs and any similar waters either naturally formed or man-made and which are either publicly or privately owned but does not include any navigable rivers, creeks or streams within declared port waters.
  • Enclosed waters - any declared port waters inside the seaward entrance. See the Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook for all listed port waters.
  • Coastal waters - all waters other than inland waters or enclosed waters.

In addition to the definitions above, this document uses the following terms for specific types of waterways:

  • Flat water - non-flowing water not affected by tides or currents and relatively sheltered from wind
  • Open water - a wide body of water than has the potential to be greatly affected by wind
  • Swift water - flowing river water which may be categorised according to the international river classification system. This covers water commonly known as ‘swift water’ or ‘white water’. This covers water commonly known as ‘moving water’ or ‘white water’ but also refers to flowing water which may not look either ‘swift’ or ‘white’ to an observer.
  • Coastal offshore - all waters greater than two nautical miles from the coast.
International river classification system

Grade 1 — Moving water with few or no obstacles.  Passages are wide open and easily seen from the river.

Grade 2 — Rapids with small obstacles and regular features.  Passages are open and obvious without scouting but may require manoeuvring.

Grade 3 — Rapids with regular features that require manoeuvring to negotiate.  Passages can be narrow and features such as holes and irregular waves must be run to negotiate the rapid.  Risk of injury.

Grade 4 — Rapids with highly irregular features.  Complicated passages that often include vertical drops and may require scouting to find safe passages.  Linked manoeuvres are required in convoluted passages.  Risk of injury and possible risk to life.

Grade 5 — Rapids with violent and irregular features.  Extremely congested passages that almost always require scouting to determine safe routes.  Most grade 5 rapids include vertical drops and require running large-scale features in a complex series of manoeuvres.  Definite risk of serious injury and possible risk to life.

Grade 6 — The difficulties of grade 5 taken to the extreme.  Rapids with extremely violent and unpredictable features where experts require considerable advance scouting and planning to determine possible passages.  All grade 6 rapids require the paddler(s) to negotiate vertical drops and very large features.  Always a risk to life.  Generally only possible at certain water levels.


Water environments

A wide range of environmental factors need to be considered when planning rafting activities.  Rafting on rivers or lakes will be affected by the catchment size and character, the presence of obstacles such as vegetation, the gradient of the water flow, rubbish and flood debris, the volume of water, the variation of rock types, and river constrictions. 

Water and air temperatures, wind, precipitation, hot sun, turbidity, flooding and low water will also affect the planned rafting activity.

When preparing for rafting, staff should consider ways to minimise the environmental impact of the activity.  


Due to the unique nature of each location, the teacher responsible for the activity should specifically assess the suitability of the location before the excursion.

The choice of location should be based on the recent and first-hand knowledge of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff.  Where this is impractical, planning and supervising staff should be thoroughly familiar with the general characteristics and conditions found in similar locations, and should have consulted with people who can supply recent and first-hand knowledge of the locations being considered.

When assessing the suitability of a location, consider:

  • the potential to support the educational objectives
  • the level of access to resources, services and facilities that may be needed, such as campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
  • the level of access to communications and external assistance in the event of an emergency or extreme weather conditions — the more effectively remote the location is, the more self-contained and self-reliant the group must be and this must be taken into account in the planning of the activity
  • the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties
  • the ability and fitness levels of students.

Contact with relevant authorities should be made in order to access current management information and determine any access and permit requirements.

These authorities may include:

Staff need to be aware that severe weather conditions may develop before or during the proposed activity and should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the activity at any time.

Many white water activities are conducted in spring when rivers are at optimal levels.  Higher flows change the force of currents and therefore will alter the effect of hazards such as trees, rocks and other objects.

Staff should consult local, experienced individuals and organisations to assist in determining upper and lower cut-off water flow levels.

Where possible, choose a river map or published guide that shows major rapids and their grades, possible emergency evacuation points along the river, access and egress areas and access points for vehicles.  Given the constantly changing river environment, river maps/guides should be used as indicative resources only.

Many white water sections of rivers are classified as remote due to inaccessibility.  Thorough preparation and strong leadership skills are required in these circumstances.

