The right facilities and equipment used properly

A lack of access to facilities creates barriers, disables people and makes activity less safe

The right equipment for your organisation will emerge from an assessment of:

  • Your facilities and venue
  • The sailing area
  • The capabilities of participants, volunteers and staff
  • The type of activity you deliver
  • Any local or national regulations to be followed.

The right facilities

It is important to consider the accessibility of the facilities and equipment you use to get people on the water.

The RYA ‘Assessing Access’ self assessment tool has a section – Getting on the water, that looks at

  • Routes to the launching area
  • Steps
  • Signage
  • Pontoons and jetties
  • Boats, aids and equipment
  • People.

Questions to ask - The right facilities

Have you assessed the accessibility of the routes to and methods of getting on and off the water?


The right equipment

Equipment can be for individual participants, or the support your organisation provides.



Sailing – the vessel

Safety support – the vessel

Personal flotation

Personal flotation

Getting in and out of boats

Recovering people

Maintaining posture

Recovering boats

Controlling the sails and steering

Launch and recovery


Providing first aid


Dealing with incidents




Mast head flotation


There are many choices out there, both on the open market and bespoke kit. The right equipment for your organisation will emerge from an assessment of your facilities and venue, sailing area, the capabilities of participants, volunteers and staff, the type of activity you deliver, and any local or national regulations to be followed.

In choosing the right equipment it is important to look at the interdependencies. For example, if you already have sailing vessels that are heavy because of a lifting keel you will need to make sure your safety vessels are capable of righting them.

If you are bringing in new equipment, take the time to assess whether it is right for your operations, if you need to update procedures, and allow sailors and volunteers time to get to know how it is set up and used.

Within your own operations, when using your organisations boats there will be choices and decisions– what boat is best for a participant, buoyancy aid or life-jacket, what equipment or adaptations might they need to stay safe and increase control of the boat?

Assurance about such decisions is about

The Safety on the Water guidance considers a number of issues that are related to equipment and its use, including

  • Personal flotation devices
  • Straps and harnesses
  • Adaptations
  • Self-righting boats
  • Recovering people
  • Recovering boats.

For example, if you have participants who would be unable to assist in their own recovery if they were in the water, you may want to consider a wet net / hypo hoist / Jacobs ladder as one option for recovery. Or if you have boats that are difficult to drain if they fill up with water, you may need equipment to ensure you can remove large amounts of water quickly – a bailor, bucket or pump, for example.

Questions to ask - The right equipment

How have you assessed the risks related to the equipment you have, and whether it meets your requirements?


What steps do you take if you acquire new equipment for your operations?


Have you read and acted on the ‘Safety on the Water’ guidance?




Used properly

The right equipment needs to be ready to hand, in good working order and people need to know how to use it, particularly under pressure.

So, the following steps are important to consider

  • Maintenance
  • Inspection
  • Training
  • Set up and use guide
  • Pre-use checks
  • Damage or fault reporting.

A schedule enables you to detail for each type of equipment you have

  • What action is required (e.g. maintenance, inspection, pre use check)
  • With a given regularity
  • By a specified person
  • The records to be kept.

Training at its simplest ensures people (operators and participants) know how to use equipment – again a schedule enables you to detail what training is needed - with what regularity, delivered by whom and what records are to be kept.

It is important to keep the bigger picture in mind. It is as important for those crewing safety boats to know how to rig and de-rig the vessels they are supporting, as it is knowing how to use the powerboat they are in.

A model of showing the learner how to use it and observing them while they use it, before giving them authority to use equipment independently can be a useful start point.

Set up, pre-use checks and user guides are tools you can develop to ensure equipment is set up and used consistently every time. They may extract key information from manufacturers own operators guides, or in the case of boats - owners manuals and rigging guides. They can be checklists, videos, laminated sheets, or other formats. The key is visibility – are they readily available so that anyone using the equipment can check that everything is in place, knows what they need to do pre-use and the steps to follow in using the equipment?

Using equipment properly is a shared responsibility – before equipment is used

  • A committee may approve the controls needed based on a risk assessment
  • Checklists and user guides may give a framework
  • A team may set up and use the equipment using the tools and training they have been given
  • Finally, someone may carry out a spot check that all is well.

Of course, damage happens, and equipment develops faults. If you know about it, you can rectify it and learn from it to reduce the chance of it happening again.

The systems you have in place will reflect your organisation, what it does and who is involved. The process of training people, practicing skills, refreshing knowledge, reflecting on practice and keeping a record of who is deemed competent to use equipment on and off the water is a balance. Enough so that participants can be assured that your organisation has competent people involved using equipment properly, not so much that it is too daunting for staff and volunteers.

Questions to ask - Used properly

How do you know when equipment needs to be inspected and maintained?


How do you know who has been trained to use or allocate specific equipment?


What tools and systems do you have in place to ensure equipment is set up properly, checked before use and used as intended?




sailors preparing to depart on their dinghys to go sailing

Dinghies keelboats and multihulls

Consider the equipment your require your dinghies, keelboats and multihulls to carry

3 people driving a powerboat in a harbour

Powerboats used for safety

Consider the equipment you require powerboats used for safety to carry





Safety management system