The summer holidays offer lots of adventures, playing with friends, and soaring temperatures. And a great way to have fun and cool off is of course being near water. But that poses a risk too. Although most water related accidents can be avoided if a few simple rules are followed.
Lakes, rivers and locks
Swimming in an open body of water like a river, lake, or lock is different from swimming in a pool. There may be hidden dangers beneath the water that you don’t know about.
- Always swim with a partner. Even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps, which might make it difficult to get out of the water. When people swim together, they can help each other or go for help in case of an emergency.
Know your limits
- 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. If your mates are daring you to go further than you’re comfortable with, or capable of, it can be hard to say no, 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.
By the sea
Swimming in an open body of water, like the sea is different from swimming in a pool. More energy is needed 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.
More information on water safety by the sea can be found on the RNLI Respect the Water webpages.
Tombstoning offers a high-risk, high-impact experience that can have severe and life-threatening consequences. This is because:
- Water depths alter with the tide – the water may be shallower than it seems
- Submerged objects like rocks may not be visible – these can cause serious impact injuries
- The shock of cold water can make it difficult to swim
- Getting out of the water is often more difficult than people realise
- Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
Don't jump into the unknown. Consider the dangers before you take the plunge:
- Check for hazards in the water. Rocks or other objects may be submerged and difficult to see
- Check the depth of the water. Remember tides can rise and fall very quickly
- As a rule of thumb, a jump of ten metres requires a depth of at least five metres
- Never jump whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Check for access. It may be impossible to get out of the water
- Consider the risks to yourself and others. Conditions can change rapidly – young people could be watching and may attempt to mimic the activity. And, if you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, you probably won't enjoy the experience.
More information on tombstoning can be found on the RoSPA website.