Safety System at water sports club ‘flawed at every level’


An HSE report on a fatal accident involving a towed ‘banana boat’ has highlighted the risks of employing safety consultants who have no specialist knowledge of the risks involved in a given sector: in this case water sports.

A young girl of 11 tragically died on 11 September 2010 when riding a banana boat at Princes Club Middlesex. She fell off and hit the propeller of the tight-turning speedboat that was towing. The pilot of the boat was unaware of the collision.

The independent report of the HSE’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) highlighted the following failings:

  • There was a faulty process for carrying out Risk Assessments
  • The risk assessment for banana boats did not highlight the possibility that the driver might not see a fallen rider
  • There was no external oversight of towed inflatables

They concluded that the safety management system was ‘flawed at every level’.

Inadequate Safety Consultants

The club had hired MHL Support Ltd (now Bibby Consulting & Support) in 2008 as Health & Safety consultants. This company had not worked in similar water parks and apparently did not take expert advice at any time during the process. Their survey made 14 points, but none of these dealt with main activities such as water skiing or towed inflatables.

The company’s annual inspection in May 2010 resulted in 7 observations, but did not carry any requirement for Princes Club to report when these areas had been rectified, and there was no follow-up system within MHL.

Princes Club ignored their expert staff members and appointed their events coordinator to the Health and Safety Coordinator role in 2009. She expressed reservations and was sent on an IOSH course. She then made an inspection and produced a detailed report highlighting 49 points (many more than the consultancy) and speaking of a laxity on health and safety observance.

The new MAIB report has recommended Bibby Consulting & Support to tell clients of the limitations of their inspections; and they have been advised to seek expert advice when specialist requirements are encountered.

The HSE is now considering a code of practice for the towing of inflatables with passengers.