News & Updates November ’13

The BSAC Diving Incident Report 2013 has been released

The Annual Diving Incident Report for 2013 is now available to download from the BSAC website. Published by BSAC every year, the 2013 report recorded a total of 263 incidents throughout the UK.
The number of incidents reported this year is about 29% lower than the level of recent years and it follows the trend noted in 2012. This reduction is due to a lower number of incidents reported in the period March to June. It is believed that this was caused by the very poor weather conditions in the UK during this period resulting in a reduced amount of diving taking place. Other highlighted conclusions from the latest report include:

  • The number of fatalities of BSAC members is slightly below the average of the previous 10 years.
  • The number of fatalities of non-BSAC members is in line with the average of the previous 10 years.
  • The causal factors associated with these fatalities and other incidents are very similar to those seen over a number of years; no new causal factors have been identified.
  • Diver age and related health and fitness issues are still featuring as critical factors in this and recent years’ fatalities. The average age of the subjects of this year’s diving fatalities was 52.2. The average age of the background diving population in 2013 is 42.5.
  • Incidents of DCI continue to fall.
  • Ascent related incidents continue to reduce.
  • Incidents relating to ‘Boating & Surface’ events have dropped back to earlier levels.

The above conclusions need to be viewed in the light of a probable overall reduction in the amount of UK diving that has taken place in this period. However, as has been stated many times before, most of the incidents reported within this document could have been avoided had those involved followed a few basic principles of safe diving practice. BSAC publishes a booklet called ‘Safe Diving’ (new edition imminent) which summarises all the key elements of safe diving and is available to all, free of charge, from the http://www.bsac.com/page.asp?section=1019

Help us to keep diving safe – If you have been involved in or witnessed an incident, please report it – in confidence – and help us to continue to shape a safe future for diving. Whether you are BSAC or another agency, a recreational or technical diver or if the incident happened in the UK or overseas, we want to hear about it. All reports are treated in confidence and any details used in future reports will be anonymous.
You can report incidents at any time online.

RNLI scheme helps sea anglers stay safe

A new pilot scheme created by the RNLI is aiming to help keep sea anglers safe while they enjoy their sport. Last year 11 sea anglers tragically lost their lives while fishing in the UK* and the RNLI responded to over 1,200 incidents involving anglers. The RNLI is working with bait and tackle shops to pilot a Retail Ambassador Scheme, in which the charity helps the shops give their customers safety advice.
Chris Adams, RNLI Coastal Safety Manager, said:

‘It is not about preventing people fishing from rocks or exposed shorelines, but helping them take the right steps to enjoy their sport safely. ’

There are some simple things that anglers can do to keep themselves safe:

–          wear a lifejacket

–          Check the weather and tides before you head out

–          Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back

–          Carry a means of calling for help

–          If you’re fishing from a boat, keep it well maintained.

*Statistics taken from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID).Download Tackle shops help the RNLI keep anglers safe

England’s bathing waters see record improvement

New figures show that almost 99 per cent of England’s bathing waters meet strict quality standards. Water quality around England’s coasts has dramatically improved since last year, new figures from Defra have revealed today. Nearly all of England’s bathing waters have met strict quality standards, with almost 99 per cent of England’s bathing waters meeting the minimum European water quality standard, and over 82 per cent, the highest ever number of bathing waters – meeting the tighter guideline standard. Environment Minister, Dan Rogerson said: “England’s bathing waters have seen record improvements, meeting the highest standard this year and we need to make sure they continue to remain of good quality. Having quality bathing water and beaches is not only good for the environment but also boosts tourism and creates a stronger local economy. From 2015 the water quality at Britain’s beaches will be measured against stricter levels. The revised EU Bathing Water Directive sets much higher water quality standards which are approximately twice as stringent as the current standards”.

Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said: “The improvement in the quality of UK bathing waters this year is really good news, but with much stricter standards coming into force in 2015, we cannot afford to be complacent. The Environment Agency is working hard with local authorities, businesses and water companies to ensure that bathing waters meet the new standards, and the seaside tourist economy in England continues to thrive”.

Bathing water results for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are published by the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Environment Northern Ireland respectively. For more information on the Improving water quality policy go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/improving-water-quality

Bathing waters in England: 2013 compliance report

James Cracknell and Richard Benyon call for people to love their rivers

Double Olympic gold medal-winning rower James Cracknell and Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon today urged the public to show their support for the ‘Love Your River’ campaign. The campaign encourages people to value their local river and shows the relationship between water in a river and the water used in the home.

Richard Benyon and James Cracknell, the new Love Your River Campaign Adviser, both donned wellingtons before stepping into the River Chess in Chesham, joined by local school children in an activity called ’kick-sampling’ (an activity used to monitor a river’s environmental health).

