As millions of anglers renew their rod licence for the 2009 season, the Countryside Alliance has prepared a useful health and safety risk assessment guide to help fisheries protect themselves. 

A court ruling in April 2008 saw seven saboteurs acquitted of aggravated trespass because the shoot in question did not have a written health and safety policy. Following this finding the Alliance prepared a useful guide to help shoots with this side of their business, and has now extended this advice to fisheries.

In relation to fishing, the Health and Safety at Work Act requires that every fishery owner, river or still water, and manager who employs five or more people is required to ‘prepare and, as often as may be appropriate, revise a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy’. Remember, employees may be temporary, and they could even be regarded as ‘employees’ if they receive only payment in kind, such as fishing passes or fish.

This law is relevant to all fisheries, and will be as useful to owners of coarse fisheries as it is to informal syndicates of friends with fishing rights on a chalkstream. The Alliance’s guide identifies five steps to assessing and managing risk and also includes a dummy written risk assessment form.

Tim Hoggarth, Countryside Alliance fisheries officer commented: “It is vital in this day and age that all businesses conform to Health and Safety legislation. Last year’s saboteur ruling was a bitter pill and, while an extreme example, it highlighted the fact that having a written risk assessment in place is not a choice, but an obligation. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable season and hope that fisheries gain peace of mind from getting this right and knowing they are four square within the law.”

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