National Water Safety Forum



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NWSF Newsletter - June 2024


Message from the Chair

Warmer weather towards the end of May brought the inevitable increase in people flocking to the coast and inland waterways... and sadly the loss of lives.

The loss of two teenage boys from Newcastle, who simply went out for some fun in the River Tyne, is a stark reminder of why we all need to continue to try to educate people about water safety risks and the importance of being well prepared to enjoy water safely. Our thoughts are with the families and community who have been impacted.

May also saw a lot of activity for the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), as we prepared for the release of the annual WAID report, which outlines analysis of the fatalities in water during 2023. This report has become an important source of information for all agencies and forums working to improve water safety. The link to the report is below and I’d like to thank all those involved who have helped to produce and promote it.

The NWSF is also involved in supporting the work of the World Health Organization in undertaking its upcoming review of drowning. The final report, due later in 2024, will no doubt draw some important conclusions and recommendations for all nations and point to good practice around the world.

The NWSF and its members are also busy making plans for the refresh of its advisory groups and strategy. A lot has changed since the initial UK Drowning Prevention Strategy was published in 2016, with the strengthening of Water Safety Scotland and Water Safety Wales, and the early development of a new forum of partners in Ireland, so it's important to ensure our national UK forum remains fit for purpose. 

As the summer arrives and we start to plan for the holiday season, it will be important to continue to share the core messages of our #RespectTheWater campaign.

Finally, as my time as Chair of the NWSF will be ending later this year and we’ll be seeking someone to take over this role, this is my penultimate newsletter. So, with that in mind, may I wish all members a positive summer season and thank you in advance for what I know is always the most demanding period for all those involved in water safety and response.

Dawn Whittaker

Chair, NWSF


Research and publications

WAID data release


The public have been urged to “learn what to do in an emergency”, as the latest statistics from WAID show 236 accidental drownings in 2023.

Key statistics

  • Of the 236 drownings, 157 were in England; 47 in Scotland; 28 in Wales; and 4 in Northern Ireland.
  • Males continue to over represent, with 83% of accidental fatalities.
  • Everyday activities, such as walking and running, accounted for 48% of accidental fatalities.
  • 83% of accidental fatalities were male.
  • Males aged 60-69 were the highest group for accidental fatalities.
  • 63% of accidental fatalities happened at inland waters.
  • Recreational activities accounted for 44% of accidental fatalities.

A full trend report for the UK and by individual nation can be accessed here.

The interactive dashboard can be accessed here.



Float to Live

The RNLI launched its 2024 Float to Live campaign in the last week of May. The campaign is underpinned by joint research with the University of Portsmouth, which highlights that everyone floats differently depending on factors including experience, practice, and the type of open water environment, e.g. freshwater vs salt water, moving water vs still water. The campaign has been independently tested using focus groups to ensure the message is understood clearly by people from different genders, background, ages and communities, so it should be useful to everyone, both inland and around the coast.

The RNLI is asking for your help to spread this message far and wide, so please share the campaign, both personally with friends and family, but also professionally via appropriate channels and networks. Various free resources are available to download from the RNLI website if you’d like to support the campaign. This includes a compelling Float to Live video, inspiring stories about how the campaign has helped save lives, an easily shareable 30-second social media video, comprehensive instructions on how to float effectively, static social artwork, and much more. 

To support the campaign, follow the links below:

Float to Live campaign

Survivor Float to Live stories

Float Toolkit


Drowning Prevention Week

Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Drowning Prevention Week (DPW) is one of the biggest water safety campaigns of the year, targeting families, carers, teachers and instructors of children aged five to fifteen years old with the aim of educating them about how to enjoy water safely. The campaign begins in just a couple of days (15–22 June) so please get involved!

This year, RLSS UK has updated lots of fantastic, free DPW resources using well-loved characters from its previous campaigns. These are available to download now, so please do make use of them during the campaign week. We particularly love the new colouring and activity sheets!

No child should drown, and with the right water safety education – such as knowledge of the Water Safety Code – accidental drownings are preventable. Please help RLSS UK by sharing its life-saving messaging far and wide this DPW. Together, we can reach even more families and ensure that everyone understands how to enjoy water safely, ahead of the summer holidays.