Working in support of the ‘Love Your River’ campaign, Thames Water and the River Chess Association were there to show James Cracknell and Richard Benyon how water companies and local community groups are working together to improve the water quality on the River Chess. Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:

“I am delighted that James Cracknell has come on board as the ‘Love Your River’ Campaign Adviser. James has a great passion for rivers and is the perfect person to explain the many benefits that rivers bring to our everyday lives. We rely on rivers for much of the water we use, so it is in all our interest that we protect and cherish them. The fact that so many organisations and individuals have come together to back this campaign shows the importance we all place on making sure our actions don’t damage our rivers.”

James Cracknell Love Your River Campaign Adviser, said:

“I’m really pleased to be joining the ‘Love Your River’ campaign. Going to school in Kingston, I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits a river can bring to a community – not only for physical activity, but socially and fiscally also. We’ve all got a role to play in making sure our rivers are as healthy as they can be and I’m pleased to be involved.” The website for the ‘Love Your River’ campaign can be found at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/loveyourriver

Roads and rail hit by flooding, communities urged to be prepared for further disruption

The Environment Agency is warning communities across England and Wales to remain vigilant and alert for flooding as heavy rain is set to continue today and into Tuesday. Heavy rain overnight in the south west of England caused travel disruption and resulted in 14 flood warnings and 46 alerts across Devon and Somerset, and 4 flood warning and 14 flood alerts across the Midlands. Read more on the Environment Agency website… For Flood warnings in your area go to http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31618.aspx

Communities urged to prepare for flooding as heavy rain hits Britain

The Environment Agency is warning residents and emergency responders across England and Wales to prepare for an increased risk of flooding over the next two days. The Met Office is forecasting up to 80 mm (three inches) of rain for parts of the south west, south east, Midlands and north east over the next 48 hours. Warnings are likely to be issued for river and surface water flooding. People in the south west and south east are urged to prepare for possible flooding before going to bed tonight. Significant disruption, including disruption to travel and flooding of properties and communities, is possible. Strong winds will increase the risk of flooding as wind-blown debris has the potential to block watercourses and drains.   Read more on the Environment Agency website…
For Flood warnings in your area go to http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31618.aspx

Construction set to start on major sea defence scheme for Deal

The Environment Agency will begin work on a £10 million sea defence project running along the Kent coast. The ambitious scheme will reduce the risk of tidal flooding to 1,418 homes and 148 commercial properties in the town & will also protect other key assets including the Thanet Coast and Sandwich Bay Special Protection Area and Ramsar Site, the Sandwich Bay Special Area of Conservation; the railway line between Ramsgate and Dover in addition to historic monuments and listed buildings in North Deal.
The project will see a new 200m long rock barrier being created north of Sandown Castle that will significantly improve the standard of protection from coastal flooding and reduce the risk of a breach. This is in addition to 120,000 cubic metres of shingle being delivered via a pipeline from an offshore dredger to bolster the beach against the tides. The shingle will act as a natural defence against tidal wave action and will be moved into place with bulldozers and dumper trucks from mid September. Read more on the Environment Agency website…

Improving bathing waters on Wales’ beaches as weather changes

The changing weather forecast will provide a boost for visitors and beach-goers this Summer as water quality at some of Wales’ most popular beaches is likely to improve with more settled weather, according to Environment Agency Wales.
The record rainfall during June and early July not only caused flooding in parts of Wales, it also affected bathing water quality at some of the 100 designated bathing beaches sampled by the Agency.
At the midway point of the bathing water testing season (which runs from May to September) results had dipped reflecting the unsettled weather pattern of recent months. Agency sampling officers found that bacterial levels increased following the heavy rain partly as pollutants from fields and urban areas were washed into rivers. The heavy rainfall also caused storm sewage discharge systems to release diluted sewage into rivers in order to protect homes from flooding. Other sources of pollution that impact on water quality include badly maintained cesspits and septic tanks, and poor household plumbing. In some cases, foul water pipes are incorrectly connected to the surface water drainage systems which flow, untreated into rivers.

Improving water quality
However, as the rain eases and the sunnier weather continues bacterial levels will reduce due to less pollution and some will be killed off by Ultra Violet rays from the sun. Bathing water quality has improved dramatically in the last 20 years, much of it due to Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s £1bn of investment into waste water improvements. In addition to influencing this investment, the Agency has also been advising farmers about different practices in order to reduce diffuse pollution. However, more work needs to be done to meet tough new standards in the revised Bathing Water Directive coming into force in 2015 with some standards being twice as stringent as those in previous years.

Further investigation into sources of pollution
The Agency will continue to investigate the source of pollution affecting water quality in order to tackle those responsible.
It is working closely with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and other sectors to secure continued improvement in future water quality and Chris Mills, Director, Environment Agency Wales, said:

“I am sure many of us welcomed the recent sunshine and made the most of it at some of the fantastic beaches in Wales. And the good weather will also mean better water quality for bathing. The record rainfall which fell in June and July has affected water quality and some beaches will have struggled to meet the standards expected. We have seen a dramatic improvement in bathing water in the last 20 years but remain determined to push on from this and make sure bathing waters are clean and healthy, not only to meet EU rules, but for the people and economy of Wales.”

