River Basin and Flood Risk plans – Environment Agency consultations

The Environment Agency is seeking views on proposals to improve the water environment and protect communities from flood risk in England.

They would like your input on updates to river basin management plans and flood risk management plans. Once agreed, these plans will shape decisions, direct investment and action and deliver significant benefits for society and the environment.

River basin management plans set out long term objectives for the quality of the water environment. They identify the condition of rivers, lakes and coastal waters and the pressures on them. The plans provide evidence that will help those with an interest in the water environment to agree where improvements can be made.

Flood risk management plans describe the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water, groundwater and reservoirs. They set out how the Environment Agency, local councils and water companies will work together, with communities, to manage flood risk.

These links will also explain how to respond to consultations in river basin districts which cross borders with Scotland and Wales.

The formal closing date for the flood risk management plan consultation is 31 January 2015, while the river basin management plan consultations will run for six months, ending on 10 April 2015.

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

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:

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).
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.
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

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

News and updates – March ’13

Search and rescue helicopter contract signed

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced this week (wb 25/03) that it has signed a contract with Bristow Helicopters Ltd to provide search and rescue helicopter services in the UK.  In his written statement to the House Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP said that the new £1.6 billion contract for search and rescue helicopter services will see the UK benefit from improved flying times and better coverage of high-risk areas.

Helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK search and rescue region within one hour of take-off than is currently possible, and based on historic incident data it is estimated that there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20% (from 23 to 19 minutes).

Presently, approximately 70% of high and very high risk areas within the UK search and rescue region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85% of the same area would be reached within this timeframe.

The full statement from DFT can be found here.

Via RYA news.

Corporate manslaughter charge over death of 11-year-old girl

A watersports club in Middlesex has been charged with corporate manslaughter in relation to an incident in which an 11-year-old girl died after falling from a banana boat ride. Prince’s Sporting Club in Bedfont, Middlesex, has also been charged with an offence under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Section 3 requires all employers to conduct their business in a way that ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that others are not exposed to risk.

Mari-Simon Cronje died during a birthday celebration at the club on September 11, 2010, after falling from the banana boat and being struck by the boat that had been towing it. Elizabeth Joslin, specialist prosecutor in the Special Crime Division of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “I have carefully reviewed all of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police and the Hounslow Environmental Health Department during their investigation into the tragic death of Mari-Simon Cronje. “I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge the Prince’s Sporting Club Ltd with both corporate manslaughter and an offence under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.”

A director of the Prince’s Sporting Club Ltd has been charged under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. An initial hearing took place at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on February 19. The case has been referred to Southwark Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing on April 26. Via RoSPA journals

Merlin Attractions loses appeal following fall death conviction

Merlin Attractions Operations — a subsidiary of Madame Tussaud’s — was convicted of two healthy and safety offences in April this year following a seven-day trial, and was fined £350,000 plus £145,000 in costs.

The case followed the death of George Townley in December 2007, who suffered fatal head injuries after falling 14 feet from the castle’s Bear and Clarence Bridge.

Via HSW.

2011 WAID water related fatalities report released

Drowning and immersion deaths from accidents or natural causes across the UK in 2011 remained static with over 400 deaths.

The report from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) identified 407 water-related fatalities throughout 2011 with the majority – 219 (54 per cent) – taking place in inland waters including rivers, canals, lakes, streams, lochs, ponds and reservoirs. Data from the NWSF’s Water Incident Database (WAID) also shows that just over a quarter of deaths – 105 (26%) – happened at the coast or harbour, such as at beaches, marinas or docks.

You can read the blog, and access the report in full here.


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

Nation’s biggest inland flood defence opened in Nottingham

A new £45 million flood defence, which will protect more inland properties than any other in England, was opened today in Nottingham by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Stretching along a 27 kilometre stretch of the River Trent, from Sawley to Colwick, the flood defence will protect 16,000 homes and businesses, as well as roads and factories at the heart of the communities. Read more on the DeFRA website… 

Capsized canoe on Loch Gairloch

A search is underway on Loch Gairloch in Scotland after a canoe capsized and six people fell in the water. At 4.15pm Stornoway Coastguard was contacted by one of the party who had made it to shore and reported that their canoe had capsized and the rest of his group including another adult and four children were still in the water in the North West area of Gairloch. Stornoway Coastguard launched a search of the area, involving the Coastguard Rescue Helicopter from Stornoway, Portree RNLI lifeboat, Gairloch and Loch Ewe Coastguard Rescue Teams and a number of local boats. A local ambulance crew and the air ambulance from Inverness are also on scene. Read more on the MCA website…

Street View comes to the Nation’s canal network

Two wonders of Britain’s historic canal network are now available to view around the globe thanks to a partnership between the Canal & River Trust and Google. Google Street View of the Llangollen Canal. The aim is that people from far and wide will be able to admire a large part of the country’s canalside heritage. The Caen Hill Lock Flight and the Grade I listed World Heritage Site around Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales are among the first sections of Britain’s canal network to feature on Google’s Street View. The two Georgian engineering marvels, which played an important role in the world’s first Industrial Revolution, are already experienced in person by thousands of boaters and towpath visitors each year. Now, through Street View, they form part of the British landmarks and countryside available to view online. Read more on the CRT website…

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/ 

Advice for those hiring Canoes and Kayaks

With rain dominating the forecasts and flooding dominating the headlines Canoeing’s National Governing Bodies advise those hiring equipment to plan their activity carefully.
Canoeing on the Wye is very popular and has been so for many years. Hundreds of Thousands of people have taken to the water for the first time on the stretches of this river and had great experiences and memories to treasure of a great day out. Many people have hired equipment to take to the river for one of the numerous hire companies that exist on the river and again had positive experiences.
Canoeing like any outdoor sport is an assumed risk sport. The high rainfall that the UK has experienced over the last few months has lead to a number of incidents on the River Wye for inexperienced or first time participants who have taken to the river as an activity. Canoeing’s National Governing Body always advises planning and preparation, however in times of unusual high water it is essential to consider the conditions and your ability to manage them.
Richard Harvey, Chief Executive of Canoe Wales said:
“We are experiencing very unusual water conditions for the season on the Wye and anyone getting on the rivers should be aware of the additional risks that exist and are presented by extended rainfall and high water. This applies to all but especially to those taking to the water for the first time and to those hiring equipment if they have limited experience of the sport and the river. To the inexperienced or first time paddler a brown fast moving river shows little danger, whilst in fact the opposite is true. Simply put the speed of the water compounds things, dangers can often be submerged and minor mishaps can very quickly escalate in rescue scenarios. Unfortunately we have experienced some of these incidents this year on the Wye due to high water levels. We have provided some pointers for participants to consider when taking to the water and hiring equipment. This is common sense based. We are at pains to remind participants that the decision to go afloat must be your own, but that everyone should make an informed and educated choice about the conditions, their party’s fitness, experience and ability. Consider carefully and ask questions about the service conditions on offer from hire provider before taking to the water. A few moments to consider the trip and conditions can make the difference between an incident and an enjoyable fondly remembered adventure.”  Read more on the Canoe Wales website…