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Events alongside the River Thames

If an event is proposed on land adjoining the river it is important to consider how the people that are organising and attending the event can stay safe near the water

Tom Daley on a bicycle with Tower Bridge in the background.

For the purposes of this guidance the term ‘event’ is not defined, and it could relate to a range of activities at different scales. It will be for the event organiser to carry out a relevant and proportionate risk assessment for the event that is proposed.

Issues to consider during the event planning process include:  

Riverside Safety
The Thames is tidal from the estuary as far as Teddington Lock in west London. The height of the water can change by up to seven metres, and it rises and falls twice a day. The current is so strong that it would beat an Olympic swimmer. Areas of the foreshore (the edges of the river) which are visible at low tide will be under several metres of water at high tide.

On average over 100 people a year enter the water by accident or deliberately, triggering interventions by the emergency services.

The Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum has produced a Community Water Safety Pack which includes practical steps on how to stay safe near water.  This is a free resource which can be shared with event attendees.

For events alongside the Thames practical steps would include event organisers familiarising themselves with the location of the nearest lifesaving equipment and how to use it as well as understanding what to do in an emergency should someone be in trouble either in the river or on the foreshore.  A visual inspection of the lifesaving equipment should always be undertaken by the event organiser as part of the event planning process.

Depending on the event and its location, it might be necessary to consider risk mitigation measures such as providing stewards at any access points to the foreshore, to prevent people from using them and in any participant briefing specifically advising people to stay on the land during the event.

The Thames Skills Academy offers relevant water safety training courses including one concerning Riverside Personal Safety. This is a hands-on course providing information on the dangers of working near water and it offers practical tips to help you to stay safe should you fall into the water or see someone in the water.

Environmental Issues
Consideration should be given to the controls that are proposed to be put in place to minimise the impact of the event on the river. This includes for example, how to avoid litter generated at an event on the land from entering the river; how to avoid disturbance of key species along the river such as seals and birds; as well as reducing the risk of spreading/introducing invasive species. The PLA publishes guidance on environmental issues, which can be found by clicking here.

The event organiser should also consider and consult where appropriate with the following organisations (which is not an exhaustive list):

  • HM Coastguard
  • Local Emergency Services
  • The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI)
  • The Local Authority/Council

Essential information

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