Charity calls for councils to take action on drownings

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has found Scottish local authorities have an inconsistent “ad hoc” approach to water safety despite a high rate of drownings.

A ground-breaking study by the charity found a “mixed picture” in terms of how Scotland’s 32 local authorities address the issue.

There were 108 drownings in Scotland in 2011 – a quarter of the 407 deaths for the UK as a whole.

The report is the first time that a UK study has considered to what extent local authorities are organised and focused upon addressing the burden of drowning and water-related accidents.

Findings reveal that less than half had a specific water safety policy in place, while just over a half did not have a specific person or group taking control of the issue.

Only a quarter of authorities said they had run a water safety information campaign in the past three years, although 64 per cent said they had provided information to key groups. While nearly 69 per cent of local authorities did not include water safety advice on their websites.

RoSPA is calling on Scottish local authorities to work together to share ideas, resources and good practice in order to move away from the current “ad hoc” approach to water safety and develop a uniform policy across the country.

Carlene McAvoy, community safety development officer for RoSPA Scotland, said: “Overall, the survey found a mixed picture, with much disparity and inconsistency in approaches. Several authorities were addressing water safety, but there was little in the way of uniformity or issues being addressed strategically.

“Worryingly, more than half said they did not have a specific person or group who took control of the issue. This study highlights that there needs to be a better understanding of water safety, greater sharing of resources, as well as much more information on good practice.”

The drowning rate in Scotland among males has increased by between two and three times in relation to England, recent research funded with a RoSPA/BNFL Scholarship has found. Scottish and Welsh teenagers and young men aged 15-30 were identified as high risk groups.

The findings of the Scotland report will be presented at the RoSPA National Water Safety Seminar in October.