Water safety

Open water might seem inviting, but there are many hidden dangers, meaning even the strongest swimmers can get into difficulties.

Swimming in canals, rivers and lakes can be dangerous

  • If you get into trouble, there are no lifeguards to help you
  • The water is often a lot colder than you expect – which can cause cramps and make it hard to move. Just because you can swim well in a heated swimming pool doesn't mean you'll be able to swim well in cold water
  • There may be hidden currents
  • It is difficult to estimate how deep water is before you get in. If it’s too shallow you are at risk of injuring yourself if you jump in and equally deep water may lead you to get into difficulties
  • You might not be able to get out, steep, slimy banks or sides can make getting out impossible
  • There is no way of knowing what hazards lies beneath the surface of the water; shopping trolleys, sharp metal and broken bottles are just a few things that may be lurking
  • If the water is polluted it could make you seriously ill. For example, Weil’s disease is a form of infection that can be caught through contact with contaminated fresh water

Never drink alcohol while swimming or taking part in any other water-related activity such as boating and waterskiing.

Safety advice

If you see another person or a pet in trouble in the water:

  • Do not enter the water yourself.
  • Raise the alarm or if you have a mobile phone call 999 and ask for the fire service. Try and give an exact location of where you are and look for signs or landmarks or use the What 3 Words app.
  • If there is a lifebuoy or throwline nearby throw it to them. If not throw anything to them that will float.

If you fall into water by accident follow the float to live advice as follows:

  • Fight your instinct to thrash around.
  • Lean back, extend your arms and legs.
  • If you need to, gently move them around to help you float.
  • Float until you can control your breathing.
  • Only then, call for help, swim to safety or continue floating until help arrives.

For further advice on water safety please visit the ROSPA website.