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Water safety group’s call to action to reduce drowning

(A National Water Safety Forum Press Release)

A national drowning prevention strategy that aims to halve the number of fatal incidents on or near water will be launched on 29 February by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill MP.

The document, created by members of the National Water Safety Forum* (NWSF) is the UK’s first drowning prevention strategy, created in response to the World Health Organization’s report on global drowning, which recommended that every nation should have a drowning prevention strategy.

About 400 people drown and a further 200 take their own lives in our waters in the UK every year; that equates to one accidental drowning every 20 hours. Activities in and around water are safer now than ever, but 44% of drowning fatalities happen to people who had no intention of entering the water.

The UK strategy highlights the areas that organisations need to focus on to make a difference and asks for support in contributing towards the national plan. The NWSF strategy page can be viewed here: http://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/strategy/

The NWSF will be asking organisations and individuals to sign up to a pledge to reduce drownings; to contribute towards the shared objective by making the National Strategy a local priority and by actively supporting the intention of the Strategy by raising the profile of drowning in the UK.

Robert Goodwill said:

“The number of people drowning each year is shocking and must be cut. As an island nation the water plays an integral part of our lives. But the sea, rivers, lakes and canals are all too frequently killers and action needs to be taken.

“That is why I fully support the launch of this drowning prevention strategy. Working together we can significantly reduce the number of tragic deaths and prevent the families of hundreds of people each year going through unbearable pain and suffering.”

George Rawlinson, Chair of the National Water Safety Forum commented:

‘Hardly a day goes past without some sort of human tragedy taking place in UK waters. Around four-hundred people accidentally drown each year in the UK – this is unacceptable and it’s a problem that we need to face up to together.

‘The organisations represented through the National Water Safety Forum have united in a common aim – to prevent history repeating itself in this tragic way, year after year, and to use our resources in the most effective way to halve accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 2026. It’s an ambitious target but well worth striving for. Now we have a strategy, we have a focus and, most importantly, a call to action to do more to combat drowning. Ultimately, we hope to save every life – one life lost is one too many.’


Over the next 36 months, the forum’s targets are:
• every child should have the opportunity to learn to swim and receive water safety education at primary school and where required at Key Stage 3
• every community with water risks should have a community level risk assessment and water safety plan
• to work to better understand water-related self-harm
• to work to increase awareness of everyday risks in, on and around water
• all recreational activity organisations should have a clear strategic risk assessment and plans that address key risks

*The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is the UK body which represents UK organisations with an interest in wate safety and is committed to reducing drowning fatalities. With a core of around 40 organisations and a network of a further 300, among many others it represents: Amateur Swimming Association; Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; Royal Life Saving Society UK; Royal National Lifeboat Institution; Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Canal and Rivers Trust; Chief Fire Officers’ Association; local authorities throughout the UK.