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This information is currently not accessible to residents living outside of Ontario. For more information on your own province’s Safety Guidelines, please consult with your provincial Ministry of Education.

Ce contenu n’est pas disponible à l’extérieur de l’Ontario. Veuillez communiquer avec le ministère de l’Éducation de votre province pour des renseignements sur les Lignes directrices sur la sécurité de votre province.

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Outdoor Education - Paddle Rafting


Secondary - Curricular 2018

Lakes, Rivers

Flatwater, Class I and Class II River Classifications only.

Class I: Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. There are few obstructions and all are obvious and easily missed with some training.

Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers.

In both of the above classes there is no evidence of rapids with moderate, irregular waves, large waves or strainers, strong eddies or powerful currents (source: International Scale of River Difficulty).

White Water Canoeing, White Water Kayaking and White Water Rafting are not appropriate activities at the Secondary level.

Consult Outdoor Education – General Procedures and Outdoor Education – Swimming (if swimming is involved).

This activity page must be presented to the activity provider prior to the activity taking place. The activity provider must meet the minimum requirements listed on this page. For more information on planning trips using outside providers, consult Appendix O - Outside Activity Providers.


  • Teacher – A person with a current certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, under contract by the school/board. This person is legally responsible for the students.
  • Trip Guide – An individual who has the required certifications and/or knowledge/skills of the route and activity. This role could be fulfilled by a teacher, a parent/guardian/volunteer or an employee of an outside provider, and must be approved by the school/board.
  • Lifeguard, Assistant Lifeguard and Aquatic Instructor – refer to Supervision section.
  • Instructor – An individual who provides instruction on skills and possesses the required certifications. This role could be fulfilled by a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or an employee of an outside provider.
  • Parent/guardian/volunteer – An adult who has been approved by the principal and has been instructed on responsibilities (e.g., monitoring [supervision]).
  • Supervisor – A supervisor is a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or trip guide. This term is used only in relation to supervision ratios.
  • Outside Provider - An outside facility contracted by the school/board to provide activity services.


Determine that all equipment is safe for use (e.g., no sharp edges, sharp corners, cracks, or splinters). Students must be encouraged to report equipment problems to the teacher.

A fully stocked first aid kit must be readily accessible. (Consult Appendix D – Sample First Aid Kit)

A working communication device (e.g., satellite or cell phone, or satellite GPS messenger) suitable for the activities/locations must be available. This device must be maintained, waterproofed, protected and dedicated for emergency communications only. The phone number for the device, and phone numbers for emergency services and school contact people (e.g., the principal) must be included with the phone.

Rafts must be provided by the facility. Personal rafts must not be used.

Comply with the Minimum Safety Equipment Requirements in Transports Canada's Safe Boating Guide

Correctly fitting and Transport Canada- approved PFD/lifejackets, with whistle attached, must be worn and properly secured at all times by all students when near the water, on docks and in rafts.


Determine that all necessary clothing and footwear are included prior to departing on the excursion. Clothing (in layers where appropriate) and footwear appropriate to the activity, location and environmental conditions must be worn. Rain gear and/or a dry change of clothing kept in a watertight bag/container must be accessible.

When long hair poses a safety risk it must be secured. Devices (e.g. hair pins, clips and barrettes) used to tie back long hair must not present a safety concern.


Determine that all facilities are safe for use. Students must be encouraged to report facility problems to the teacher.

Check with local authorities for current information regarding route safety.

Water conditions must be appropriate for the skill level of the group.

Instructor/trip guide must be familiar with site including potential hazards and emergency exit points.

Special Rules/Instructions

Be aware of students whose medical condition (e.g., asthma, anaphylaxis, casts, previous concussion, orthopaedic device) may affect participation. (Consult Fundamentals of Safety)

Risks involved with the activities must be communicated to parents/guardians with a signed response form from the parents/guardians, giving permission for student to participate.

Students must not participate in the activity until they receive information on concussion prevention specific to the activity, inherent risks of the activity (e.g. outline possible risks and ways to minimize the risks), and procedures and rules for safe play. Students must receive instruction on the importance of reporting symptoms related to a suspected concussion.

Refer to individual school board’s transportation procedures related to communicating with parents/guardians the location of an off-site activity and the means of transportation used as well as to the need for obtaining parent/guardian permission.

Parents/guardians must be informed that all students will wear a correctly fitting and Transport Canada approved PFD/lifejacket, with whistle attached, when near or on the water.

Activities must be modified according to the age, ability level, language, and experience of students and the facility available.

Previous training, fitness level and the length of time and intensity of physical activity must be taken into consideration.

Activities must be based on skills that are taught.

Skills must be taught in proper progression.

A proper warm-up and cool-down must be included.

Proper exit techniques must always be followed. No diving or jumping off rafts.

