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

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Children learn life saving skills

Children from around the country are being given the chance to learn about the dangers posed by open water this summer thanks to vital life-saving scheme Get Safe 4 Summer. The youngsters are being taught water safety skills at a number of pools from next week as part of Get Safe 4 Summer, an educational and water safety campaign run by the ASA with events supported by Swimathon Foundation.

The ASA’s Get Safe 4 Summer campaign is all about raising awareness that swimming in open water such as lakes, rivers, canals and the sea is very different from the pool.

The events teach children about the dangers of open water, as well as highlighting that swimming is the only sport that can save your life. ASA Chief Executive David Sparkes said: “The ability to recognise dangers and knowledge of water safety is just as important as being able to swim.  Particularly important during the summer holidays, the ASA’s Get Safe 4 Summer campaign is all about raising awareness that swimming in open water such as lakes, rivers, canals and the sea is very different from the pool.  We want everyone to be able to enjoy the water but in a safe and sensible way.”

Swimathon Foundation Chairman Anthony Kendall said: ” We are very pleased to support the ASA and The Swimming Trust in teaching youngsters about the importance of swimming and water safety.  It is exactly what we, as a Foundation, stand for.”
The events will consist of an action-packed few hours in the water with a host of fun and educational activities. They include attendance from the RLSS who are also running a Water Safety Awareness Week 16th-24th June.

Schools, leisure facilities and swim schools can get involved by holding their own Get Safe 4 Summer event.  Supporting resources are available to download online, including a Pool Event Pack with details of what, when and who should be involved, posters and certificates to reward the young people attending. Read more on the ASA website…

Adult Learn To Swim

Knowing how to swim is a must – it is a skill that could ultimately save your or your child’s life. But if you’re not confident in the pool, never learnt to swim or don’t know how to get your children started you might need some more advice. When you decide to learn to swim, it can be a long and challenging process, but the rewards you’ll reap in the end are well worth it. The first step is to contact your local pool and ask about adult beginner and improver classes. They will be able to tell you about times, dates, prices and whether there is a waiting list. If you are unsure about starting lessons, ask if you can watch a class or two to get a better idea of whether it’s for you, or ask to speak with one of the teachers.
The feeling of accomplishment and your new-found confidence in the water are only the beginning; it’s also a great way to keep fit, tone up, and meet new people.
Here are just some of the benefits of learning to swim:
– The recommended amount of exercise for adults is 30 minutes at least five times a week and swimming is a great way to hit these targets.
– Swimming burns up to 350 calories in half an hour so it’s a great way to shape up.
– Studies have shown swimming improves psychological well being and significantly reduces tension and depression.
– It’s fun! Once you can swim, you can take part in all types of sessions such as aqua aerobics, aqua jogging and aqua zumba.
– If you’re a gym goer, you can follow a gym-style workout programme for the pool – British Gas Swimfit – to help you achieve your goals.
– It’s the only sport that can save your life. Over 400 people drown in the UK every year and it is the third most common cause of accidental death in children.
– Swimming is for all. No matter what your age, weight and physical ability, swimming and water-based activities can provide you with a workout.
– Swimming is particularly good for pregnant women or those with disabilities, injuries or illnesses like arthritis because swimming can support up to 90% of the body’s weight in the water.
– Swimming can offer the ultimate challenge at any level, whether that’s swimming the length of the channel in your local pool or taking the plunge at an open water British Gas Great Swim
Plus, knowing how to swim opens up a whole range of other sports, just imagine, you could don a snorkel and swim with fish, or even complete a scuba diving course. You could join a canoeing or sailing club or even take your swimming to the next level and enter competitions!
Read more at the swimming.org website…