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Water Safety

Water Safety

When the weather turns warm, everyone wants to be in or around the water. Hanging out at the pool or the beach on a hot day is a great way to beat the heat.

Having fun is usually the priority and most people don't think much about water safety — but they should. For people between the ages of 5 and 24, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and following a few simple guidelines. Learning how to swim is essential if you plan on being on or near water.

UK Drowning Prevention Strategy:

Tragically, on average, around 400 people drown around the UK every year and a further 200 take their own lives on our waters. Many of these deaths are preventable and we believe more can be done to reduce this loss of life.

Swim Wales are proud to be part of The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF). The NWSF was established over 10 years ago, bringing together a diverse group of organisations with an interest in drowning prevention and water safety. Since its inception, the NWSF and its network has enabled some fantastic collaborative work to reduce drowning and improve water safety. However, in order to make an even greater impact, a step-change in our approach to drowning prevention is needed. Spurred on by the World Health Organisation report that recommended every country should have a national water safety and drowning prevention plan, the NWSF has developed the first UK National Drowning Prevention Strategy.

Click HERE to download the The UK Drowning Prevention Strategy 2016-2026.

The aim:

To reduce accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026, and reduce risk amongst the highest risk populations, groups and communities.

The priority targets:

Over the initial phase of the Strategy - the next 36 months - we will address the following targets:

  • Every child should have the opportunity to learn to swim and receive water safety education at primary school and where required at Key Stage 3
  • Every community with water risks should have a community-level risk assessment and water safety plan
  • To better understand water-related self-harm
  • Increase awareness of everyday risks in, on and around the water
  • All recreational activity organisations should have a clear strategic risk assessment and plans that address key risks.

What are Swim Wales doing:

In addition to the partnership working with other relevant organisations Swim Wales has taken some steps to increase the water safety awareness of children in Wales by ensuring that key water safety skills are included in swimming lessons. The Learn to Swim Wales framework includes numerous water safety related assessments including swimming without goggles, treading water, the HELP and Huddle positions and performing reach rescues. In addition to this there are also specific Personal Survival awards that can be delivered by providers to increase awareness and skills. School Swimming –

Swim Wales, in consultation with school swimming providers, PLPS Educational consortia teams and Sport Wales have considered what it takes to be a ‘safe’ swimmer and what competencies a swimmer may need to be able to perform in order to be safe in or near open water. 

From September 2015, regardless of what School Year a child is in they are assessed using the criteria below. As the National Governing Body for Swimming and Aquatics in Wales and with guidance from the PLPS Team the following assessment criteria has been developed to ensure that all children in Wales meet the National Curriculum requirement for swimming and water safety by the end of Key Stage 2, which specifies that ‘pupils should be taught to:

  • Develop skills of water safety and personal survival
  • Swim unaided for a ‘sustained period of time

By assessing children against the criteria below, we are confident that every child in Wales will reach a minimum level of swimming, and will be safer if they ever get into difficulty in or around water.

Assessment Criteria:

  • Being able to swim 25 metres wearing shorts and t-shirt, tread water for 30 seconds whilst demonstrating an action for getting help (shouting and waving) and then move into HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position). All this must be performed without goggles.
  • On a separate occasion, they will also be required to perform a shout and signal action in swimwear.

In addition to these assessment criteria Swim Wales has developed the Nofio Ysgol School Swimming Framework. Nofio Ysgol is a comprehensive learn to swim experience for children attending National Curriculum swimming lessons that dovetails with the Learn to Swim Wales scheme that is recommended by Sport Wales and Swim Wales for non-curriculum lessons meaning that the whole learn to swim journey and experience is more co-ordinated and joined up for all involved in the process. Water Safety related outcomes have been highlighted in Nofio Ysgol to help ensure that all children in Wales are taught these vital skills.

Click HERE to find out more about Nofio Ysgol

Swim Safe

Whether by the sea, river or lake, the skills involved in keeping safe in open water are different to those in an indoor pool, where most swimming lessons take place.

That’s why Swim Wales, the ASA, the national governing body for swimming in England and the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea, are working together to deliver the Swim Safe programme.

Swim Safe is an annual programme of improver swimming tuition and water safety sessions for all 7–14 year olds at beaches and lakes across England and Wales. And the best thing about Swim Safe is that it is FREE to attend.

What's Included?

Swim Safe provides the opportunity for children to enjoy a fun, structured swimming session at a choice of open water locations – and learn all about how to stay safe.

  1. Beach safety advice provided by RNLI lifeguards
  2. Up to 30 minutes in-water tuition with qualified swimming teachers.

Who can attend?

Children aged between 7 - 14yrs. They must be able to swim a minimum of 25 metres to take part.

Partnership Working

Swim Wales is proud to be working in partnership with the RNLI to increase water safety awareness in Wales and are developing partnerships with other relevant organisations such as the RLSS and the Chief Fire Officers Association to promote water safety awareness and education in Wales.