Establish appropriate start and stop procedures (e.g. whistle system).

Adequate liquid replacement (personal water bottles, water fountains) must be accessible for students before, during and after physical activity to prevent dehydration.

Swim Test for Watercraft

Prior to paddle rafting, students must successfully complete the following swim test in its entirety, in sequence and without any aids or stops:

  • Rolling entry (backwards or forward) into deep water at 2.75m (9’) minimum depth
  • Tread water for 1 minute
  • Swim 50m (164’) continuously any stroke

The test must be administered by a certified aquatic instructor (the test is based on the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive™ Standard).

The swim test must be completed within the school year in which the activity is taking place.

In lieu of completing the swim test, students may provide proof of Bronze Medallion certification or higher.

Results of the swim test must be documented and communicated as per school board policy (e.g., to the student, teacher, principal, parents/guardians, trip guide(s), lifeguards, aquatic instructor, and outside provider [if applicable]).

Students who do not pass the above swim test or who do not have the aforementioned certification must not participate in paddle rafting.

Paddle Rafting Skills

Prior paddle rafting, a prerequisite test must occur in a pool, shallow water, or sheltered bay for which students must demonstrate to the instructor competence in paddle rafting skills, as follow:

  • Launching
  • Positioning of paddlers
  • Proper entry/exit


Every craft requires a qualified steersperson.

Steersperson may sit or stand while steering.

Steersperson is the in-charge person outranking all persons in the boat.

Steersperson for each boat must demonstrate the following knowledge and skills:

  • Read and understand Transports Canada's Safe Boating Guide
  • Be able to manage the team and exercise authority over team members
  • Load the boat
  • Balance the boat
  • Maintain a straight course
  • Steer a figure eight course around two buoys at normal speed with a full crew, in both directions, or in the absence of buoys, steer a set course which includes both left- and right-angled turns
  • Execute sideways maneuvers without going forwards
  • Turn the boat through 360 degrees in both directions without the use of paddlers
  • Guide the craft forward in a straight line without the use of paddlers
  • Execute an emergency stop
  • Execute safe approaches to a jetty/pontoon/dock in still and windy conditions
  • Manage the unloading of the team members
  • Secure the boat and determine that gear is put away correctly

Emergency Procedures

All trip guides must be knowledgeable of the established emergency and safety procedures for their site. Trip guides must outline emergency and safety procedures to all participants and other trip supervisors.

Environmental Considerations

When environmental conditions may pose a risk to student safety (e.g. thunderstorms [lightning] or student(s) with asthma, triggered by air quality), teachers must take into consideration their school board/school’s protocols and procedures related to:

  • environmental conditions (consult Appendices F-1 to F-6: Lightning Protocol, Sample Air Quality Index, Sample Temperature, Tornado, Ultra Violet Index, and Wind Velocity Preparedness Guides]); and
  • insects (e.g., mosquitoes and ticks [consult the school/school board’s protocols and/or regional Public Health Department’s website]).

Students must receive instruction on safety procedures related to environmental conditions and be made aware of ways to protect themselves (e.g. sun burn, heat stroke).

At all times the school board’s weather and insect procedures are the minimum standards. In situations where a higher standard of care is presented (e.g., outside activity providers, facility/program coordinators), the higher standard of care must be followed.

Instructor and teacher must:

  • be aware of and respond to changing weather and water conditions prior to and during the trip; and
  • cancel, postpone or alter the excursion if conditions put students’ safety at an elevated level of risk. (e.g. wind, temperature, lightning storms, fog).

Visibility of 500 m (1640’) is required

If storm weather suddenly approaches, leave the water immediately.

Daylight paddle rafting only except under emergency situations.

Navigation lights (e.g., waterproof flashlight) are required if operating at night or in restricted visibility.


On-site supervision is required.

Steersperson Qualifications

Paddle Rafting steersperson must possess one of the following qualifications:

  • Attendance at a clinic or workshop within the last three years provided by an instructor who is knowledgeable of the activity (e.g., appropriate skills and progressions) and where safety is addressed as outlined in the Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines.
  • Past experience within the last three years as a steersperson in paddle rafting, having knowledge of the activity (e.g., appropriate skills and progressions) and where safety is addressed as outlined in the Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines.

Instructor Qualifications

For an OCA member waterfront setting (e.g., local pond or lake in a sheltered, confined spot), the minimum ORCKA qualification is:

  • Camp Canoeing Instructor

Situations beyond the training of the Camp Canoeing Instructor or outside of an OCA member setting will require an Instructor to have one of the following current certifications:

  • ORCKA Basic Canoeing Instructor
  • ORCKA Canadian Style Paddling Instructor
  • ORCKA Canoe Tripping Instructor 2
  • ORCKA Moving Water Instructor 2
  • ORCKA River Running Instructor 2
  • ORCKA Canoe Tripping Level 3
  • Paddle Canada equivalent.

