National Water Safety Forum



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April newsletter from the National Water Safety Forum


When I became Chair of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) I set an ambition for us to 'move up a level'. Using the collective influence and collaborative power of all partners and members, we have raised NWSF's profile and made an even bigger societal impact through water safety campaigns.

The results speak for themselves: every year since 2016 we have seen deaths from accidental drowning fall. This was not achieved this overnight but rather through patient work in partnerships. Integral to this success has been implementing the National Drowning Prevention Strategy.

Finally, in the light of the present situation with the outbreak of COVID-19, I would urge all partners of the NWSF to continue to spread the message about the risk of swimming and taking precautions if undertaking exercise near water. We all have our part to play in supporting the NHS at this moment of extraordinary strain on its resources. Reducing the number of accidental drownings, serious incidents, and 'near-misses' can help with this. Please support RoSPA's recently launched campaign, 'Accident Free, Avoid A&E' and point people towards their resources which will help people stay safe at home.

Going forward, three things are clear: firstly the need to speak with one voice, secondly to keep ourselves motivated by celebrating the achievements of the NWSF and thirdly to expand our reach. I hope that this newsletter can help with that.

George Rawlinson, Chair, National Water Safety Forum


Water safety during lockdown

On March 20, gyms, pools and other enclosed social spaces were ordered to close by the UK government to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  On Monday March 23, the government went further with its measures to enforce 'social distancing' and banned all gatherings of more than two people.

As a result, the RoSPA's Water Safety Conference Scotland which was due to take place in March, has been postponed to September 16. You can keep up to date with the latest NWSF events by checking our calendar.

Also, The Royal Life Saving Society UK, have made free a number of resources to help keep the kids entertained whilst social distancing restrictions are in place.


New WAID System

Progress is being made towards improving the WAter Incident Database (WAID) reporting system. Consultants have been appointed to assist with the project and a meeting of the major data contributors was held in Southampton recently.  

We need your help. Please spend a few minutes to provide feedback on the WAID system before Friday April 4.

2019 Annual Incident Report

The production of the dataset and report is progressing to schedule.  At this moment in time, we are deliberating when would be best to release the report. Please email David Walker ( if you would like to express your views on this matter.


LGA fire conference

Dawn Whittaker, Chief Fire Officer East Sussex Fire and Rescue service and David Walker represented the NWSF at the Local Government Association Fire Conference in March. Dawn gave a presentation about the work of the Forum and provided examples from case studies in Durham, Cornwall and East Sussex.

Events and campaigns

#WaterSafetyWednesdays, starts today at 10.15am a brand-new streaming series from RNLI for children of all ages.

The National Fire Chief Council's #BeWaterAware campaign will commence on April 20. Any support you can give would be most appreciated.

#AccidentFreeAvoidAandE is a campaign from RoSPA, starting this week to Help the NHS, and families to stay safe.

Don't forget to take a look at our regularly updated events calendar.



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RoSPA National Water Safety Conference 2019

Camber Sands, Thames and Manchester all to be discussed.

The conference in London on Monday, November 18, will hear from Dominic Watkins, a partner at DWF Law LLP, who led an independent review of the legal framework around who bears responsibility for ensuring water safety on our coastlines.

This presentation will be preceded by a welcome address from George Rawlinson, the independent chairman of the National Water Safety Forum.

Attendees at the conference will also hear about the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum’s strategy, which was launched earlier this year by HRH Prince William, and its #SaferThames campaign, and about the work currently taking place in Manchester following a number of incidents in the city centre – including challenging the myths around “The Pusher”.

Other speakers include: Brian Johnson, CEO of the MCA will present on the changes he has made to the structure of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency,  in support of drowning prevention and the recent publication of the ‘Managing Beach Safety' guide; Justin Scar, CEO of Royal Lifesaving Society Australia, giving the Australian and WHO strategy perspectives; and Dr Peter Aitken, director of research and development at the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, about what steps communities and organisations can take to prevent water-related suicide.