Staff should consider current and imminent weather conditions and their potential impact on river conditions.  Conditions will be specific to each river because different watersheds will affect river heights differently.


The communication strategy should enable staff to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.

  • Choose communication equipment based upon current communication technology and the location of the activity.
  • Ensure communication equipment is waterproofed.
  • Develop a communication strategy for the group during the activity which enables communication with outside parties, including the school and emergency services.
  • Be aware of the limitations of the communication strategy.

Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the activity and on the day the activity commences.  If the excursion extends overnight, access weather forecasts and warnings daily and monitor and assess the weather throughout.

Weather forecasts should be obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Weather conditions can change rapidly.  Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at anytime.

Weather warning telephone services

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings on 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service on 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Coastal Waters Telephone Service on 1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

The above telephone numbers may be useful to have available during the excursion.

Web links


The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered and planned. See Excursion support – transport.


When planning a rafting activity, staff must consider the consequences of unpredicted delays (due to capsizes or craft repairs), time for rest periods, and how changes in river levels will affect rapid grades.

Staff must be familiar with the changeable nature of the river, hazards such as snags and fallen trees, the grading of each rapid (including potential changes in grades with varying water levels), portages and their distances, and the approximate time that will be required for the activity.

Student skills

Rafting activities should begin with an assessment of students’ current knowledge, skills and experience in relation to rafting, swimming and water environments.

The instructor should ascertain the previous experience of each student.

Instructional staff must brief students on:

  • equipment, clothing and footwear that is suitable for the activity and location
  • safety measures appropriate to control risks associated with the activity and the environment
  • minimal environmental impact techniques relevant to the activity and location
  • historical and cultural considerations relevant to the activity and location
  • activity scope and boundaries
  • communication and communication signals
  • relevant terminology.

A basic introductory briefing should also include:

  • activity scope and boundaries
  • equipment use
  • the response of students in the event of a capsize or someone falling in
  • principles of self-rescue
  • communication and signals
  • float and swimming methods
  • explanation of relevant rafting terminology.

Students should also undertake navigation training suitable for the location and activity.

In addition, when paddling on moving water, students should be instructed on:

  • basic water behaviour and hydrology
  • how to enter, sit and move about in craft securely and safely
  • specific boat based risks, such as impact and entanglement which are associated with paddle T grips, branches, ropes and straps and how to manage these
  •  specific swimming based risks such as entrapment, associated with underwater obstacles, strainers, sieves and stoppers and how to manage these
  • raft flip/righting procedure and what to do if caught in or beneath the raft
  • re-entering and assisting others to re-enter raft
  • appropriate swimming and self rescue techniques including, defensive and aggressive swimming
  • how to receive a throw bag.

To self guide rafts on moving water or white water, students should be able to:

  • control their craft effectively
  • identify river features including the area of main current flow, eddies and eddy lines and safe eddies
  • break in and out of the current
  • ferry glide across the current
  • swim into a safe eddy
  • empty a capsized raft, if not self bailing
  • manoeuvre a capsized raft to shore
  • perform raft flip/righting technique
  • assist swimmers back into raft
  • identify and avoid river hazards including strainers, sieves and stoppers.

In some cases, parts of briefings and instruction may occur on or next to the water/swift water. Supervising staff must be able to provide close instruction, supervision and seek acknowledgement of understanding.

Rafts can be heavy and awkward to carry. Students must be shown safe methods to get paddle craft on or off waterways and boat landings.

Students must be instructed on safe lifting techniques for carrying and lifting canoes if required to do so. For assistance in the determination of appropriate lifting techniques, load sizes and weights, please see WorkSafe’s Manual Handling Topic.

Preparation should also include supporting the mental health and well-being of students. This is as important as physical preparation.

The psychological preparation of students is as important as the physical preparation, especially for students who are anxious about the activity.  Under no circumstances should students be pressured by staff or peers to participate beyond their readiness.

Equipment and clothing

Equipment, whether hired, borrowed or owned by the school or students, must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity

First aid kits

First aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.


Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against severe and variable weather conditions.

Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the activity, environment and season.

