Water safety group’s call to action to reduce drowning

A national drowning prevention strategy that aims to halve the number of fatal incidents on or near water will be launched on 29 February by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill MP.

The document, created by members of the National Water Safety Forum* (NWSF) is the UK’s first drowning prevention strategy, created in response to the World Health Organization’s report on global drowning, which recommended that every nation should have a drowning prevention strategy.

About 400 people drown and a further 200 take their own lives in our waters in the UK every year; that equates to one accidental drowning every 20 hours. Activities in and around water are safer now than ever, but 44% of drowning fatalities happen to people who had no intention of entering the water.

The UK strategy highlights the areas that organisations need to focus on to make a difference and asks for support in contributing towards the national plan. The NWSF strategy page can be viewed here: http://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/strategy/

The NWSF will be asking organisations and individuals to sign up to a pledge to reduce drownings; to contribute towards the shared objective by making the National Strategy a local priority and by actively supporting the intention of the Strategy by raising the profile of drowning in the UK.

Robert Goodwill said:

“The number of people drowning each year is shocking and must be cut. As an island nation the water plays an integral part of our lives. But the sea, rivers, lakes and canals are all too frequently killers and action needs to be taken.

“That is why I fully support the launch of this drowning prevention strategy. Working together we can significantly reduce the number of tragic deaths and prevent the families of hundreds of people each year going through unbearable pain and suffering.”

George Rawlinson, Chair of the National Water Safety Forum commented:

‘Hardly a day goes past without some sort of human tragedy taking place in UK waters. Around four-hundred people accidentally drown each year in the UK – this is unacceptable and it’s a problem that we need to face up to together.

‘The organisations represented through the National Water Safety Forum have united in a common aim – to prevent history repeating itself in this tragic way, year after year, and to use our resources in the most effective way to halve accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 2026.  It’s an ambitious target but well worth striving for. Now we have a strategy, we have a focus and, most importantly, a call to action to do more to combat drowning. Ultimately, we hope to save every life – one life lost is one too many.’

Public Health Wales child drowning review published

A new report by the Child Death Review Programme at Public Health Wales has found a link between drinking alcohol and drowning among young people. The report also suggests that closer and appropriate adult supervision may help prevent drowning in some cases.

The ‘Thematic review of deaths of children and young people through drowning’ includes recommendations to support the prevention of deaths from drowning.  A key recommendation emerging from the report is that organisations in Wales need to work together in a new national forum to improve water safety.

The report also highlights the need for consistent guidance on safer bathing for children and young people with epilepsy and their carers, and to support healthcare professionals.  There is currently no widely shared consensus advice on safer bathing for people with epilepsy.

The thematic review looked at the deaths of children and young people from birth to 24 years between 1 October 2009 and 30 September 2014.  26 deaths were considered in the review, which included individuals who were normally resident in Wales or died within Wales.

The report finds that majority of deaths occurred in older children and young people, with 21 deaths (81 per cent) occurring in individuals aged 12–24 years.  These deaths tended to occur in open water environments.

Five of the deaths (19 per cent) were children aged 11 years or under.  These deaths tended to occur in closed water environments, like pools.

The report also finds that the majority of deaths were in males, with 21 (81 per cent) occurring among this group.

Almost one third of deaths (31 per cent, eight of the 26) may have been linked to possible alcohol consumption.

The report also advises:

  • Organisations in Wales should have common messages on water safety, appropriate to the setting
  • There are interventions that may encourage safer swimming or prevent unintended contact with water, like self-latching gates around pools
  • Education on how pool-based lessons relate to open water could be included in Welsh Government efforts to ensure every child in Wales is able to swim
  • Planning is needed in Wales to take forward the UK national drowning prevention strategy (2016–2026) goal of producing publically available community-level risk assessment and water safety plans
  • Holidaymakers at home and abroad could be encouraged to be more aware of water safety, supported by the tourist industry routinely providing advice and guidance on water safety
  • There are opportunities to improve sharing of data, and to look at how information is communicated to support prevention, including reports by coroners
  • Appropriate support for those involved in drowning events in Wales is important

The Child Death Review programme in Wales aims to identify and describe patterns and causes of child death including any trends, and to recommend actions to reduce the risk of avoidable factors contributing to child deaths in Wales.

