Rafting injury highlights safety hazard

Lookout! Issue 26, September 2012

A river rafting company identified an ongoing hazard that its operation posed to paddlers and took practicable steps to reduce the risk.

The company operates about three trips each day on the river, carrying up to 35 passengers in rafts that can accommodate a maximum of seven rafters seated in four rows. The guides it employs are all well acquainted with the river and the large waterfall that must be navigated during the rafting trips.

The risk became evident when a man suffered minor injuries as the raft he was travelling in went over falls. The man was in the second row of paddlers and, as the raft navigated the falls, his head went down and hit the helmet of the paddler in front of him, causing a small cut.

The rafting guide treated the injury at the scene and the paddlers were able to continue with their trip. The company reviewed what had happened and proactively set out to prevent this type of incident happening again.


  • The rafting company successfully identified a safety hazard and revised its safety process to reduce the risk for its passengers.
    • The manager recognised that the incident was not the first time that a passenger had banged his or her head on the helmet of another person while going over the falls. He identified that on each occasion, the injured parties had kept their heads up as they went over the falls. This was despite having practised the ‘getting down’ position during the safety briefing before starting the trip. „
  • After consulting other guides who knew the river well, the manager modified the company’s safety practice to reinforce the message to ‘get down’. The rafting guides now repeat the safety drill when the raft is at the top of the falls, just prior to going over. Since making this change, there have been no further incidents of paddlers banging their heads.

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