Safety and Welfare

SAFETY POLICY (extracted from the handbook)



  1. Overall and final responsibility for the safety and welfare of children and staff is with Jae Willis. In his absence, another staff member will act on his behalf. The name of this staff member will be displayed on the notice board.
  2. When children are in their working groups, the Group Leader instructors take responsibility for the safety, health and welfare of the children in their group and for the other instructor(s) allocated to the group.
  3. All staff are required to read this document and the section in the ICS handbook on ‘Welfare’.
  4. Jae Willis will check validity of first-aid certificates.



  1. Whether or not an injury requires treatment is a decision to be made by the Group Leader instructor while children are working within groups, or by Jae Willis at other times.
  2. In the case of any injury requiring treatment, the injured person is to be sent to Jae Willis (or in his absence the person nominated by him whose name will be displayed on the ICS notice board).
  3. The first aid kit is kept in the staff office. Jae Willis will ensure that the first aid and medical boxes are maintained.
  4. The names of Group Leader instructors allocated to each working group, will be displayed on the notice board. The names of persons qualified to give first aid will be highlighted in yellow.
  5. Jae Willis will record accidents, illnesses and treatments on the relevant student control cards.
  6. In the case of a serious accident or illness Jae Willis (or in his absence, the person nominated by him) will contact the parent or next-of-kin. Telephone numbers are on the control cards.



  1. Children are split into working groups of about 8 (higher numbered groups might have more children – a maximum of 12). Each group has a safety boat.
  2. The wearing of buoyancy aids is compulsory for children while on or near the water. The wearing of buoyancy aids is compulsory for staff while on the water.
  3. The minimum standard is that for all staff and all children who can swim, BAs must comply with the CE50 Newton Standard. Group Leader instructors will be informed by Jae Willis of any non- swimmers who will be required to wear BAs meeting the CE150 Newton Standard.
  4. PSC will ensure that planing safety boats will be fitted with kill cords. ICS staff using a safety boat fitted with a kill cord must have the end clipped to the thigh or secure part of the buoyancy aid whenever the engine is in gear.



The safety and welfare of the children on the course is ultimately my responsibility and if something serious happens, I am legally responsible. However, I delegate this responsibility to the Group Leader instructors when the children are working in their groups, and Group Leader instructors may delegate to their assistant instructors when appropriate. Many staff members are experienced teachers or sailing instructors and are aware of the heavy burden of responsibility involved in looking after children, but our record is remarkably good. We have as yet never had a serious accident, never had to take anyone to hospital, or call a doctor. Rather than ‘touch wood’ it is more useful to be aware why we have a good record, and reassess our policies and procedures to ensure that we keep up our good record. Firstly, and perhaps the most important factor is that we run a ‘tight ship;’ that is, every child is in a controlled environment all the time. When in a working group, both the Group Leader instructor and the children know what they are supposed to be doing, where they are supposed to be. So if one were to ask a child at any time ‘what are you doing’ he will have an answer e.g. ‘I have to put my rig in, and sail round that buoy, then back to the pontoon, then report to my instructor’. And of course the Group Leader instructor knows where all his children are and what their objectives are. Children never have ‘free time’ when they can do whatever they like. This way the environment is always, to a greater degree, under control.

It is important to ensure the children in your group are dressed warmly and wearing a suitable buoyancy aid, correctly tied, when going afloat. Children have a remarkable inability to judge how cold they might get on the water, when they are making the decision standing in a warm clubhouse. Talk of layers. A wet suit is worth three layers. Explain that wind blowing on a wet absorbent outer garment causes the moisture to evaporate and this evaporation causes the garment, and the person in it, to cool. Bear in mind that some children need far more clothing than do others. Encourage them to learn from their experiences: if they were cold yesterday they will need more clothes today. Advise them to add a layer or two (no one can be happy or learn anything if they are cold). Hypothermia is rarely a problem because even in the coldest conditions, the sessions are so short that children cannot be cold for any prolonged period. However, be ever vigilant for the first signs of hypothermia: disinterest, shivering, incoherent speech, and when diagnosed, take child by rescue boat immediately to the clubhouse for recovery.

If a child in your group is injured to the extent that you or your partner instructor would have to abandon your group to deal with the situation for more than a few minutes, it is usually best to send the injured child in to the clubhouse. We have our own large first-aid kit and if there is a more serious problem, we have a stretcher, and access to a doctor and hospital. The most common injury is a bruise caused by a boom hitting a head. Although it has not happened yet, a relatively likely injury can be caused by falling onto concrete (there are numerous concrete paths and walls) or slipping on a wet wooden pontoon.

