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RoSPA issues water safety message as the hot weather hits

With forecasters predicting a heat wave in the coming weeks, the temptation will be there for many people to go for a dip - but the summer months and school holidays bring with them a spike in accidental drownings.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the UK’s leading accident prevention charity, wants families to enjoy the hot weather to the full, but is warning people to be extra vigilant around inland water such as rivers, lakes, lochs, quarries and reservoirs, which can be more dangerous than they appear.

Figures from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) for 2014 show a huge rise in the number of deaths in July (43) - more than double the number of deaths in June (20), and up from 29 in August. In particular, teenagers and young men are at risk of drowning in inland waters, with 69 males aged 15 to 29 dying throughout 2014.

David Walker, leisure safety manager at RoSPA, said: "We understand the temptation to want to go swimming at inland water sites, especially on a sunny day, but it’s important to recognise that the water might be a lot colder and deeper than you expect. This can lead to a swimmer going into cold shock.

“There may also be strong currents and underwater debris, which may lead to even the most experienced swimmer getting into difficulties. Don’t go alone, consider how you are going to get out of the water before you get in, and be honest about your swimming ability.

“RoSPA's advice is to swim at properly-supervised sites, such as lifeguarded beaches, lidos or swimming pools. However, we appreciate that not everyone can get to these locations.” 

As well as swimming at supervised sites, RoSPA has compiled a list of advice to protect those heading out for a swim:

  • If you choose to go to an unsupervised site, think through the hazards first and ensure you know what to do if something goes wrong
  • One of the hazards to consider is that water can be a lot colder than you are expecting so be careful if you jump in or go for a swim to cool off. Consider wearing a well-fitting wetsuit, which can keep you warm and offer some buoyancy in the water
  • Before you get into the water, consider how you are going to get out again e.g. are there steep banks that might make it difficult to get out?
  • Be honest about your swimming ability
  • Remember that alcohol and swimming never mix
  • Parents and carers: discuss the hazards with your children and remind them that children should never swim alone at unsupervised locations.

For more safety tips and advice, see RoSPA’s Water Safety for Children and Young People factsheet.

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