More information about the programme is available on their website at www.publichealthwales.org/childdeathreview.

£915,000 boost to water rescue charities

Almost £1 million has been awarded by Maritime Minister Robert Goodwill today (18 February 2016) to 51 UK charities to support water rescue services in local communities.

The government scheme gives voluntary groups crucial funding for new equipment and training to support their rescue efforts on and around inland and inshore waterways.

s300_960-inland-water-rescue

The money is for the purchase of lifeboats, launch vehicles, rafts and safety gear, as well as going towards training and other costs to support lifesaving efforts.

This is the second year of the 5 year scheme. In January 2015 more than £800,000 was awarded to 21 charities across the UK.

See the full recipients at www.gov.uk

 

 

New Report Assesses Inland Accidental Drowning Risk

The new report from RoSPA based on WAID data has identified a number of clear risk factors, enabling a more coordinated, effective and targeted approach to drowning prevention strategies.

The report ‘Assessing Inland Accidental Drowning Risk’ was funded by the RoSPA/ BNFL Scholarship scheme, and is the first report to conduct an in-depth analysis of the WAID dataset. A finding of note include a disproportionate (50% higher) rate of drowning among Welsh and Scottish males, when compared to English counterparts.

Other findings of note were:

More water + more people = more incidents. The rate of accidental inland drowning varies greatly between areas depending on the amount of water and the number of people in that area.

Leisure Safety_Summer 2013_inland risks report pic 2

The predominant hazard is “open water”, such as rivers, lakes and canals, in which 81 per cent of the deaths that were analysed, occurred. There is a stark difference with indoor swimming pools; in which just 2.7 per cent of deaths occurred.

Higher risk for Scottish and Welsh men: The rate of drowning is far higher in Scotland & Wales. The rate of death for males is over double that of females, for all three countries. Males in general have higher rates of drowning than females, particularly teenagers and young men.

Activity based risk: Whilst the risk of death is not assessed to be intolerable for any individual sport, the rate of death does vary greatly between sports. However the majority of deaths (68 per cent) involved “day-to-day” activities such as walking by water.

The project was developed in conjunction with a Forum working group including inland, and the watersports members. This report is the first in series of risk analysis developed by Forum members, and these along with the developement of a national drowning prevention strategy will be presented at the UK water safety conference in October.

More information on the WAID system can be found here.

The ‘Assessing Inland Accidental Drowning Risk Short Report ‘ can be viewed here.

Consultation: Draft Open Water Swimming advice from the National Water Safety Forum

Consultation: Draft Open Water Swimming advice from the National Water Safety Forum

Analysis based on the NWSF Water Incident Database (WAID) accident data from 2009-11; shows an average of 19 fatalities per year at inland-open-water sites (lakes, rivers, pools, quarries, canals) occurred in circumstances that could be attributed to open water swimming. The risks of in-water death is approximately 1:200,000 participants per year; similar to that of a pedestrian being struck by a motor vehicle[i].

This document has been developed by members of the watersports and inland advisory groups. It is intended to cover key points for members of the public, who wish to swim in open water.

The base information (10 points) will be used as a framework by members in response to queries. The final version will sit on the NWSF website, with links to further information and advice from members and stakeholders.
There are a number of specific elements we would like your view on:
– Have we missed any critical safety points?
– Is the length and tone correct?
– Have we used too much by way of technical language?
– Is it easy to read?
– What extra background or wider information should we cite and direct people to?
Please include if your response is on behalf of a group or organisation, or as an individual.

