Safety warning issued as accidental drownings on the rise

Scots have been warned to take care and not take risks around reservoirs, rivers, and lochs this summer.

Scottish Water issue safety warning as figures show accidental drownings on the rise iStock

With better weather on the horizon, Scots have been warned to take care and not take risks around reservoirs, rivers, and lochs this summer after 58 people lost their lives in Scottish waters in accidental drownings last year.

The latest figures from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) showed that in 2021, a total of 277 people accidentally drowned across the UK including 39 in Scotland, which is up from the previous year.

Last year’s figures include the deaths of six people who drowned in Scottish watercourses such as Loch Lomond in four separate incidents in one weekend during warm weather last July.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s chief operating officer, said: “While people should enjoy any good weather we have and take pleasure around the country’s beautiful lochs, reservoirs and rivers, it’s absolutely vital they stay safe at all times and behave responsibly.

“As the tragic deaths in Scotland last year showed, safety is a serious issue in all bodies of water, including lochs, reservoirs and rivers.

“At reservoirs, while the water may look harmless, there are many hidden dangers. We need to ensure everyone is aware of these hazards.

“We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly around reservoirs and other watercourses.”

Deep, cold water is a particular danger at reservoirs, which are working parts of Scottish Water’s infrastructure. 

Dams, steep banks, overflows and underwater pipework can also present real hazards.

Many of the publicly-owned utility’s reservoirs are situated in remote locations, meaning there is a lack of immediate assistance and mobile phone reception can be poor.

In the interests of public safety, Scottish Water does not encourage swimming in its reservoirs.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) annual Drowning Prevention Week runs from June 18 to 25 and encourages people to do their bit to ensure the UK’s accessible waterways are fun and secure places for everyone to take pleasure in.

Lee Heard, the RLSS UK’s charity director, said: “With June, July, and August proving to be the months with the most fatalities, it is vitally important that everyone has an understanding of water safety, especially during the summer months.

“We have seen a rise in the number of drownings over the last few years, with peaks during the summer. In July 2021, there were 49 accidental drowning fatalities in the space of just two weeks in the UK, and we know that with the right water safety knowledge, accidental drownings are avoidable.

“We want to ensure everyone can enjoy their summer break and being in or around water but be safe in the knowledge that they, and their children, have the skills and understanding about water safety, which could potentially save a life.”

Carlene McAvoy, leisure safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “There tends to be a peak in the number of accidental drowning fatalities during the warm summer weather, so it’s important to keep yourself, family and friends safe whilst out and about near water.

“We want to ensure that everyone has a positive, but safe experience around water. Water Safety Scotland’s Water Safety Code is a great way to learn about hazards, such as Cold Water Shock, and what to do in an emergency.”

Deputy assistant chief officer Alasdair Perry, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s head of prevention and protection, added: “Over the last year a number of tragic events have been a sad reminder that all of Scotland’s waterways can be dangerous. 

“We must educate the public about the very real dangers of our coastal and inland waters and the risks involved in swimming or playing in water. 

“Anyone, of any skill and experience level can find themselves in difficulty and we would encourage everyone to educate themselves and those around them to stay safe in and around water.”

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