Participants must dress in a manner that will not hinder flotation or their ability to maintain a comfortable temperature.  For example, heavy boots or bulky clothing would impede a swimmer’s ability to float or swim.  It is recommended that rafters do not wear clothing over the top of buoyancy vests.

Participants must wear well secured footwear that will be suitable for rafting, swimming and hiking (in the event of a portage or walk out).

Eyewear should be secured in some way and loose jewellery must not be worn.  Participants should not wear rings unless they are taped. Items of jewellery or rings which students remove should be placed in a secure location so they do not get lost.

Spare clothing, warm gear and shelter are recommended and should be carried depending upon season, activity length or remoteness and level of difficulty.  Any spare clothing held on a raft must be contained in waterproof storage and safely secured.

To protect against sunburn (see sun exposure) participants should wear a hat and use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Hats must not interfere with helmet effectiveness or pose a risk to the wearer. 


Staff and students must be easily identifiable.

Staff must determine the most suitable identification system based on an assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken, and the age and number of students.


Helmets specifically designed for water activities must be correctly worn at all times on the water and must comply with the following safety characteristics of lightweight protective helmets:

  • adjustable chin strap
  • hard outer shell
  • firm fit – either by use of an adjustable harness securely attached to the helmet or a fixed helmet in a range of sizes
  • foam padded or constructed with a suspension harness
  • capacity to float.

Helmets must also meet European standard EN 1385, Helmets for Canoeing and White water Sports.


Paddles should be in good working order, buoyant, appropriate to the activity and the correct length for the paddler.  Spare paddles must be carried on all river trips.

Life Jackets

The wearing of a securely fitted Australian certified life jacket is required under Victorian marine safety law on all paddle craft that are underway on all Victorian waters. Type 2 - Level 50 lifejackets are considered the most appropriate for rafting activities. See: Life jacket laws.


Construction of rafts, including air chambers and buoyancy and the requirements for grab lines and D-rings must comply with the International or Australian Standards (AS 2677 – Inflatable boats).

When the raft is fully inflated, the perimeter grab lines threaded through the D-rings on the side of the raft should be taut.

A bow and stern line must be securely attached to the raft. All rope must be managed in a manner that it cannot cause entrapment.

Types and sizes of rafts should be selected based on their suitability for the river section, the water level and the abilities of the participants.

Manufacturers’ raft weight load limits for people and equipment must not be exceeded.

Small plastic, single chamber rafts are not recommended for rafting activities.  These can only be used in grade 1 or 2 rapids (in non-remote locations where access and support are readily available).

Rescue equipment

Rescue equipment must be in good condition, readily accessible, and suitable for the location or activity and the water conditions category.  Staff must be proficient in its use.  An appropriate repair kit must be available to the guiding staff.  Rescue equipment and repair kits must be chosen that are suitable for the remoteness and nature of the journey.  Guides must know how to use the repair kit.

Staff should consider whether or not to carry a pump for the journey.

Rafting guides must have their own rescue equipment, suitable for the location and activity.  For each guide, as a minimum this must include:

  • a throw rope, flip line, safely protected river knife and whistle
  • access to equipment to perform a ‘mechanical advantage’ rescue.



Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional/guiding and educational elements of the activity.  All staff members must be approved by the principal.

All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the Working with Children Check.

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.

‘Guide’ is the term used to define the staff member(s) responsible for delivering the technical aspects of rafting.  Each river trip must have a trip leader who is the guide with overall responsibility for the technical aspects of river travel.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the trip leader, the teacher responsible for the activity must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted.  This teacher must confer with the designated trip leader about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility.  If the teacher is not the designated trip leader, he/she is to act on the advice of the designated trip leader and guides on technical safety issues.

Any staff member with a known medical condition that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition.  Issues of confidentiality and privacy will apply to any such disclosure.

Experience and qualifications

Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and its environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.

In the absence of any widely accepted raft guide training program in Australia, designated rafting guides must have one of the following:

  • documented raft guide training and white water rescue training, together with experience from a training provider or educational institution, which can be benchmarked against relevant modules from SRO03 Outdoor Recreation Industry Training Package units SRORAF004A and SRORAF005A.  Details of this training package are available from training.gov.au.
  • equivalent documented experience in lieu of qualifications/accreditation (this experience must be recorded in the Documentation of Staff Qualifications and Experience (doc - 151kb).) and an appropriate white water rescue qualification (see Recreational swimming guidelines).

