Saving lives and reducing injuries...AT LEISURE
Encourage the Government to improve its strategic approach to water safety
A strategic approach to water safety, including data collection to establish the evidence base for accident prevention and joint working, means resources can be appropriately targeted and professionals can learn from an established pool of knowledge.
The National Water Safety Forum rolled out best practice guidance for coasteering. Picture: John Paul Eatock
What we did:
We continued to provide co-ordination and communications support to the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), which brings together organisations, government and communities to work together on water safety in the UK.
Among the issues on the NWSF’s agenda was rolling out best practice guidance about coasteering, with the National Coasteering Charter being established to take forward the sharing and embedding of good practice across the sport. The NWSF, together with British Water Ski and Wakeboard, also began reviewing and further developing safety guidance for operators of organised towed inflatable activities.
We were pleased to send a RoSPA representative to the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam to outline to an international audience the challenges and successes of the NWSF.
Among our other work at RoSPA, we partnered with Surf Life Saving GB and the University of Derby to develop a new Event Water Safety Guide to provide guidance to the organisers of events taking place on or near water, including multi-sports events, concerts and elite sports.
Provide expert consultancy, audit and training
Globally, nearly 400,000 people die from drowning each year, the vast majority in developing countries. Events like the World Conference on Drowning Prevention play an important role in sharing news of what works in drowning prevention and helps focus action on further reducing the burden of drowning.
David Walker, RoSPA’s leisure safety manager.
The advice, training and consultancy we provide benefits recipients seeking assistance with the management of a specific site or activity. It also helps to shape our own policy positions by bringing us into direct contact with the realities faced “on the ground”.
What we did:
With the River Lee a central feature and numerous other bodies of water within the Olympic Park, we collaborated with the Royal Life Saving Society UK and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to create a coherent framework for rescue provision and emergency response at the site, giving jointly developed advice to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The advice covered awareness, stewarding and interaction with on-site rescue teams. This project followed the involvement of our water and leisure safety team at various other points during preparations for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We provided advice to designers, building contractors and site operators on the interaction of the public, staff and athletes at sites with water features. Our work dated back to before London’s successful bid was announced and covered:
Whilst capable of conducting basic risk assessments, no-one in our team is an expert in water safety - and as you can’t afford to take chances in this crucial area, we enlisted the help of RoSPA as they are rightly regarded as the number one name in the business.
Simon Richardson, contract manager, Warwick District Council.
- Eton Dorney rowing and canoeing lake, owned by Eton College
- The masterplan for the Olympic Park, including the design of waterways, walkways, landscaping and draining on behalf of Lend Lease and the Olympic Delivery Authority
- Final stage inspections, assisting with risk assessments and first response/rescue options.
Our aim throughout was to help site operators to provide world class safety management of world class venues, encouraging an unobtrusive approach to water safety and making sites as accessible and as safe as necessary without overly intrusive safety arrangements.
During 2011/12, we also conducted water safety reviews for organisations across the UK, including Bath and North East Somerset Council, Warwick District Council, Royal Leamington Spa Town Council, Maidstone Borough Council, The Parks Trust Milton Keynes, Derby City Council, Nottingham City Council and Newcastle City Council.
Support and carry out pioneering research
Establishing the causes of drowning and developing new prevention strategies are essential to make an impact in reducing the tragic loss through drowning each year.
What we did:
We were commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to conduct a project to investigate and promote the safe use of closed circuit rebreathers (CCRs) among divers. The use of CCRs is historically associated with military and cave diving, but it is expected to rise sharply among recreational divers over the next few years because it enables longer, deeper and “bubble-free” underwater exploration. Equipment failures during CCR diving can be more subtle than during open circuit diving and more technical and emergency planning is therefore needed.
Eton Dorney, the rowing and canoeing lake owned by Eton College, which was used during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The first stage of the project involved a document review, interviews and focus groups with influential and experienced stakeholders in the CCR market, aiming to establish a definitive understanding of the reasons why CCR incidents had occurred in the past. The project then moved into its second phase - the development of a promotional safety film about CCRs.
We were also involved in research conducted on behalf of the Environment Agency. In this project, we carried out community-focused research to establish the potential for a flood early warning system for Boscastle in Cornwall. The research involved interviews with local residents, businesses and tourists about their likely responses to a flood alarm sounding, plus a review with the local council and Environment Agency.
And we were delighted that Dr Martin Barwood, of the University of Portsmouth, attended the World Conference on Drowning Prevention to present a paper on BNFL/RoSPA-funded research into how survival chances could be maximised following immersion in water. The study (Float First: An Assessment of the Buoyancy Provided by Seasonal Clothing Assemblies Before and After Swimming) found that floating for a couple of minutes after immersion helped people to become accustomed to the cold and retained buoyancy in their clothes.
We started work on a project about the use of closed circuit rebreathers among divers.
Promoting recognition that leisure and play should be exciting and “as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible”
Risks in play should be apparent and foreseeable by the child, but children also need to learn to understand and manage risk for themselves. Through exposure to exciting and challenging play environments, children build up life-skills that will stay with them throughout their lives.
What we did:
During a difficult year financially for local authorities and other play providers, we continued to ensure that our focus was on maintaining play value and managing risk at acceptable levels. This helped play providers to concentrate their resources on issues that have a positive impact upon safety, without simply removing play value.
We maintained the number of annual playground inspections provided to local authorities, parish, community and town councils and the private sector.
We responded formally to the consultation about the future of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) and also facilitated informal discussions on the subject with other interested organisations.
The industry and those within it display a commendable demand for high standards and organisations are clearly committed to ensuring the ongoing safety of those involved. A critical aspect of this project is to ensure that the commitment for safety is cemented into the developing industry practices and the safety culture of CCR diving as a whole. The next steps of the project will help ensure that this is the case.
Promoting the safe use of Closed Circuit Rebreathers, Primary Stage Report, RoSPA Water and Leisure Department February 2012
Figure 1: total number of drownings in the UK, 2000 - 2010 (source: WAID database)
Figure 2: locations of accidental drownings in the UK, 2010 (source: WAID database)
Since 2005, RoSPA has provided the secretariat for the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) and hosted WAID, the UK’s Water Incident database. Thanks to the efforts of all the members of the forum, WAID now provides the most comprehensive-ever picture of UK drownings. Since 2000, there has been a disappointingly small downward trend in the number of drownings (fig 1) and the pattern of circumstances (fig 2) has been consistent, year after year. WAID now gives us the analytical tool to carry out more detailed research into identifying preventable drownings, their circumstances and the most effective ways of reducing the number of these tragic events.
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