The conference takes place on Monday, November 18 at Glaziers Hall, London Bridge, and starts at 9.15am. To reserve your place, see

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From SafeTrx to beach surveillance: lifesaving collaboration

On Wednesday 16th October, the Coastal Advisory Group met in London to share potentially lifesaving initiatives and action. Members presented on their current activities related to coastal safety and identified ways to offer mutual support in such endeavours: ultimately to help save lives.

Attendees in the room included representatives from: RoSPA, Porthcawl Surf School, National Trust, RYA, RNLI, MCA, NCI, Swim England, Local Government Association, DWF Law LLP and the Harbour Master from Tees and Hartlepool, and Associated British Ports Southampton.

 Just some of the highlights include:

  • Beach webcam saving lives in Porthcawl
  • RYA SafeTrx – functionality and spreading the word
  • Supporting the Swim Safe educational programme
  • The MCA on beach safety and legal responsibility – continued
  • The RNLI’s coastal risk management app – continued
  • The MCA on suicide prevention strategy and updates from WAID

Coastal camera system in Porthcawl

Hugh Murray from Porthcawl Surf School talked about the success of a coastal camera system fitted at Rest Bay beach. The cameras have been installed as an operational asset to fill the gap outside of the Lifeguard season/hours, and can capture angles not visible from the shore, for example, where rocks or cliff corners obstruct the view of the water. The system is monitored in day light hours and when incidents are called in, the NCI and HM Coastguard have access so they can monitor the incident in real time, launch rescue units where needed or indeed stand down in cases of self-rescue. Lives have been saved and call outs reduced, which poses the question as to whether this pilot is something that could be used more widely along the coast in the future.

RYA SafeTrx

Andrew Norton from the RYA shared the latest functionality and plans for SafeTrx, looking at Coastguard incident data showing how often the alert function has been used, recent promotional campaigns at Southampton Boat Show and how the group can help spread the word to all recreational water users about the free app. Through respective organisations/channels, the group will continue to encourage recreational water users to get the app and a space has been reserved at the National Water Conference to showcase the app to the attendees via the VR SafeTrx experience.

Self-rescue skills with Swim Safe

Ashley Jones from Swim England and the RNLI presented on the educational programme for 7-14 years. The free 45 mins sessions teach invaluable skills and key messaging to get children safe for swimming in open water. The sessions take place every summer at inland and coastal sites throughout the UK, and the group have agreed to work together to expand potential sites so more sessions can be held, and make the difference to more young lives.

The next stop for the forum is the Water Safety Conference in November where over 100 organisations/representatives will be joined by our Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP.


Written by Rachael Phelps: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

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2018 UK Water Related Fatalities Published

‘Cautious optimism’ as the trend towards a reduction of deaths in water continues.

The most recent figures from the National Water Safety Forum Water Incident Database (WAID) show that in 2018, 263 people lost their lives in accidental drownings in the UK.

Despite a small increase in the number of drownings since 2017 the overall trends suggest reason for ‘cautious optimism’.

Deaths from accidental drowning have fallen in the three years since the National Drowning Prevention Strategy was launched. However the figure show a rise in the number of suicides in water.

In 2018, as in previous years, men are disproportionately represented in the statistics, with 230 males dying in fatal drowning incidents in the UK.

River and beaches continue to be the most common locations for fatal drowning incidents. Last year, 74 people drowned in rivers and 73 on or near beaches.

Chairman of National Water Safety Forum, George Rawlinson,said:

“We are past the three year mark of the National Drowning Prevention Strategy and it is clear that members of the National Water Safety Forum and many other organisations  are making good progress throughout the country to keep people informed of the risks, and working together to prevent drowning.

“The overall reduction over the three years is a good indicator that our efforts are paying off and fewer people and families are affected by drowning, but there remains much to be done in order to meet the collective ambition of a future without drowning.”

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 prevention a clearer idea of where to target interventions.

A full copy of the UK Annual Fatal Incident Report for 2018 can be viewed at:

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Government consultation: establishing an independent public advocate post a major disaster

The Ministry of Justice is consulting on proposals to establish an independent public advocate who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster.

This consultation is aimed at people who have been bereaved or otherwise affected by a public disaster; the organisations that support them; organisations and services involved in investigating disasters; and anyone else affected by or with an interest in the issues in this consultation.

The consultation closes on 3 Dec 2018.

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