The skills and experience required by all designated rafting guides includes:

Required knowledge:

  • raft designs, material and construction types and repair techniques to maintain equipment in operational order
  • the selection and use of rafting equipment, to determine suitable equipment for specific client groups
  • the selection and use of rescue equipment, for retrieval of persons or equipment
  • the knots used to secure raft and perform rescues, for maximum strength and safety
  • hydrology and river features, to determine hazards
  • defensive and aggressive swimming techniques (for own self, and to advise participants)
  • medical problems commonly encountered while rafting, and appropriate first aid
  • local conditions and effect of changes in gradient and volume on water dynamics, in order to determine safe operating conditions
  • the international river grading system
  • the effect of river levels and dam feed releases (top or bottom)
  • the Marine Service Board and Marine Board Code of practice, in order to operate within acknowledged safe practices
  • other legislative requirements (national parks, forestry, occupational health and safety) in order to conform to legislation
  • the minimum impact code, in order to care for and protect the environment
  • signalling techniques, in order to communicate while on the river
  • the location, in order to provide a safe and informative activity.

Required skills:

  • defensive and aggressive swimming skills, to use if parted from raft
  • first aid skills, appropriate to the location and level of responsibility
  • raft handling skills, in order to safely manoeuvre raft
  • river reading skills, in order to determine safe lines and routes through rapids
  • river rescue techniques, in order to extract people and/or equipment from river
  • communication skills, in order to deal with students and staff
  • skills in managing conflict during an activity
  • throw bag skills, in order to recover a swimmer.

Each rafting activity must have a nominated trip leader who is the guide responsible for overall technical safety while rafting and during associated activities on the river bank.  The trip leader will hold the qualifications described above, and will typically be the person with the most training and experience in the activity.  This person may or may not be a registered teacher.

In addition to the skills, knowledge and experience required for all designated rafting guides as described above, trip leaders must have and provide evidence of having the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to coordinate rescues and evacuations, lead and manage teams effectively in the river environment, liaise effectively with land owners and managers, and respond effectively to dynamic situations. 

These skills include, but are not limited to:

  • prioritising risk
  • using reach, throw, row, go, tow principles
  • delegating tasks
  • maintaining an overview of the situation
  • achieving a quick resolution
  • ensuring difficult situations do not escalate due to mismanagement
  • ensuring the safety of activity participants.

Note: Many rivers in Victoria are affected by water release from dams or by floods, and water conditions can alter quite suddenly.  The designated trip leader must have paddled the river and have recent knowledge of it.  It is recommended that other guides should have paddled the planned stretch of river and be confident about guiding on water of the same grade and character.

Where staff members guide from kayaks, they require the qualifications described above for guides, and must hold the appropriate Australian Canoeing Inc. Whitewater Award or equivalent and have experience in supporting rafters from a hard shell craft (see Canoeing guidelines). 

Documentation of Staff Qualifications and Experience (doc - 151kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience of accompanying staff members.

Where an external contractor is chosen to run all or part of this activity, the guidelines for the use of external providers should be followed.


Effective supervision is a critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.

A minimum of two guides must be present for each activity, one with responsibility for leading the activity, and the other to assist the trip leader.

The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratios that must be used for rafting.

ActivityGuides requiredParticipant numbers**
Rafting: (Grade 1-3)2Up to 12

* There should be a maximum of 30 participants in one group for rafting activities.  On overnight excursions, this number may need to be lowered to comply with maximum numbers allowed by land managers at campsites.  There should be a minimum of two craft for any rafting activity.

** A participant is any person not qualified as a rafting guide.

The table above provides minimum guide allocations. Different rivers and river levels may require smaller groups or additional guiding staff.

It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on:

  • age, maturity, gender and physical characteristics* of students
  • ability and experience of students
  • needs of individuals
  • dynamics of the student group
  • experience, qualifications and skills of staff
  • location of the activity
  • anticipated conditions at the location.