For information on Drowning Prevention Week, click HERE

Water Safety Tips

When the weather turns warm, everyone wants to be in or around the water. Hanging out at the pool or the beach on a hot day is a great way to beat the heat.

Between having fun and checking out the lifeguards, most people don't think much about water safety — but they should. For people between the ages of 5 and 24, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death.

It doesn't have to be that way, though. Most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and following a few simple guidelines. Learning how to swim is essential if you plan on being on or near water.

Know your limits- Swimming can be a lot of fun — and you might want to stay in the water as long as possible. If you're not a good swimmer or you're just learning to swim, don't go in water that's so deep you can't touch the bottom and don't try to keep up with skilled swimmers. That can be hard, especially when your friends are challenging you — but it's a pretty sure bet they'd rather have you safe and alive.

If you are a good swimmer and have had lessons, keep an eye on friends who aren't as comfortable or as skilled as you are. If it seems like they (or you) are getting tired or a little uneasy, suggest that you take a break from swimming for a while.

Swim in safe areas only. It's a good idea to swim only in places that are supervised by a lifeguard. No one can anticipate changing ocean currents, rip currents, sudden storms, or other hidden dangers. In the event that something does go wrong, lifeguards are trained in rescue techniques.

Swimming in an open body of water (like a river, lake, or ocean) is different from swimming in a pool. You need more energy to handle the currents and other changing conditions in the open water.

If you do find yourself caught in a current, don't panic and don't fight the current. Try to swim parallel to the shore until you are able to get out of the current, which is usually a narrow channel of water. Gradually try to make your way back to shore as you do so. If you're unable to swim away from the current, stay calm and float with the current. The current will usually slow down, then you can swim to shore.

Even a very good swimmer who tries to swim against a strong current will get worn out. If you're going to be swimming in an open body of water, it's a great idea to take swimming lessons that provide you with tips on handling unexpected hazards.

Some areas with extremely strong currents are off limits when it comes to swimming. Do your research so you know where not to swim, and pay attention to any warning signs posted in the area

Be careful about diving. Diving injuries can cause head injury, permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis, and sometimes even death. Protect yourself by only diving in areas that are known to be safe, such as the deep end of a supervised pool. If an area is posted with "No Diving" or "No Swimming" signs, pay attention to them. A "No Diving" sign means the water isn't safe for a head-first entry. Even if you plan to jump in feet first, check the water's depth before you leap to make sure there are no hidden rocks or other hazards. Lakes or rivers can be cloudy and hazards may be hard to see.

Watch the sun. Sun reflecting off the water or off sand can intensify the burning rays. You might not feel sunburned when the water feels cool and refreshing, but the pain will catch up with you later — so remember to reapply sunscreen frequently and cover up much of the time. Don't forget your hat, UV protection sunglasses, and protective clothing.

Drink plenty of fluids. It's easy to get dehydrated in the sun, particularly if you're active and sweating. Keep up with fluids — particularly water — to prevent dehydration. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or nausea can be signs of dehydration and overheating.

Getting too cool. Speaking of temperature, it's possible to get too cool. How? Staying in very cool water for long periods can lower your body temperature. A temperature of 70°F (20°C) is positively balmy on land, but did you know that water below that temperature will feel cold to most swimmers? Your body temperature drops far more quickly in water than it does on land. And if you're swimming, you're using energy and losing body heat even faster than if you were keeping still. Monitor yourself when swimming in cold water and stay close to shore. If you feel your body start to shiver or your muscles cramp up, get out of the water quickly; it doesn't take long for hypothermia to set in.

Alcohol and water never mix. Alcohol is involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. The statistics for teenage guys are particularly scary: One half of all adolescent male drownings are tied to alcohol use.

The Water Safety Code. To keep yourself safe, when you are in, on or beside water, always follow the Water Safety Code. Spot the dangers! Water may look safe, but it can be dangerous. Learn to spot and keep away from dangers. You may swim well in a warm indoor pool, but that does not mean that you will be able to swim in cold water.

To Download the S.A.F.E Code Poster, click HERE

The dangers of water include:

  • It is very cold
  • There may be hidden currents
  • It can be difficult to get out (steep slimy banks)
  • It can be deep
  • There may be hidden rubbish, e.g. shopping trolleys, broken glass
  • There are no lifeguards
  • It is difficult to estimate depth
  • It may be polluted and may make you ill

Take safety advice!

  • Special flags and notices may warn you of danger. Know what the signs mean and do what they tell you.
  • Learn about water safety signs and the flags you should look out for on the beach.
  • Go together!Children should always go with an adult, not by themselves.
  • An adult can point out dangers or help is somebody gets into trouble.
  • Learn how to help!You may be able to help yourself and others if you know what to do in an emergency.
  • If you see someone in difficulty, tell somebody, preferably a Lifeguard if there is one nearby, or go to the nearest telephone, dial 999, ask for the Police at inland water sites and the Coastguard at the beach.