People can find out information on bathing waters either on the Environment Agency website or:
Bathing Water Data Explorer website
Beach Finder app available for download on most smart phones. Go to the RNLI pages for more information.

Environment Agency water safety warning

Enjoy our waterways but stay safe. That is the message from the Environment Agency to people who may be tempted to visit their local river during the current hot weather.
Fast currents, weirs and locks, cold water and unstable riverbanks can pose a serious health and safety risk – or even kill.  It’s a startling fact that the majority of people who drown in rivers can actually swim.

“Water claims the lives of more than 50 children a year in the UK. Drowning is the third most common accidental death among Britain’s under 16s, behind road accidents and house fires. We have worked hard to raise awareness among young people but the statistics show there is still work to do to get the message across that the hazards are often hidden, and underestimating the dangers of water can have tragic consequences.” Environment Agency Waterways Manager Irven Forbes.

The Agency has also linked up with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to produce the popular website www.watersafetykids.co.uk

More than half of all drownings each year occur in rivers, canals, lakes and pools. According to RoSPA in 2009, coastal and inland waters claimed the lives of 405 people.

The Environment Agency has issued 10 tips to ensure people stay safe around water. They are:

  1. Don’t jump or dive into rivers – the depth is uncertain and there can be unseen dangers in the water.
  2. Be aware of strong currents and don’t go into water near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices.
  3. Take notice of safety information, warning signs and flags.  Know what they mean and do as they advise.
  4. Water can be very cold no matter what time of year. Cold water can quickly cause cramp and breathing problems making it difficult to swim.
  5. Keep away from the river’s edge and supervise young children. Drowning can occur very quickly, even in shallow water.
  6. Wear the recommended safety equipment for your activity, such as life jackets and helmets.
  7. Airbeds, inner tubes and other floatation devices can easily be carried or blown into deep water and may not keep you afloat.
  8. Consuming alcohol may impair your ability and judgment when on or in water.
  9. Get trained in lifesaving and resuscitation techniques. Know what to do in an emergency.
  10. Teach children to swim and not to go into water alone, or unsupervised.  Always ensure someone knows where you are and what you’re doing.

What to do if you see someone in difficulties:

Get help: Ring 999 or get someone else to. If you are on your own without a mobile phone, shout for help if people are nearby, or go and get help.

Think: Of your own safety first. Don’t go into the water to rescue someone – you may get in trouble too.

Reach: A stick, scarf or clothes tied together can help you reach the person. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled into the water.

Throw: A rope is best – you can pull the person to dry land. If you don’t have rope, throwing something in that will float, such as a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy, will help keep the person afloat until help arrives.

Keep warm: once rescued, keep the casualty warm and ensure they get medical help as soon as possible.

The Environment Agency manages around 1,000km of navigable inland waterway across England and Wales and issues safety advice as part of its role to encourage everyone to enjoy these rivers, as well as coastal waters, wisely. It is also one of several leading organisations that make up the National Water Safety Forum, which aims to prevent water-related fatalities and accidents. Check out our interactive website at www.watersafetykids.co.uk
Children and teachers can also find out more on www.wow4water.net/ 

Flood update

The Environment Agency is continuing to keep a close watch on river levels as well as checking defences and clearing any potential blockages to reduce the risk of flooding. Whilst the Met Office has been forecasting some heavy rain throughout the morning – which could lead to localised flooding – there are no significant concerns.
Environment Agency flood defence schemes across the country have protected thousands of properties. An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are urging people to stay safe and be prepared. People can sign up for the Environment Agency’s free flood warnings service and keep up to date by checking our website, looking out for updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or calling us on 0845 988 1188.”
The Environment Agency is warning of the dangers of flood water. People should keep away from swollen rivers, and not attempt to walk or drive through them. Read more on the Environment Agency website…

Environment Agency hosts bathing water seminars for beach controllers

The Environment Agency will host bathing water seminars for beach controllers across the South West this week. The two seminars held jointly with DeFRA are designed to increase awareness of the European wide revised Bathing Water Directive among Beach controllers and clarify their understanding of the new directive requirements and timetable. The revised Bathing Water Directive, introduced in 2006, significantly changes the way bathing waters are managed. Bathing water quality standards are getting tighter. The Directive introduces a new classification scheme:

– Excellent – which is approximately twice as stringent as the current guideline standard
– Good – similar to the current guideline standard
– Sufficient – tighter than the current mandatory standard
– Poor – normally non-compliant waters

The Agency will sample on a four year rolling programme and report against these new classifications for the first time in 2015. All bathing waters need to achieve a classification of at least ‘sufficient’. The second important strand of the revised Directive is a greater emphasis on beach controllers providing public information at the beach. If a site is classified as poor in 2015 measures must be taken and advice against bathing posted at the bathing water by the beach controller.
Significantly, if a site is classified as poor for five consecutive seasons permanent advice against bathing must be issued and posted at the beach by the beach controller. Some sites in the South West that meet the current standards are at risk of not meeting the new standards in 2015. Read more on the Environment Agency website…