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Water safety

Avoid open water swimming

Lakes, pools, rivers, canals and quarries are all examples of bodies of open water which can carry many dangers for swimmers which can be fatal.

The risk is especially high if you are swimming alone and have no one there to assist if you get into difficulties. There is also a risk to others who can lose their lives in attempting a rescue.

People regularly get into difficulties and even experienced swimmers can find themselves quickly in trouble.

The water is usually much colder than people expect – particularly if people move away from the shore or enter deep water, there are hidden currents, unexpected obstacles and weeds under the water which people get caught up in and cramp can quickly set in.

The water is also often unclean and carries a risk of catching waterborne diseases such as Weil’s disease – caused by rat’s urine.

Many of our lakes are also used for fishing, which means there could be fishing line in and around the water, which swimmers could get tangled in.

Children and teenagers, who do not realise the dangers, are attracted to such activities.

If you see someone in difficulty in the water

Call the emergency services - do not enter the water yourself.

We recommend that the following action should be taken:

  • Call for assistance from the emergency services
  • Do not attempt to go into the water
  • Instruct the casualty to keep still to maintain heat and energy
  • Try to find something that will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole, branch or item of clothing
  • Throw this or reach out to the casualty with it. Then, making sure that you are stable on the bank by lying down or getting someone to hold onto you, attempt to pull the person to shore
  • If you cannot find something with which to perform a reach rescue, try to find something that will float, to throw or push out to them until assistance arrives
  • Keep talking to the casualty to reassure them
  • If the rescue is successful the casualty will need to be kept warm and treated for shock and should be taken to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected by their ordeal

For further information, visit the RoSPA website.

Last updated Tuesday, 23rd May 2023

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