It is also important, in fact sometimes even more important, to respond to ‘psychological injury’. When a child has had a fright, take the trouble to ensure he or she is OK. In the event of an accidental capsize, or serious bang on the head with a boom, it is usually best to send him/her back to whoever is in charge in the clubhouse, and continue working with your group. Always inform me (I monitor the VHF base station). The chances of a medical problem just because of the capsize is very remote because the exposure to cold is for such a short time, but it is important to tell me. In 1990 we had a child abandon the sport. No-one monitored or responded to the ‘psychological injury’. He decided he never wanted to go out in a boat again in his life and nothing could make him change his mind. This happened on the Tuesday. Nothing could persuade him to come again and as far as I know he has never stepped into a sailing boat since. It wasn’t the capsize that put him off but the firm idea that he had done something wrong and no one paid any interest in his plight. His self-esteem took a big backward step. Of course a child in the top group wearing a dry suit is invariably completely unaffected by an accidental capsize and can stay on the water working in the group. Indeed, any child wearing a wet suit or a dry suit who is not cold and not shocked, can continue in the group activity.

You should know about Weils disease. It is spread by rat’s urine. Contracting the disease is a possibility (albeit a remote one) around any fresh water in the UK (including rainwater trapped in boat-covers kept at sea clubs) and we are required to take precautions. The symptoms (several weeks after contracting) vary in intensity from a mild flu-like illness to a fatal form of jaundice due to severe liver disease. The kidneys are often involved and there may be meningitis. Penicillin is the main cure. The signs/symptoms (several weeks after contracting) are: fever, jaundice, enlarged liver, bleeding from mucous membrane (nose, throat, urine), nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). Our policy, approved by the RYA, is to ensure all open wounds are covered with a waterproof dressing, capsize drills are conducted away from the waters edge, and anyone who has been immersed takes a shower.

A note to parents is included in every skipper’s folder so that in the unlikely event of a child developing the symptoms after the course, the parent would make the child’s doctor aware of the possibility of Weils disease. Early treatment is invariably successful. Don’t over-rate the problem; it is very rare; if a child asks you about it, make light of it and say it is very rare. At the initial briefing (1000 on the first day) I give information about the risk and the preventative measures which are relevant to all inland sailing venues in the UK.


I’ll now describe some of the more likely medical problems you might encounter. Medical information provided by parents appears on the control cards. You should carefully study the cards of the children in your group at the beginning of the week, and the card of any child transferred to your group during the week, noting any medical information.

Many children suffer from a mild form of asthma. Most of those that do bring their own inhaler. It is important that they use their own inhaler, not someone else’s, as they don’t all contain the same chemical. No harm can come from excessive use of an inhaler, although tachycardia (racing pulse) palpitations and irritability can occur if too many doses of salbutamol (“ventolin”) are administered. Instructors are often asked to carry inhalers afloat for safekeeping. You should check that they are clearly identified with the child’s name. In practice they are rarely required, but any child asking for his inhaler should always be given it immediately. In the very unlikely event of a very serious attack the child must be taken to hospital (by two adults in case resuscitation is required). The hospital should be warned in advance of arrival.

Some children suffer from Eczema, a disorder of the skin, which looks dry and flaky. Eczema is not contagious or infectious, and psychological harm can be done to children who suffer from eczema by others (e.g. their friends) reluctant to touch them. Scratching in private should not be discouraged. Sufferers will invariably be aware of the importance of not causing bleeding and infection by scratching.

Some children have grommets fitted in their ears. A grommet seals a perforation in the eardrum, without which hearing ability would be seriously impaired. Infection is a significant possibility should lake water enter the ear, so the child will have been provided with ear plugs for use during capsize drill. If you are involved in running capsize activities, bear in mind that a child wearing ear plugs may not hear your instructions.

In the very unlikely event of a child having a fit, the most important consideration is to protect from injury. Those prone to fits will have an indication on the control card, including whether recovery is likely to be ‘quick’, or ‘confused for a time’, or ‘needs to sleep’. Child should be brought ashore and placed on side recovery position with support under the head.

Experts believe that one in ten children may be dyslexic to some degree, but only about 1 in 40 are diagnosed and information about these will appear on the control cards. No two dyslexic children experience exactly the same pattern of difficulties. Generally they have difficulty with their perception, organisation and processing of symbolic information. They may experience:

(i) mixed dominance – ambidexterity and difficulty in telling left from right

(ii) directional confusion – not just left/right (port/starboard), but up/down, in/out and general difficulty in positioning things in space

(iii) difficulty with sequencing – the alphabet, days of the week, events in the day and generally positioning things in time

(iv) difficulty with working/short term memory – holding any verbal information

(v) short attention span

(vi) poor motor control – may be clumsy and awkward and experience poor hand-eye co-ordination.

