Play safe around water this winter

Jane McKenzie of Scottish Water.
Jane McKenzie of Scottish Water.

Scottish Water is reminding members of the public of the importance of playing safe this winter after 22 people died around water last winter.

In recent years we have witnessed some of the coldest winters for generations, so there’s no telling what the coming weeks may bring.

Scottish Water is advising customers that they should remain vigilant and should not take any risks around freezing cold watercourses.

Scottish Water don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but are reminding parents to keep their children safe, and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses. Don’t wander too near the edge because you could slip and fall in. Dogs also need to be kept on a lead if they are being walked near reservoirs and other bodies of open water.

While it’s important that youngsters enjoy their school holidays and that people across Scotland take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it is also vital that they stay safe.

That’s a message which the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is keen to reiterate. 

Carlene McAvoy, RoSPA Scotland’s community safety development officer said: “Winter is a beautiful time to get out and about but it’s sadly also when we hear about people dying whilst out playing or walking on frozen water.

“Latest figures show 22 people died accidentally or from natural causes around water in Scotland last winter, but there are easy ways to prevent tragedies, and equipping yourself with the knowledge of what to do in an emergency can save a life.

“Remember to always take care around the edges of lochs and rivers as the snow can obscure them. Parents are also encouraged to talk to their children about risks involved with playing on frozen water and how they can help if their friends get into trouble. More winter safety advice is available at www.rospa.com.”

Reservoirs are man-made features and because of their purpose, they have a number of unique hidden dangers. These relate mainly to built in structures such as dams, spillways (overflows) and water intakes (underwater pipe work that takes water out of the reservoir) and the effects of these. 

Other hidden dangers found at reservoirs include deep water – which will be very cold at this time of year, underwater plant life and steep banks. Each year, there are more accidental drowning deaths in inland waters than in any other type of water.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Natural hazards can also lurk beneath the surface, where children and adults can get entangled in vegetation or stuck in mud. As the majority of reservoirs are remote, there is a lack of immediate assistance. Safety education is a priority – please play safe this winter.”

Superintendent Alan Cunningham of Police Scotland Safer Communities stressed the need for a common sense approach and for parents and carers to take time out to explain the dangers to their children. He said: “Everyone wants to see our countryside and our waterways being enjoyed at this time of year, but we need to stress the hidden dangers to everyone so that they can make sensible decisions and stay safe.

“Holiday periods are always a busy time for all the emergency services and for the volunteers who support us. With over 37,000 separate stretches of inland water in Scotland, many of which are remote, help will often be some considerable time away. The best advice is to be aware of the dangers, think about the risks and plan to minimise them.”

One of the biggest concerns with dog owners is when their pet experiences difficulties after diving in to water, chasing a ball or stick. The pet more often survives such incidents, but the owners, who have attempted to save them, may not. 

Dogs need to be kept on a lead if they are being walked near reservoirs and other bodies of open water.

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Our message is always the same, never go after your pet if it goes out onto the ice and never attempt to rescue your pet if it falls into freezing water.

“Despite the warnings we still hear of tragic incidents where people get into difficulty trying to save their pet and in many of these cases the animal gets out alive, but the owner does not.

“Anyone who finds any type of animal in distress in water this winter should call our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.”

If customers would like more information they can contact our Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 or visit “http://www.scottishwater.co.uk/takecare” www.scottishwater.co.uk/takecare.