Increasingly, our rivers, lakes, beaches and swimming pools are seen as sources of relaxation, enjoyment and leisure. However, experience has taught us that in water there are certain limits beyond which we cannot or should not safely go. There is, indeed a certain amount of knowledge of our aquatic environment that must be acquired in order to ensure personal safety.
Safety around the Home
Every year people die needlessly in drowning incident in back gardens, farmyards, etc.
Children can drown in very shallow water, in such places as the stream or drain at the end of the garden, the fish or lily pond, the play pool or swimming pool, the well, barrel or water tank, the septic tank or slurry pit.
These are also hazards for the old and feeble. Young children should be constantly supervised when playing in or near water. Wells, water barrels or tanks should be covered with wire mesh. Drains, streams, pools should be adequately fenced to prevent accidents and unsupervised use.
Safety around the home is in your own hands.
Swimmers and Dippers
Analyses of drowning statistics show that this general group is still the one highest at risk. There are many reasons for accidents occurring but here we look at some of the most common.
Causes of Accidents:
- inadequate supervision
- incorrect use of high buoyancy objects e.g. air beds, inflatable toys, etc.
- lack of local knowledge
- overestimation of ability
Hazards of Open Water
Open water locations are still used by the majority of bathers. The dangers associated with these areas include tides, backwash, objects on the sea or riverbed, unmarked changes in depths, weeds, unclear water, etc. These areas may be unsupervised and there may be few onlookers.
Common sense should guide a person to a swimming area supervised by Lifeguards. In the absence of such supervision, however, the area should be checked out for hazards and warning signs before entering the water. The following checklist will be useful to the swimmer or bather when selecting a safe place:
- Is the water clear and unpolluted?
- Is the slop towards deep water sufficiently gentle?
- Are there any strong currents or heavy waves in the area?
- Are there any other water users in the area?
- Is there easy entry to and exit from the water?
- Are there any dangers from weeds, underwater rocks, shifting sands or holes?
Paddling, dipping or swimming in shallow water can be a pleasant and enjoyable recreation. It can also be relatively free of danger if a few simple guidelines are followed:
- Bathing should be in supervised areas where possible and in the company of others.
- Bathers should have a knowledge of simple reaching rescues and of resuscitation.
- The use of rings, air beds and other types of high buoyancy playthings should be strongly discouraged. Currents, tides or winds could can carry them into deep water.
- Bathers should stay within the limits of their ability. Overconfidence can easily lead a person into danger.
- Warning notices for the swimming area should be noted and followed.
- Over-robust play, jumping, diving, ducking others, etc., can be dangerous and harmful.
- Every opportunity should be availed to develop the skills of swimming.
- Bathers should be continually on the lookout for holes, soft mud, etc.
- Swimmers should swim parallel to the shore and at waist depth.
Safety for Anglers
Those who engage in angling whether on the sea shore, river bank or lake side must be constantly alert to hazards, many of which are inherent to the angling area but some of which may stem directly from the angler's own actions. Freak waves, uneven or slippery ground, steep or crumbling banks and tidal conditions, as well as the angler's dress and equipment, can present problems of safety which may be foreseen and guarded against.
Once again, the elementary precaution of learning swimming and survival skills must be stressed. The technique of using angling equipment such as waders or plastic containers as an aid in self-rescue is a simple one, but extremely effective in case of accidental immersion.
Anglers are expected to take normal safety precautions as outlined in the Irish Water Safety relevant leaflets, including the following:
- Staying within sight and hearing of others.
- Checking the fishing site carefully.
- Ensuring a solid and secure footing.
- Maintaining a close watch on water and weather conditions.
- Keeping back from waters edge to avoid danger from freak waves.
Anglers can find information on the water levels at/near a fishing site here!
Holiday outings or day trips to a beach, lake or swimming resort organised by schools, companies, clubs or communities can be enjoyable and pleasant. They should be kept that way by taking some sensible safety measures:
- Ensure that the individual in overall charge is known to everyone in the group.
- Check that he/she knows the numbers in the group and their names.
- Appoint someone to be in charge of the group while they are in the water.
- Survey the bathing area and make simple rules - such as defining a fixed bathing area, having a system of communication through signals, swimming in pairs or groups.
The person in charge should be aware of any individual disability among the members of his/her group. Such as asthmatic conditions or epileptic tendencies, which are not immediately apparent and which would require special attention. A knowledge o the swimming abilities within the group is a prerequisite for the organiser.
Finally, the Lifeguard should be contacted on arrival at the beach, and notified of details of the group and the proposed activities.