White water rafting

The greatest risk in white water rafting is the raft overturning or a customer falling into the river for other reasons. The party organising white water rafting can improve safety in many ways already before the white water rafting season starts, and even more for each group of customers.

The service provider is responsible for the safety of white water rafting; in practice, this usually means the company offering the service.

Documents in order

  • Draw up a safety document on the white water rafting service
  • You can use a map to describe the routes. Mark the routes used in the service on the map in addition to the most hazardous locations on each route, the correct places to navigate these hazardous locations, and the rescue sites in case a raft overturns, for example.
  • In the safety document, state when the routes can be used and how the safety of the route is assessed based on factors such as the height of the water. Find out what other kinds of limits there are on the use of the different routes, such as weather limits, or requirements on the customers’ skills or their physical condition.
  • Record the further and additional training completed by the personnel and especially the water rescue readiness of the personnel in the safety document.

Identify the risks

You can use Tukes’ instructions and tools to identify risks

You should take especially the following into account in identifying the risks of a white water rafting service:

  • Each route has slightly different risks. Take the special characteristics of the routes into account in the review.
  • The greatest risk for customers in white water rafting is falling into the rapids. Especially in the spring and autumn, cold water may cause severe hypothermia or arrhythmia in a person falling into the water. Practice giving first aid in case of hypothermia or arrhythmia in advance.
  • In the review, take account of all of the stages, in which the customers participate during the service, including preparation, getting on the raft, the actual white water rafting, and getting off the raft, as well as potential exceptional situations, especially the raft overturning.
  • Think about how different customer groups differ from each other, and how hazards need to be taken into account in the different groups.

What to take into account in the planning

  • Monitor the discharge and the amount of water especially carefully in those rapids, in which the discharge may change significantly during the season or as the weather changes. Before each rafting trip starts, assess whether the rapids are safe to navigate.
  • For each group, assess the physical abilities, previous paddling experience and other skills of the customers, and consider which route would be safe for this specific customer group. The customers must be able to paddle following the captain’s instructions throughout the route.

Good safety practices

  • Practice water rescue and throwing a line with all captains before the season starts.

Requirements on the equipment

  • Make sure that there are enough appropriate paddling helmets and buoyancy vests available for all customers as well as the captain of the raft. More information about selecting and using personal protective equipment.
  • Tukes recommends that the captain of the raft wear a dry suit or a wet suit. This improves the captain's chances of carrying out a water rescue mission successfully and helping the customers if the raft overturns.