Thames Water is setting new standards in the industry for water safety training.
For the past 18 months, health and safety training team manager Gavin Kakoulli and his colleague Phil Sutton have been preaching the virtues of two new courses designed to ensure everyone working on or around open water has the very latest awareness training.
“Phil is a former fireman who specialised in water rescue,” said Gavin. “In late 2015, he wondered if we had anyone at Thames Water who was trained in water safety and when it turned out there was no-one I took a course to firstly qualify as a Swift Water Rescue Technician and recently completed the instructor skills course."
The next step was to develop two courses to give Thames Water staff similar skills. Run by Gavin and Phil along strict Defra guidelines, they are designed for people like boat samplers, sewer teams and reservoir staff.
“Now, we have courses that we’ve been running for a while,” said Gavin. “One is a water safety awareness course that 200 people have already been through. It takes place at our Wraysbury reservoir in west London and we’ve already put a large number of volunteer event workers through it as well as operational staff, some of our contractors and even people from South-East Water.
“This course is designed to keep you out of the water but also gives you life skills in times of emergency. Phil and I are the ones who go in the water to demonstrate water-safe PPE, life jacket deployment and how to throw lines from the bank.”
As the only water company in the UK delivering this kind of training in-house, Thames Water is taking a view that it will be well prepared to handle a major flooding emergency on its doorstep but also be able to help should there be problems elsewhere in the country.
“If another event happens like the floods in Cumbria in 2015 we’d be able to mobilise a team and help,” said Gavin.
The second course is water safety working. More physically demanding, it requires a medical and is run at both Wraysbury Reservoir and the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross.
“This is for those who are at high risk of falling into water because of their roles and trains people to get out safely but also gives them the skills required should they be deployed to help in times of flooding,” said Gavin.