*For example, if a group includes any physically large students, supervising staff must have the required training and qualifications to undertake any necessary rescue and the required physical attributes.

Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.

Where students are in rafts without guides, the trip leader and guides must consider how this will affect the management of the group.  Guides must maintain at least the same guide to student ratio as for guided rafts and may require a greater number of staff.

Students must not be taken through rapids known or, in the circumstances, likely to be at or above grade 4 (see the explanation of the International River Classification System in these guidelines).

The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the principal as part of the excursion approval process.  Staff members should supervise students according to this strategy.

Overnight excursions

If the excursion has an overnight component, the Overnight camping guidelines may be relevant.

All overnight rafting excursions, where the rafting is the key means of transport, must have a full trip plan, including contingency plans and strategies for dealing with delays.  This plan must be left with the school contact person and clear information must be given to local authorities, including the name and contact details of the school contact person.  Some local authorities may require indemnity forms and permits.

All overnight rafting excursions, where the rafting is the key means of transport, must carry appropriate safety and rescue equipment.  First aid kits appropriate to the location and extra clothing must be carried.

Staff should make sure that all essential dry equipment is evenly distributed among the craft and carefully stored in robust and waterproofed packs, containers or dry bags.  Drums that have been used to store chemicals should not be used.  All craft contents should be secured within the craft to ensure they will not impede the handling of the craft or become a hazard during the activity.

Informed consent

The school must receive consent from parents or guardians before their child may participate in adventure activities.

Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:

  • the educational purpose of the activity
  • the nature and details of the activity and the foreseeable risks involved
  • the supervision strategy
  • a 24-hour school contact number
  • other information deemed relevant by the school, parents or guardians.

Informed consent must be given in writing and signed by parents or guardians.

First aid

At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.

Staff members must carefully consider the nature and location of the excursion, as well as the medical history of the students, to determine the level of first aid training required by staff.  For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present.  See: Excursion Support - First Aid.

Common risks

School staff must refer to the Risk Management section of this website which explains how to prepare a risk register.  Risks and possible controls are also explained.

The list below identifies some risks in rafting activities.  Identifying risk is only one aspect of the risk assessment process.  An activity-specific risk management plan must be completed which takes into account the specific conditions and unique participants of the activity.

Rafting specific risks
Sample risksSample controls

The river level significantly changes during the journey, altering the anticipated level of difficulty.

Before the activity, guides will research the nature of the river catchment and how changes in weather, which have taken place before the activity commencing or which may occur during the activity, may affect water flow and river difficulty.

Guides will identify the river cut-off levels and monitor changes in river levels during the activity (depending on the duration of the activity). 

Before the activity, staff and guides will develop alternatives and escape routes to accommodate varying water levels and evacuations.

A craft is wrapped around a rock or flips.

Students and staff will be trained in the necessary skills to avoid obstacles and reduce the risk of a wrap or flip.   Participants will be given a safety briefing which will describe techniques for responding to a wrap or flip.

Guides will carry raft rescue equipment that is suitable for the river conditions and potential incidents.  Guides will be trained in the safe use of rescue equipment.

A participant falls out of a raft and washes into a strainer or a sieve, or a foot entrapment occurs.

During the pre-activity planning, staff will consider students’ skills and experience and ensure that the activity is suitable.

Guides will ensure rafters are trained in secure positioning in crafts.  Rafters will also be trained in appropriate skills in the event that they fall into the water or a raft flips over.

Guides will continually scout downstream for strainers and adjust travel down the river accordingly.  This may include changing the planned route in the rapid, scouting from the river bank, portaging the rapid or lining the empty craft.

A group member is injured or falls into water while moving around on the edge of the river.

The dangers of moving around on the edge of the river will be explained to all participants.  This will include instructions to keep helmets and buoyancy vests on while near the river’s edge.

Guides will select the most appropriate pathways for people moving on the edge of the river.

Guides will supervise people near the edge of the river in order to ensure appropriate behaviour and/or provide rescue assistance.

The group encounters a rapid with an unexpected level of difficulty.