We would like your views on the above and other points you wish to raise, by Friday 26th July. You can respond to: info@nationalwatersafety.org.uk

Draft for comment, July 13
Open water swimming advice
Introduction

Variously termed ‘wild’ and open water swimming, this activity is not new but is enjoying something of a revival in the UK. Open water can be used to describe, rivers, lakes, pools and the sea. Any recreational use of water should be encouraged but equally it is important to enjoy the activity safely.

Analysis based on NWSF-WAID accident data (2009-11) shows an average of 19 fatalities per year at inland-open-water sites (lakes, rivers ect) occurred in circumstances that could be attributed to open water swimming. The risks of in-water death is approximately 1:200,000 participants per year, similar to that of a pedestrian being struck by a motor vehicle[i].

These guidelines are intended to provide simple common sense points to help you enjoy safer swimming in open water. However, it should be recognised that there are significant differences between a swimming pool and open water swimming and swimmers are recommended to seek an introduction with an experienced leader to develop awareness, competency and confidence in open water.

Our top A-B-C tips for safe open water swimming:

Activity
1. If you want to drink alcohol do it after swimming not before
2. Go with a group – you’ll have help on hand
3. Swim in known locations and before entering the water make sure there is a safe exit point
• Check out local knowledge and advice (speak to clubs)
• Look out for and follow any safety signage
• Avoid weirs, locks and other structures
• Swim parallel to the shore not into deep water and within your personal limits
• Avoid swimming in polluted waters (e.g. sewage, blue/green algae, farm runoff).
Buoyancy
1. Cold water can sap body heat very quickly so wear suitable thermal protection (a wetsuit will also provide some additional buoyancy)
2. Only swim if you are confident in your ability in the water and wear additional buoyancy if you are not a strong swimmer. Other clothing to consider
• Footwear for protection and grip when entering and exiting the water
• Googles, to protect eyes but also allow you to see underwater for obstructions etc.
• Headwear, especially a high visibility swim cap in areas with lots of surface traffic.
Conditions
1. When entering the water be aware of the effects of cold shock and ensure you acclimatise before swimming in deeper water
2. Limit exposure (20 mins or start to shiver) and take account of surface conditions
3. Keep warm before swimming and have the means to warm up immediately after a swim
4. Know how to cope with cramp (stay shallow so you can stand up or use extra buoyancy)
5. Make sure you have the means of alerting the emergency services

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[i] http://www.rospa.com/leisuresafety/Info/Watersafety/inland-waters-risk-assessment.pdf

The Met Office Watersports Survey

The Met office http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/

The Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service, and currently provides forecasts for around 450 beaches around the UK, with hourly updates.

The Met Office is recognised as one of the world’s most accurate forecasters, using more than 10 million weather observations a day to create 3,000 tailored forecasts and briefings a day. These are delivered to a huge range of customers from the Government, to businesses, the general public, armed forces, and other organisations. More information on the Met Office: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us 

This is a web based survey of the Great British public, and is aiming to ascertain the potential requirements for a new weather information service aimed at leisure/ marine/ sports participants.

The survey will test the types of weather and sea the conditions that are viewed as important or those can affect the participants of different activities, shaping how, when and the way that the Met Office provide information.

Working with partners such as the RNLI, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Plymouth University the Met Office will use the information to develop new content that improves safety, for example forecasting whether there is an increased risk of a rip current at a site, under particular weather conditions.

To find out more, or to take part in the survey please go to: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/watersports-survey

New video for divers promotes the benefits and safe use of closed circuit rebreathers (CCR)

A new video has been produced for divers to give them a solid foundation in the key benefits and safety considerations of using closed circuit rebreathers (CCRs) – a technology often referred to as enabling “bubble-free” diving. CCR use, which is historically associated with military and cave diving, is expected to rise sharply among recreational divers over the next few years. With CCR technology accepted to be developing fast, the CCR Aware video is targeted at those new to rebreather diving as well as existing users who might be at risk of becoming complacent.