(vii) difficulty in copying from a blackboard or from books

When you have your group assembled for a theory session, and there is a child in your group identified on his control card as being dyslexic, he should be encouraged to sit near you. Be aware that he will have persistent difficulty learning anything in sequential order and that constant over-learning is essential at every stage. He should not be asked to read aloud in front of the group. His ability should be judged more on his oral responses than on written answers. He needs praise and recognition. If possible give him a copy of instructors notes or a hand-out at the end of the briefing or lesson rather than expect him to copy from the blackboard. Patience is required if he loses his way and arrives late for a theory session or always appears to be in the wrong place or at the wrong time. Remember his sense of direction and time are not good. Whenever possible the dyslexic child should be asked to repeat back to you what he has been asked to do. His own voice is a useful aid to memory. The design and presentation of worksheets needs to be carefully thought out: bold headings, clear print, less writing more diagrams etc. Remember always to portray a positive attitude and endeavour to make each experience a positive one for the child.


Mild dyslexia is unlikely to effect a child’s ability to learn to sail, but will probably effect his ability to read and write. Parental support will resolve the problem of homework, but you need to bear the problem in mind when communicating with, for example, a blackboard. After a briefing take the child aside to satisfy yourself he understands your instructions.

Children who are short sighted normally wear glasses but might be reluctant to use them in a boat. In the case of beginners, the child will sometimes focus his attention within the boat and its rig (rather than the instructor on the far pontoon) resulting in the boat going round and round in circles. If he cannot see the target, he’ll need to wear his glasses.

A few children have hearing problems. If you have one in your group, speak clearly and loudly towards him, but don’t change your tone.

Some children have food allergies. These are brought to the attention of the galley master who prepares special food for them. Details are on the control card.

Some children are what one might call precocious. Details will not be on the control card (unless I know them from a previous course) but you’ll recognise the problem within five minutes of receiving your group. They constantly demand attention and recognition, are sometimes aggressive, and may be inclined to bully other children. They are difficult to help because it seems unnatural to congratulate them. However, these children need congratulatory encouragement even more than most. Contrary to how they appear, they actually have a low level of self-esteem. They are often criticised full-time by their parents and teachers. Don’t fall into the obvious trap of not praising, or of finding fault. Instead, find ways of giving more praise more often, and boosting their self-esteem no matter how unnatural it feels to do so. The rewards of such a policy can be dramatic, but as these children are returned to their usual home and school environment after the course, the benefits we might achieve are probably short-lived.* Historically, bullying on our courses has been very rare. However if it does occur, immediate intervention is essential (and inform me later).

*[Since writing this paragraph I have been advised by a child psychologist that the benefits are not necessarily short-lived. “To the contrary, a single event raising the child’s self-esteem could be a turning point and a foundation on which to build the self-confidence they appeared to have but didn’t have.”]

Some children are under-achievers. They appear to fail at almost everything. They often have learning difficulties. All children have the need for special moments where they feel really good about themselves, but under-achievers have a greater need because these moments are more rare. I use the term ‘golden moment’ for a special moment when an under-achiever succeeds in the eyes of his peers and a firm, very beneficial, impact is made on the child’s memory. A ‘golden moment’ can have a dramatically advantageous effect on some children. The average child gets plenty of golden moments and there is no need to monitor. Some under-achievers need a situation to be contrived in which they can get a ‘golden moment’, perhaps succeeding at something not related to sailing.

You’ll be glad to know that 90% of children have none of these problems, so the few that have can have that little extra effort and attention from us that they need.

If you smoke, I ask this of you: please don’t smoke in the clubhouse or the galley or the changing rooms, and please don’t let any child on the course see you smoking. We are all role models to some degree, and we do the children on the course a disservice if we allow smoking to be associated with the healthy occupation of sailing and learning. Thanks.


ICS Child Protection Policy

As defined in the Children Act 1989, for the purposes of this policy anyone under the age of 18 should be considered as a child. The policy also applies to vulnerable adults.

It is the policy of ICS to safeguard children and young people taking part in boating from physical, sexual or emotional harm. ICS will take all reasonable steps to ensure that, through appropriate procedures and training, children participating in ICS activities do so in a safe environment. We recognise that the safety and welfare of the child is paramount and that all children, whatever their age, gender, disability, culture, ethnic origin, colour, religion or belief, social status or sexual identity, have a right to protection from abuse.


ICS actively seeks to:

· Create a safe and welcoming environment, both on and off the water, where children can have fun and develop their skills and confidence.

· Be prepared to review its ways of working to incorporate best practice.


We will:

· Treat all children with respect and celebrate their achievements.

· Carefully recruit and select all employees, contractors and volunteers.

· Respond swiftly and appropriately to all complaints and concerns about poor practice or suspected or actual child abuse.