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Looking back at 2020: Drowning prevention in Scotland

   Looking back at 2020: Drowning prevention in Scotland

The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) has released its 2020 data on water-related fatalities for the United Kingdom. The statistics show that there were 631 water-related fatalities across the UK, 254 of which were accidental.

In Scotland specifically, there were 99 water-related fatalities, with 39 of these being accidental. A complete trend report has been created for Scotland which highlights the 2020 data in detail and can be accessed here.  However, there are a number of noteworthy findings:

Firstly, 2020 is the first year that the number of overall water-related fatalities has gone above the three-year average baseline used by Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy (2020: 99 fatalities vs  baseline: 97 fatalities).  2020 has seen the highest number of overall water-related fatalities in Scotland since 2015.

Accidental fatalities made up 39 of the overall 99 water-related fatalities – well below the average of 50 fatalities a year. However, caution must be used when interpreting these figures due to the fact that the “Not Recorded” outcome has seen a huge increase to 32 fatalities. This could be partially due to post mortem outcome delays from the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU) as result of the COVID-19 pandemic

The data on accidental fatalities in 2020 provides us insight into a different picture this year.  The statistics usually show a relatively even split between coastal and inland waters, with coastal fatalities taking slight predominance. However, the 2020 data shows that inland waters accounted for 79 per cent of accidental fatalities – a departure from previous years.

Likewise, the data have previously shown that the most common age group for accidental fatalities comes from those in their middle ages. However, 2020 data shows a shift to that of the age group between 20 – 29 years. Accidental drownings during recreational activities has also been the predominant category of accidental drownings but this again shifted in 2020 to everyday activities such as walking next to water and unexpectedly falling in.

These key differences with the 2020 data could be a result in changing behaviours due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it is clear that further analysis is needed on the Scottish data to help understand these differences.

Water Safety Scotland is due to start work on its four-year review of Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy this year.

Understanding the data and this changing picture will be key to moving forward to reach the strategy’s target to reduce accidental fatalities by 50 per cent by 2026.

Carlene McAvoy, Leisure Safety Manager
Posted: 5/26/2021 11:59:24 AM 1 comments


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