Monday, June 2, 2014

 Cold Water Immersion

In September 2012, Matthew MacIntyre died whilst canoeing on Fish Lake, after his canoe capsized. The coroner's report noted that Mr. MacIntyre had rented a canoe from a Whitehorse based operator, and was planning on canoeing to the island in the lake, and back.  Mr MacIntyre and the friend he was paddlling with were both experienced in canoes, and were wearing life jackets, and carrying safety equipment.

The coroner reported that immersion into the cold waters of Fish Lake was a direct contributor to Mr. MacIntyres death, and that whilst the rental agreement noted that the renter assumed all inherent risks, there was no evidence that these risks were highlighted, or that a safety briefing occurred prior to rental.

The coroner therefore made several recommendations, aimed at WTAY directly.

1. That WTAY engage in discussion and education of members in accordance with their stated purpose and mandate, regarding:

  • the inherent dangers of activities (such as canoeing) either guided or unguided, involving cold water; and
  • updating rental agreements to include specific clauses with regards to the inherent, significant dangers of a sudden cold water immersion.

2. That WTAY amend it's Code of Conduct to include an expectation of members whose business includes activities with potential risks related to cold water immersion, to deliberately advise clients in writing and through a safety briefing, of the life-threatening dangers of cold water immersion.

WTAY has been working towards meeting these recommendations over the last year. Information regarding this incident and the recommendations has been distributed through the e-news letter.

In 2014, the Board approved a new Code of Conduct, after a large amount of work was put in to researching Codes from other jurisdictions and industries. Whilst this new Code does not specifically address cold water immersion (Code's are general documents, not specific), as part of the work done revising the code, it was highlighted that a Best Practices document would be better served to address specific issues such as cold water immersion and rental agreements. Work on this document is intended to begin in the Fall of 2014, pending funding approval. WTAY is also looking into the potential for a Fall Roundup event, which would engage members, and provide  a platform for educating them on specific aspects of the Code and Best practices.


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