New Mexico River Outfitters’ Whitewater Safety Code
Adopted September 9, 2005
The undersigned members of the New Mexico River Outfitters Association subscribe to this
consensus code of conduct for commercial river tours on the Rio Grande.
NMROA seeks to promote enjoyment of the river environment with the highest possible degree of
river safety for our employees and the outfitted public whom we serve. We recognize that while the
high (and low) extremes of river flow represent an important risk factor, serious mishaps are
possible at any water level and that most mishaps involve more than one risk factor. Therefore, our
mission is to assist our industry in reducing, eliminating or mitigating as many risk factors as
possible in the conduct of our tours. We will advise guests of known hazards and seek their
informed consent to assuming inherent risks. To these ends and for ever safer river tours, we
adhere to the following standards:
• We will determine the suitability of trips for each guest- Whitewater trips are not for
everybody. Prospective guests who are at higher relative risk can be directed from higher risk
activities, .to more appropriate, lower risk tours. NMROA outfitters subscribe to the
philosophy that the safety of all guests is a higher priority than enhanced revenues.
1. At each point of sale, NMROA outfitters should make a good faith effort to enroll
the prospective guest in a trip which matches the guest’s qualifications. Each sales
person should attempt to ascertain the prospective guest’s age, weight, physical
condition and previous boating experience. The company should establish and
enforce strict standards for acceptable age and weight range of guests. Small children
and the very elderly should never be encouraged to participate in Class 4 whitewater
trips. Pregnant women or persons with a history of heart disease should be required to
obtain the written clearance of their physician before being enrolled in a whitewater
trip, Class 3 or greater.
2. Persons with disabilities, who might require special preparations to safely
accommodate them, should not be enrolled unless the outfitter can assure that the
special preparations can be delivered.
3. Guides will be advised that they have authority to disqualify any person who, in
their judgment, represents an unacceptable hazard to themselves or others. Obviously
intoxicated persons will be turned away at the meeting place or, as a last resort, the
4. In order to establish the informed consent of a prospective guest, the outfitter will
develop and provide to each guest a standard and scrupulously accurate description of
the risks and hazards of each trip, keeping in mind changing water conditions. It
should be understood that all trips entail some degree of risk and that these are not
5. Rather than state that a trip is “perfectly safe”, sales staff should advise prospects
that the outfitter is taking specific precautions to secure the safety of all guests.
• Each guest will read and sign a liability waiver- Each guest will be encourage to read, and
required to sign, a statement of informed consent and waiver of liability that conforms to
managing agency stipulations and is approved by the company’s insurance carrier.
• Each trip will be preceded by a Safety Talk- Prior to launching a commercial whitewater
river trip, all guests will be assembled and a standardized safety message delivered, by a trip
leader, explaining proper procedures for safe boating. Each company should develop, and trip
leaders be encouraged to use, a written checklist that can be referred to, to ensure consistent
delivery of a comprehensive message. Known hazardous conditions will be identified and
self-rescue procedures explained. Emphasis should be placed on protocols for an unplanned
swim, especially including avoiding foot entrapment; as a general principle, guests should be
advised to stay with, or swim back to, their boat. The message should be as simple,
memorable and easily understood as the guide can make it.
• High quality Personal Flotation Devices will be provided- Each guest will be issued a PFD
that is in good condition and designed to provide the highest appropriate degree of flotation
(displacement). PFDs should be individually fitted by company personnel and snug fit
assured. Guests should not be permitted to wear personal PFD’s and guides should not be
permitted to modify any PFD to be out of conformance with manufacturer’s specifications
• Thermal Protection will be provided as required- On any whitewater trip of Class 3 or
greater, whenever the combined air and water temperature are anticipated to be in the range of
100 degrees Farenheit or lower, appropriately sized, thermally protective garments, such as
wetsuits, should be provided and each guest should be required to wear one. When the
combined air and water temperatures are between approximately 101 and 130 degrees,
thermally protective garments, such as wetsuits, should be made available and offered to each
• Helmets will be provided as required- On Class 4 whitewater trips, appropriately sized
kayak-style helmets should be provided and each guest should wear one. On any river trip
being conducted in an individual water craft, such as inflatable kayaks or kayaks, an
appropriately sized kayak helmet will be provided and each guest and guide will be required
to wear one.
• We aspire to the highest possible degree of Guide Professionalism- NMROA outfitters
should engender a sense of pride among members of our profession. The outfitter should
provide opportunities for communication among companies and within their (office, driver
and) river staffs, encouraging guides to widely share experiences and safety lessons.
Opportunities for training and continuing education should be noticed and guides encouraged
to acquire and maintain emergency medical, safety, rescue and interpretive skills. Additional
training and evaluation trips will be conducted when unusually high flows occur. Written
company policies should be developed and distributed to ensure that guides’ responsibilities
are clearly understood by all employees. The river should be a drug- and alcohol-free
• Equipment will be regularly maintained- All vehicles and boats in commercial service
should be in 100% compliant operating condition. Each company should implement a
procedure for inspecting and segregating or repairing non-compliant equipment before being
returned to service.
• Boats on each whitewater trip maintain Mutual Support- Each tour will have a
designated Trip Leader whose role is “field commander”, a link in chain of command
implementing company orders and policies. The Trip Leader bears much of the
responsibility for the conduct of the tour. The Trip Leader resolves important issues,
including setting the running order of the boats. Running order should be designated for each
river party, according to the principles of Mutual Support.