Guides must know the grade of the river prior to the commencement of the activity. This should match the skills of the staff and students. The effect on river grades of changes to river levels should also be considered.

Unusual or difficult rapids should be scouted before the group paddles them. Only one craft is to be permitted to enter a rapid at a time.  Other craft should not enter the rapid until a guide indicates it is safe to do so.

A student or staff member experiences hypothermia.

The pre-activity briefing of the students will outline what to do when feeling tired or cold.  The impact of cold water and wind will be explained to the students as well as strategies to avoid hypothermia.

Staff will pay close attention to the weather conditions and consider whether the cold water, wind and duration of time on the water are having an adverse effect on student safety.  Shelter from wind and/or rain will be considered if necessary.  The level of student and staff fatigue and the temperature will be monitored by staff and if signs of hypothermia appear, immediate action will be taken.

The use of wet suits will be considered, depending on the local conditions.

Students will have and wear appropriate warm clothing after leaving the water.

An event takes place on the river that requires outside access or egress.

Pre-activity planning will identify the points at which the river can be accessed throughout the activity.  If access and opportunities for shelter are too limited the activity location will be changed.

Guides will ensure that the planned river journey is appropriate for the ages, experience, fitness and skills of the group.

Generic risks
Sample risksSample controls

A pre-existing medical condition results in injury or illness during the excursion.

Staff will collect and then review current confidential medical information for all students and staff.  Where uncertainty exists, additional information will be sought.

At least one staff member will have a minimum of a level two first aid qualification and a first aid kit, which is appropriate to the activity and the environments to be encountered.

Medical information will be carried by staff on the excursion and referred to as necessary.

At the start of the excursion, staff will ensure that there is no new illness that may have an impact on the ability of the affected student(s) or staff to participate.  Consideration will also be given as to whether that illness might spread to others in the group.

The emergency response strategy will include communication and evacuation procedures.

Staff or student fatigue results in incident and/or injury.

During the planning phase, staff will consider the skills and experience of students and staff and make sure that the activity is suitable.

The group will adopt appropriately timed rest stops.  Food and water breaks will match the activity intensity, weather conditions and the group’s abilities.

Food and water intake will be monitored during the excursion to ensure all participants are eating and drinking adequately.

Staff will monitor each student and consider strategies to support the group and individuals. This may include altered intensity and loads, changing the activity, obtaining outside support, evacuations or cancellation of the activity.

Warm or cold weather conditions lead to a temperature-related illness

Staff will consider the skills, age, experience and maturity of students and staff when determining the activity, season and venue.

Clothing and equipment will be suitable for the planned season and venue.

Staff will plan and/or adjust the activity in response to foreseeable and prevailing weather conditions.

The emergency response strategy will include responses for when students and/or staff are affected by heat or cold.

A group is caught in severe weather or a thunderstorm resulting in injury.

The chosen venue, activity and season will be appropriate to the group.

Staff will obtain regular Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasts for the specific area they will be in and if necessary, adjust the activity.

Staff will observe the weather before and during the activity and adjust the activity accordingly.

Staff will consider exposure to tree and lightning hazards.

The emergency response strategy will include possible responses should severe weather or a thunderstorm occur.

A transport accident occurs while travelling to or from the venue.

The vehicle must be appropriately insured and maintained.  Where the vehicle is a bus, it must be regularly inspected by a licensed bus tester.

Drivers will have the appropriate drivers licence and certificates for the planned journey.  Drivers will perform a daily vehicle check (see the Victorian Bus & Truck Drivers Handbook​, Chapter 4, Vehicle Checks).

In accordance with heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws, (see transport) all drivers will take sufficient breaks from driving.  Drivers will also be sufficiently rested prior to driving.

Drivers will allow sufficient time for the planned journey and adjust speed to suit the driving conditions.

A student or staff member suffers a bite or sting causing illness or death.

Students and staff will have clear and relevant clothing/equipment lists, which reflect the possibility of bites or stings, and have appropriate first aid equipment.

Staff will carry current and confidential medical information for all students and staff participating in the activity.  Staff will ensure there are appropriate medications available and an emergency response strategy to support a worsening condition.


Relevant documents
External resources