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Silverdale Boating Lake 15 August 2005

    THE Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry wishes to set the record straight as to its role and responsibilities in relation to the Silverdale boating lake, following recent media coverage of the closure of the facility.

    The Department would like to make it clear that:

    • The decision to close the boating lake was taken by the operator. Closure was not requested or advised by the Department.
    • However, the Department takes seriously its responsibility to protect the safety of the public using facilities in its ownership. In line with this, the Department took the opportunity of a visit to the Island earlier this year by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – acknowledged experts on water safety – to review safety arrangements at the boating lake.
    • The resulting recommendations were communicated to the site operator in March this year and have since been substantially endorsed by the Island’s own Health and Safety Inspectorate.
    • Concern over safety at the lake was reinforced in June this year when a visiting family complained of inadequate supervision in relation to a boating incident.
    • The Department shares the public’s disappointment at the operator’s decision to close the boating lake. But the Department cannot neglect its responsibility for public safety and believes the recommendations that have been made to the operator have not been unreasonable.
    • While the Department is keen to see the facility reopened for public enjoyment, compliance with safety and insurance requirements is a matter for the operator, as is the case for any other business.

    The Department also wishes to make clear the recommendations which were made on its behalf in respect of Silverdale Boating Lake. These included the following.

    • The operator should have an accurate knowledge of the depth of the water throughout the lake.
    • All boaters who would be out of their depth should be provided with and wear lifejackets and age limits should be set.
    • User safety rules should be outlined clearly at the payment area and again at the embarkation point. These should include: lifejacket rule; age limit; individual height limit for which a lifejacket must be worn; and behaviour standards (eg ‘No Standing’, ‘No Horseplay’, etc).
    • There should be at least one attendant in charge of the operation at all times. The attendant(s) should be responsible and mature and be able not only to enforce the rules, but also to recognise and deal appropriately with anyone who may present an undue hazard to themselves or others (eg those appearing to be under the influence of alcohol). The attendant(s) should be provided with training on action to be taken in the event of specific incidents. The attendant(s) should also be able to swim and this should be documented.

    The recommendations were based on advice received from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and were communicated to the site operator in March of this year. They were also discussed at length with the site operator at a meeting with him in June following a complaint from a visitor to the lake about the age of the people in charge of the boats at Silverdale. He, his wife and grandson were getting into a boat when it tipped up and allegedly those in charge had not known what to do.

    From what was said at the meeting it would seem that on the day in question the usual attendant had not turned into work but had organised two younger friends to cover for him. The complainant had given their ages as 10/11 but it was claimed that they were actually 14. Nevertheless this was still considered to be too young and furthermore the site operator himself seemed to think that they have to be over 16 for insurance purposes.

    The opportunity was also taken to go through the other recommendations referred to above and it was strongly recommended to the site operator that he adopt these controls. It was also put to him that they were considered ‘reasonably practicable’ having identified the risks on the site without taking the unnecessary draconian step of closing this popular visitor attraction and which is the last thing the Department would wish to see.

    The Department was therefore extremely disappointed by the decision of the site operator to close the boating lake operation and blaming health and safety rather than facing up to his responsibilities and seeking to put matters right.

    In the last week officials of the Department have met with Nick Black, Chief Health and Safety Inspector and his colleague Tim Pain to review the situation. They have indicated their support for the stand taken by the Department and have agreed with almost all the recommendations which were made.

    They have now taken over the lead on the matter and are dealing directly with the site operator who they have just written to under health and safety legislation advising on minimum legal standards to be met. Hopefully this will remove any doubt or argument in the mind of the site operator and it will now be for him to decide on the course of action he wishes to take.

    The Department of course hopes that the site operator will now see his way to providing proper standards of safety and will reopen the boating lake operation as soon as possible.

    15th August 2005

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