There are about 250,000 divers in the UK and, at present, it is thought only a small percentage (estimates are between 1.6 per cent and four per cent) use CCRs, although the number of users could be rising by about 400 a year. Internationally, the potential CCR market is huge; for example, there are 1.2million divers in Germany alone.

The CCR Aware video is the result of a project led by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), which, in 2011, was asked by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to investigate and promote the safe use of CCRs. Twenty diving organisations have been involved in the project. RoSPA worked with rebreather industry experts to identify the key safety issues. In order to reach the international diving community we created the RoSPA CCR Aware film, which gives divers and those new to rebreathers a solid awareness of the key safety factors for diving with rebreathers.

RoSPA CCR Aware has been created to help you make informed choices about your diving and we’re sure that it will be of interest as a reminder for experienced rebreather divers. For more information regarding Closed Circuit rebreathers please go to: www.rospa.com/ccr-aware/ –

Volunteers wanted for Beach Clean event

The National Schools Partnership is looking for volunteers with an interest in their local marine life to help on a Beach Clean awareness project.
The Partnership is working with the Marine Conservation Society on the Big Beach Clean-up event in May, where volunteers will be cleaning 50 beaches across the UK. This includes an M&S/MCS sponsored campaign called School of Fish (www.school-of-fish.co.uk) which educates primary school children about the marine environment. Read more on the BSAC website…

Risk of flooding despite continued drought

Drought could make any flooding worse, warns Environment Agency. The Environment Agency has warned today that drought conditions can increase the risk of flash flooding. Dry, compacted soils mean that water is less easily absorbed into the ground, and so any future storms could lead to a greater risk of flash flooding.
The Environment Agency’s warning comes on the day that the world’s first social media flood warning application has been launched on Facebook.
‘FloodAlerts’ is a free to use application and was created and developed by a leading software developer specialising in online mapping and data visualisation solutions.
Craig Woolhouse, Environment Agency Head of Flood Incident Management, said:
“As the drought in England continues, the thought of flooding may be far from people’s minds, but we cannot ignore the risk. Dry and compacted ground means that there is a greater risk of flash flooding if there is heavy rainfall, and stormy seas and high tides can produce floods at any time”. Read more on the Environment Agency website…

UK Water related fatalities 2010 WAID report: Reveals 420 deaths from accidents & Natural causes

There were 420 water-related deaths from accidents or natural causes across the UK in 2010.

The report, which uses the WAter Incident Database (WAID), reveals that, as in previous years, the highest number of fatalities – 217 (52 per cent) – happened in inland waters such as rivers, canals, lakes, lochs, reservoirs and ponds.

Nearly a quarter of fatalities – 94 (22 per cent) – happened at the coast or in a harbour, dock, marina or port, while an additional 73 deaths (17 per cent) happened out at sea. Twenty-four fatalities were the result of incidents in baths (including jacuzzis or hot-tubs), six in swimming pools and six in areas that are not usually watercourses, such as flooded areas. Although fatalities were spread across every day of the week and every month of the year, Saturday was the most common day and April and June the most common months for fatalities to occur.

WAID was developed by the NWSF to enable greater detail and volume in the collection of data on fatal and non-fatal drowning, other water-related deaths and injuries, and near misses. It collects incident data from a wide range of sources including the emergency services, sports governing bodies, coastguard, rescue services, coroners’ courts, and press reports. WAID was developed by NWSF members, including: national partners – British Waterways, British Sub Aqua Club, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, RoSPA and Royal Life Saving Society; sports governing bodies; and regional and local organisations, including Cornwall Council. It has been developed in partnership with the Department for Transport.

The purpose of the database is to provide a comprehensive and reliable evidence-base for risks to the public from water-related activities which can be used to inform decisions on risk acceptability, prevention and the appropriateness of risk controls and regulation. The 2010 figures and the development of WAID will be discussed at the National Water Safety Seminar in Birmingham on April 26.

The UK Water related fatalities 2010 WAID report (PDF 784kb) is available here.