I wanted to share an example (at my own expense) of how difficult I
think safety assessment is.
I am very safety aware, I push for it all the time, and accept that I
don't do everything correctly, but push my programs in the right
directions, and think about it often, and am asked about it and deal
with it nearly every day.
I'm currently teaching a young woman to scull who had sustained
traumatic head injury and a coma in a car accident a couple years
ago. She was a former nat'l class swimmer/water polo player, who is
a long difficult rehab to restore the motor pathways. She loves
rowing, it's good because she'd never done
it so can improve, as opposed to being reminded in swimming how good
she once was.
Her coordination is halting, poor, and gradually improving. Her
balance and ability to recover her balance is very difficult. When
she came down in fall she couldn't stand on one leg. Now she can to
take off her shoes one a time, awesome! She is able to pull
herself back into an Aero when she
falls in, she's comfortable in cold/open water. We have been rowing
over this winter twice a week, and I have direct and total supervision
of her rowing in an Aero, I'm either next to her in a single or on the
dock in our cove as
she rows back and forth as I'm teaching her dad to scull.
This winter, we've had colder nights/mornings, and many more of them
than I can ever remember. We've had icy docks many mornings in
A couple weeks ago, it was cold, the wood deck tarmac was icey but
the dock was ok. When we launched our footing was a bit slippery,
but not bad, the ice tarmac was dry and I didn't really pay much
attention as I was thinking more of water temps/air temps, and about
mitigating our rowing to keep her from doing anything drastic to fall
in, I'd be with her, so no big deal. Water was 51f and air about 33f,
clear morning expected to warm up quickly. We rowed, while we
were out, the Masters came in, a bunch of water was sprayed about the
wood tarmac (rinsing oars, it's the typical expected thing to do).
Temps dropped. When we came in, the deck was more slippery, I
noticed it first, but then didn't think of my charge, I was thinking
about moving us quickly since I had a world-wide video conference for
work to make in 20 minutes.
While carrying an Aero with another sculler, she slipped on the deck
and went down. She was ok, but of course the first thing that
occurred to me was what sort of f***ing moron would put a person with
recovering severe head trauma on an icy slippery surface carrying a
This moron did.
No damage done, thank my lucky stars, she was ok and ready to go
I explained what happened to her parents with profuse apology, asked
cold mornings to call me first to check ice conditions on dock, she
and erg instead or stay home.
The lesson learned: I have been WELL aware of the danger of icy
at the club, and have pushed for 'no row', or for programs to clear
before rowing, and before carrying shells up. For a team of a couple
in the past we've kept a 1/2 dozen 5 gal buckets at the dock, and they
salt water from the bay all over dock and deck which clears things
I will do this myself often.
My fail was the following: I didn't do a separate risk assessment of
charge's possible problems as far as on shore safety. I was much
thorough on the water with her than others, and in the act of
getting in/out, but didn't even think of the differences in walking on
deck for normal ppl, vs someone who is very challenged in balance and
where the risk of further re-injury is high.
There was too much hubris in the notion that since I was with her all
the time, whatever I hadn't thought of could be mitigated.
Don't get me wrong, she gets to try to live a normal life, and there
be some risk to that. If there were something unanticipated that
along that I've never seen before, it's a very different story.
This is not the case here. They told me she couldn't do activities
that would be jarring or where she'd be hit (like water polo, for
I'd already been involved at the club with changing club culture
this icy deck/dock situation. I shoulda coulda and didnta.