PRESS RELEASE: IWA Issues Statement on Paddle Pawl Stops

Issue date: 15th June 2015
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has issued a statement on Canal & River Trust (CRT)’s plans for discussing trials of new paddle pawl designs. IWA welcomes CRT’s plans to replace any damaged spindles and repair damaged paddle pawls but has significant concerns over one specific aspect of any new paddle design.  
For some time IWA has argued against proposals for installing paddle pawl stops that would prevent the paddle pawl from being completely moved out of the way whilst a paddle is being wound down. This issue has been raised locally by IWA branches and nationally through boating forums over the last six months or so, however IWA is concerned that paddle pawl stops are included in the proposed designs being trialled, and that CRT is not taking into account the new safety hazards that would be created by this approach.  
IWA considers that more needs to be done to educate boaters about replacing pawl catches in position after winding a paddle down, using the right windlass hole and not leaving windlasses on spindles once the paddle gear is wound up. Educating boaters about these three things would reduce the number of accidents. IWA believes that the installation of stops to prevent pawls being completely moved away from the paddle gear creates new hazards that could result in worse accidents occurring. Further details can be found in the IWA statement below.
IWA has recently written to CRT at a national level about this subject, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss this matter further and in greater detail with them. IWA also intends working with CRT and other organisations who deliver training, such as RYA, in order to improve knowledge surrounding the safest ways to operate locks. 

Appendix - IWA Statement on Paddle Pawl Design

Whilst on many canals only having one hand to wind down a paddle would not be a problem, there are certain situations when both hands are necessary. These could arise  when the person lowering the paddle is a child or someone frail or with disabilities, when the paddle gear is particularly stiff, and when lowering the paddle against a difference in water levels because someone has fallen in or a boat has got stuck and the water levels need to be reversed urgently. 

Having to hold the pawl with one hand also adds an additional  hazard, the proximity of the hand, arm and clothing to the turning paddle gear with the potential for injury if anything gets caught. There will also be a greater temptation to allow the paddles to drop without being wound down.   
IWA recommends that, instead of fitting stops to these paddle pawls so that they cannot be removed, a system is used that enables it to be clearer whether or not the pawl is in place, such as can be found on the BCN style paddle gear.  
Whilst IWA recognises the problems that can be caused when a boater starts to wind up a paddle without the pawl in place, it considers that not being able to completely remove the pawl from the paddle gear creates a far more dangerous situation, and that the number of accidents can be reduced by educating boaters about the safest way to operate paddle gear.  
IWA considers that the primary cause of windlasses spinning out of control is boaters using the larger of the two holes on a windlass on standard spindles, which will not fit snugly on to the spindle. There needs to be more training and awareness surrounding the use of windlasses and the fact that the larger of the two holes on a windlass should only be used on hydraulic paddle gear on locks, bridges and similar equipment, as well as on the Ham Baker paddle gear on the northern Grand Union. Boaters should also be reminded to always make sure the windlass is pushed firmly on to the spindle before they start winding the paddle up or down, and to keep it pushed on to the spindle all the time they are using it.  
IWA recommends better training for those new to boating, such as first time hirers, with emphasis on the need to replace the paddle pawl after a paddle has been wound down.  
Another important issue regarding safety of using windlasses is that boaters should all be reminded that it is dangerous to leave a windlass on a spindle once the paddle has been wound up. A windlass should never be left on a spindle when a paddle is up as it can fly off and cause injury by hitting someone.
IWA also continues to be concerned about the impact of such changes on the need to retain the historic aspects of paddle gear across the network which IWA regards an essential feature of the context of the individual waterways, and have long campaigned to keep.

For more information please contact Alison Smedley, Campaigns Officer, The Inland Waterways Association, by emailing or phone 07779 090915.

Notes for Editors

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA), a registered charity, leads campaigns to conserve, maintain and restore Britain’s network of canal and river waterways. With a membership of around 16,000, IWA provides a strong voice for waterways users, working with navigation authorities, local and national government and other organisations to keep all our waterways alive.