National Water Safety Forum


Accidental drowning deaths continue to fall across the UK: 2019 WAID report


The number of accidental drowning deaths in the UK is continuing to fall, new data from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) show.

Latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, reveal that there were 223 deaths in UK waters from accidents or natural causes in 2019, a decrease of 40 from the previous year.

This represents a continuing downward trend in the number of accidental deaths in the country’s waters, and a 25 per cent decrease since 2016, when the NWSF launched its UK Drowning Prevention Strategy.

The 10-year strategy aims to reduce the number of accidental drowning deaths by 50 per cent.

George Rawlinson, chairman of the forum, said: “We are pleased to see the number of accidental drowning deaths fall for another year. This is in part no doubt to the tremendous work of all of our partners in the forum as we work towards our target of a 50 per cent reduction in the 10 years from 2016.

“But one drowning is one too many and we always urge the public to look after their own safety, knowing that tragically, by the time the emergency services respond to an incident, the fatality may have already occurred.”

Just over one third (78) of all accidental drowning deaths happened at the coast/shore/beach, so families are being warned to take particular care if they are planning to head to the beach during the summer months – the most deaths happened in June, July and August.

George Rawlinson added: “This is no time for complacency, so as lockdown restrictions ease, we are reminding people that lifeguards can’t be everywhere this year, so think twice about entering the water as cold water and other hazards still present a significant risk.”

Despite the warm weather, the water will still be cold enough to cause cold water shock, which can incapacitate even the most capable swimmers who are not accustomed and acclimatised to open water conditions. Safety should always be the main consideration.

If you do get into difficulty in the water, remember to fight your instincts and float first. If you see someone in trouble in the water, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard, or the fire service if you are inland.

Drowning Prevention Week, a campaign from the Royal Life Saving Society UK, runs from June 12-19, and this year focuses on giving individuals and families the skills and knowledge they need to enjoy the water, safely. More information can be found at

WAID compiles statistics from across the UK from a number of sources including inquests, and breaks these down into deaths by activity, age, location type and geography, to give those working in drowning prevention and water safety a clearer idea of where to target interventions.

A full copy of the UK Annual Fatal Incident Report for 2019 can be found at


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