The Environment Agency statement to River Thames News in full is:

"All powered boats using the non-tidal Thames must have a valid Boat Safety Scheme certificate (BSS), one of the requirements of which is that boats contain the relevant number and type of fire extinguishers based on the types of different types of fuel used onboard (including for lighting, cooking and heating) and the size of the boat.

"This is to ensure that the boat’s occupants can protect themselves by taking immediate action to deal with a fire wherever they may be on the river.

"We don’t require or expect our staff to put themselves at risk by attempting to put out a fire on a boat and don’t provide any equipment or training for this purpose. Our staff are not members of an emergency service and we don’t expect them to behave as though they are.

" If a boat catches fire in one of our locks their instructions are clear: they must immediately call the emergency services and then provide whatever assistance they can to get people away from the fire without putting themselves, or others, at risk. That is all.

"Boaters are primarily responsible for their own safety, and enter our locksites at their own risk. Unlike many other inland waterways, we do provide additional extinguishers at locksites for boaters to use in the event of a fire onboard, even though we are not required to do so.

" But to prevent the extinguishers being tampered with, vandalised or stolen, we have to keep them just outside the lock office and only make them available during a lockkeeper’s normal hours of duty and if the lockkeeper is present on site. Otherwise, they have to be locked away, even though boats may continue to use the lock.

"We have recently been advised by our health and safety specialists that by having these additional extinguishers on site, our staff could find themselves in a position where they feel compelled to use them and consequently put themselves in danger. The only way to eliminate this risk is to remove the extinguishers. The welfare of our staff is of the upmost importance to us, so we intend to heed this advice.

"We are not removing the fire extinguishers that our staff are provided with to deal with small fires in the lock office or other buildings on site.

"The issue of lock ladders was raised as a health and safety risk by lockkeeper H&S representatives themselves. They expressed concern that the size and weight of the ladders made them difficult to manoeuvre and presented a risk of injury. We took the matter seriously and had their use expertly reviewed against Health and Safety Executive guidance.

"This found that the ladders are too heavy, should not therefore be used, and ought to be removed from sites. Other rescue equipment on site (life rings, throw lines, pool hooks, chains and egress steps) are more than sufficient to manage any incident.

"We are discussing both these issue with staff. In the meantime, staff have been instructed that they must not employ the ladders single-handed and should only use them when a colleague is available to help."

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Story dated October 10th 2015