What is the BSS

The Canal & River Trust, Environment Agency, Broads Authority, and the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities have announced governance changes to the BSS whereby a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, called Boat Safety Scheme Limited is incorporated to take on the work of the existing Scheme from 1 April 2024.
The Scheme’s structure remains unchanged, with all income returned into the running costs and continuing the safety improvements brought about by the Scheme since its inception in 1995 by British Waterways (now the Canal & River Trust) and the National Rivers Authority (now the Environment Agency, a non-departmental public body).

The BSS purpose is to help minimise the risk of boat fires, explosions, or pollution harming visitors to the inland waterways, the waterways' workforce and any other users and to help protect adjacent property, as it is to these parties that the Navigation Authorities may have duties in law. The purpose is equally to contribute to the common goal to make the waterways a safe, attractive and pleasant environment for all.

The BSS helps control the hazards which are introduced by boats which have been inadequately constructed or maintained or hazards introduced by boat owners who misuse the boat's equipment. The Navigation Authorities employ, through the BSS two broad approaches in respect of privately owned and privately managed boats.

1. The BSS Examination - Firstly, the BSS supports the Navigation Authorities by helping monitor and develop their minimum safety (legal) requirements. These minimum safety (legal) requirements are the BSS General Requirements referred to in the BSS Essential Guide and they are expressed in goal-setting terms.

Meeting the navigation authorities' minimum legal safety requirements is necessary in order for boat owners to obtain a navigation licence on waterways controlled by those authorities that have adopted the Scheme.

The BSS General Requirements are supported by expected means of compliance in the form of the checks set out in Parts 2 to 9 of the BSS Essential Guide.

Independent and authorised BSS Examiners are in place carry out BSS Examinations and so help the Navigation Authorities assess whether any given boat meets their minimum legal safety standards. A BSS examination at least once every four years is seen as a good audit of a boat's compliant condition throughout its life.

Boats passing the examination are recorded as having a BSS Certification on the BSS database. Owners are provided a BSS Certification report by the BSS Examiner when the boat complies with the BSS Requirements at the point of examination.

2. Awareness raising - Secondly, the BSS employs education, persuasion and promotion of safety to address accepted risks linked to the use of appliances, engines and associated boat systems and fuels. BSS safety information assists owners identify and control the risks for which they have a responsibility - this means risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning and electrocution. 'Advice checks' carried out by BSS Examiners during the BSS examination are included in this approach.

Since 2005 the BSS has been closely monitoring incident data and it is clear from the known causes of incidents that owner behaviour, maybe due to a lack of awareness, is the main contributory cause of incidents. It follows that promoting safety awareness is the measure most likely to reduce the number of incidents.


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