Boating Safety


The University of Washington has a unique blend of water-based research, academic and recreation activities. A wide range of boats support these activities, from small paddle craft to large oceanographic vessels. UW students, faculty and staff operate boats in a large variety of locations in Washington state, around the United States, and internationally. For UW vessel operators, prioritizing personal safety and stewardship for the environment is paramount.

The Boating Safety Program oversees the safe use of water vessels of all sizes and classes by faculty, staff, students and approved volunteers at the University of Washington who are using these vessels as required by their employment or education. The purpose of the Boating Safety Program is to:

  1. Ensure the personal safety of boat operators, crewmembers and occupants
  2. Maintain compliance with federal, state and local regulations
  3. Ensure environmental stewardship

Depending on the size of the vessel, safety regulations may originate with the state of Washington, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Coast Guard or the University of Washington. Some of the UW’s larger vessels are also part of University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. University departments oversee day-to-day boating activities, training and vessel maintenance according to UW policies and standards set forth in the University’s Boating Safety Manual.

What you need to know

There are federal, state, local and University requirements for safely operating boats that apply to both motorized and non-motorized vessels. The requirements are included in the UW Boating Safety Manual. The UW Boating Safety Program is administered by the EH&S boating safety program manager and all vessels owned and operated by the UW fall under the program’s purview.

What you can do to stay safe

The UW is committed to safe boating. If you observe potentially unsafe practices, conditions or have questions, please feel free to report it confidentially to the boating safety program manager.

In order to stay safe, do not conduct any vessel operations without the proper training. You must be authorized by your departmental boat owner to conduct boating operations in affiliation with the UW.

When conducting UW boating operations, observe the following:

  • Follow the standards in the UW Boating Safety Manual.
  • Do not operate vessels without approval.
  • Plan your boat operations in weather conditions appropriate for those operations and vessel size.
  • Ensure required emergency equipment is on site.

More information

Frequently asked questions