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Water safety in Scotland – where are we now?

   Water safety in Scotland – where are we now?

Following on from the United Nations declaration in April 2021 that affirmed drowning as a preventable public health issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the very first World Drowning Prevention Day on  July 25 this year.

World Drowning Prevention Day was marked by organisations and individuals across the world.  Here in Scotland, amongst other activities, The Kelpies, 30ft horse head structures in Falkirk, were lit up blue to remember all those who have lost their lives to drowning.

In the weeks and days leading up to World Drowning Prevention Day, Scotland sadly suffered a number of water-related fatalities. According to data from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, 10 people drowned in July, while a further 11 were injured, compared to five fatalities a year previously. In the single weekend of July 23-25 there were at least four separate fatal water-related incidents.  

In response to the tragic events of July, Ash Denham MSP, Minister for Community Safety, speedily convened a high-level roundtable table discussion with key stakeholders such as Water Safety Scotland (WSS), representatives from the emergency services and RoSPA. WSS briefed the attendees on the background evidence on these recent developments and current challenges in water safety.  After the briefing, a productive discussion followed which focussed on issues such as water safety education, safety signage, water incident data collection and improved collaborative working. A second meeting was convened by the Community Safety Minister on September 22 to follow up on these actions and a third has been planned for early December.

In its four-year review of Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy, WSS’s Steering Group has reflected on the accidental drownings in July. RoSPA will lead the four-year review, which will look at progress made towards reducing the number of accidental drownings in Scotland and what future interventions can be put in place.  WSS has already adjusted its educational targets and will be working with bereaved families to do outreach into communities.

Additionally, The Drowning and Incident Review is underway in its pilot process. Following on from the publication of Preventing Future Fatalities, WSS, along with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, agreed to create the Drowning and Incident Review which is a voluntary process that can be triggered following a water fatality in Scotland.

Water Safety in Scotland is a key priority for numerous organisations and individuals who work collaboratively to help prevent water-related fatalities.  The Community Safety Minister has demonstrated her ongoing commitment to improving water safety through her roundtable discussions.

Following the first meeting on Thursday September 2, Ms Denham said:
“The Scottish Government takes the issue of water safety very seriously and welcomed the drowning prevention strategy when it was published by Water Safety Scotland in 2018. I thank Clare Adamson MSP for her contribution to the strategy and her continued support for Water Safety Scotland, which has a lynchpin role in this area.
“We also work closely with Water Safety Scotland and other partners to support the recommendations in its drowning prevention strategy and initiatives that can help to raise awareness of the hazards around water and reduce deaths from accidental drowning.”

(Source: Scottish Parliament Website)

Water Safety Scotland and its partners will continue to promote water safety and drowning prevention initiatives in order to reach the targets of Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy.

Working in collaboration is key to this success and partners will continue to work together locally, nationally and internationally.

Carlene McAvoy
Leisure Safety Manager
Posted: 10/4/2021 11:27:37 AM 0 comments


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