For non-OCA member sites, and for flatwater paddle rafting in a non-wilderness environment, there must be one instructor with a minimum of one of the following qualifications:

  • ORCKA Basic Canoeing Instructor
  • ORCKA Canadian Style Paddling Instructor
  • ORKCA Canoe Tripping Instructor 2
  • ORCKA Moving Water Instructor 2
  • ORCKA River Running Instructor 2
  • ORCKA Canoe Tripping Level 3
  • Paddle Canada Waterfront Canoe Instructor
  • Paddle Canada Intermediate Lake Skills
  • Paddle Canada Introductory Lake Skills
  • Paddle Canada Advanced Lake Skills – Solo
  • Paddle Canada Advanced Tripping Skills
  • Paddle Canada Advanced Moving Water (both tandem & solo)
  • Paddle Canada Advanced Tripping Skills + Wilderness Advanced First Aid + CPR + 1000 km experience
  • Paddle Canada Advanced Tripping Skills + Wilderness First Aid + CPR + 500 km experience
  • Paddle Canada Waterfront Canoe Instructor

Aquatic Instructor Qualifications for the Swim Test for Watercraft

Aquatic instructors must hold one current (to be current, the date on the certificate must not be older than two years) aquatic instructor certificate. When the swim test is administered at a pool, aquatic instructors must also hold an assistant lifeguard certificate or a lifeguard certificate. If the aquatic instructor does not hold a lifeguard certificate or an assistant lifeguard certificate, a certified lifeguard must also be on deck during the aquatic instruction and/or swim test. When the swim test is administered at a waterfront, aquatic instructors must also hold a lifeguard certificate.

Aquatic Instructor Certificates for Pools and Waterfronts:

  • Canadian Red Cross - Water Safety Instructor Certificate
  • Lifesaving Society - Instructor Certificate
  • Lifesaving Society - Swim Instructor Certificate
  • YMCA - Instructor Certificate
  • Ontario Teachers Aquatic Standard (OTAS) - for pool situations only

Lifeguard Certificates for Pools:

  • Canadian Red Cross - Pool Lifeguard
  • Lifesaving Society - National Lifeguard - Pool
  • Equivalent certificate approved by Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Lifeguard Certificates for Waterfronts:

  • Canadian Red Cross – Pool/Waterfront Lifeguard
  • Lifesaving Society – National Lifeguard – Pool/Waterfront
  • Equivalent certificate approved by Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Assistant Lifeguard Certificates for Pools:

  • Canadian Red Cross - Assistant Lifeguard
  • Lifesaving Society - Bronze Cross
  • Equivalent certificate approved by Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Lifeguard certification is the only acceptable standard in a recreational camp waterfront scenario.

Verified copies of certification must be available in the pool area.

Lifeguard Qualifications

A teacher, trip guide or instructor over the age of 18 must have a current lifeguard certificate.

Supervision Ratios for the Swim Test for Watercraft

Pool Swim Test:

  • If conducting the swim test at a pool, there must be a minimum of two certified aquatic instructors on deck or in the pool.
  • Supervision ratio is 2 aquatic instructors per 50 students, (with both instructors also certified as lifeguards or one lifeguard and one assistant lifeguard).
  • In situations where there are 51-75 students, an additional certified aquatic instructor is required.
  • If assistant lifeguards are used, the number of assistant lifeguards may never exceed the number of lifeguards on deck.

Waterfront Swim Test:

  • If conducting the swim test at the waterfront of a recreational camp, there must be 2 certified aquatics instructors who are also certified as lifeguards, supervising up to 25 students. When there are between 26 and 100 students in the water an additional certified lifeguard is required.

Supervision Ratios for Instructional Time

(A supervisor is a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or trip guide. This term is used only in relation to supervision ratios.)

1 supervisor per 15 students

First Aid

At least one teacher, trip guide instructor or supervisor must have a minimum of a standard first aid course from a reputable provider (e.g., St. John Ambulance, Canadian Red Cross, Lifesaving Society).

Follow the school's first aid emergency response (consult Appendix E - Sample First Plan and Sample First Aid Emergency Response) and the school board’s concussion protocol (consult the Concussion section).

An emergency action plan and response to deal with evacuations and lock downs must be followed and communicated to students.

Safety Craft

If instruction is taking place in a pool, no safety craft is required.

A safety craft is a designated craft that is rescue-capable, taking into consideration necessary factors (e.g., distance from shore, weather, water and wind conditions), and contains at least one instructor, trip guide or individual who meets the first aid certification.

A safety craft must be in the water and accessible while students are paddle rafting. If the safety craft is motorized then the operator must have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card and must have experience in navigating the craft.

Also see Fundamentals of Safety section to view complete safety requirements.