World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD)

WDPD is held annually on 25 July. This global advocacy event serves as an opportunity to highlight the devastating and profound impact of drowning on families and communities, and offers life-saving solutions to prevent such tragedies.

The WHO is asking countries and partners to respond to the call to action for global drowning prevention: 


Do one thing

If you’re not yet involved in drowning prevention, just do one thing to support.


Improve one thing

If you’ve already started to work in your area on drowning prevention, then improve one thing


Add one thing

If you’re deeply engaged with drowning prevention, add one thing – there’s always more that can be done


The WHO has provided suggestions on how individuals, communities and countries can support the campaign:

  • visit the official WHO webpage
  • access the WHO WDPD resource materials and campaign page here
  • watch the recording of the WHO-led WDPD 2023 information webinar, which took place on 22 May 2023 (Passcode: HwKq3a*j).

NWSF - Led WDPD 2024 Webinar

The NWSF hosted a webinar on 06 June covering the UK’s plans to support WDPD 2024. If you missed it, watch the recording here.

The slides of the webinar can be found here.


Call to action

As the NWSF works with a broad range of organisations and partners, we want to share the powerful work that so many organisations are doing across the board to reduce drowning fatalities.

  1. Decide how you are going to support WDPD through the ‘Do one thing, Improve one thing, Add one thing’ call from WHO – watch the recording and read the slides for ideas.
  2. After WDPD, share your stories with us! We want to show the positive impact our partners have across the UK. If you have an example of how drowning prevention education has made a difference to an individual or community, please email us at

Thank you for your continued support in raising awareness of water safety and drowning prevention.



Water Safety Signage

Following the Water Safety Signage Research Report released earlier this year, Water Safety Scotland has released a full guidance document on the creation of water safety signage for use in Scotland.

The guidance has one key objective: to provide a step-by-step guide for landowners and managers to create consistent and easy-to-understand water safety signage. It complements previous guidance on Unique Location Codes.

The guidance will now be implemented across three or four areas of Scotland within the next nine months. The full guidance document is available online here.


Product Recalls

There were a substantial number of PPE products recalled from various outlets listed on 05/04/2024. Please see details below.

Product Recall: Camouflage Adult Buoyancy Vest sold via AliExpress (2403-0044)

Product Recall: WENTSEN Adult Buoyancy Vest sold via AliExpress (2403-0045)

Product Recall: Unisex Neoprene Super Light Buoyancy Vest sold via Wish (2310-0057)

Product Recall: Professional Polyester Adult Kid Life Jacket Orange Universal sold via AliExpress (2402-0073)


Other news

Water Safety Wales held a very successful event, A Wales Without Drowning: Our Joint Vision, at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay on 08 May.

The event celebrated the strengthened link between Water Safety Wales and the Welsh Government, and looked at how we can work together to strive for our vision of a Wales without drowning.

Keynote speaker was Huw Irranca-Davies MS, Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, who pledged his commitment to supporting drowning prevention in Wales.

Other speakers were Chris Cousens, Water Safety Wales Chair; Fergus Feeney, Chief Executive of Swim Wales, who spoke about the need to increase school swimming and water safety education in schools in Wales; and Leeanne Bartley, the mother of Mark Allen who sadly drowned in 2018, who spoke of her #MarkAllensLaw petition and campaign, which was the catalyst for the closer relationship between Water Safety Wales and the Welsh Government.

RoSPA, who also attended the event, has recently been awarded funding from the Welsh Government to support the delivery of the Wales Drowning Prevention Strategy 2020–2026 over the next year and hopefully beyond.

The event, which was kindly sponsored by Newport East MS, John Griffiths, also included displays of emergency service equipment and practical water safety demonstrations.

The following week, on 15 May, John Griffiths MS asked a question to Huw Irranca-Davies MS, in a Plenary session of the Senedd, about the event and the Welsh Government’s commitment to Water Safety work in Wales more generally. You can watch Mr Irranca-Davies’ answer at 1hr 34 mins of the recording here.

There will be a fuller debrief of the event at the next Water Safety Wales group meeting on 26 June.





RoSPA are looking for a Trainee Water & Leisure Consultant to join their team. If you are interested in finding out more about this opportunity, please visit the vacancies page on the RoSPA website or contact Izzy Albutt, Head of RoSPA’s Academy ( ).


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