Warning to play it safe around water this winter

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

Scottish Water is warning this week that people should remain vigilant and should not take any risks around freezing cold rivers, reservoirs and lochs.

The company are also reminding parents to keep their children safe, and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses.

People should not go too close to the edge because they 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.

They are also advising people about the hidden dangers in reservoirs across Scotland and urging them to be particularly careful if they visit one.

Reservoirs are man-made features which, because of their purpose, have unique dangers such as dams, spillways (overflows) and hidden water intakes (underwater pipe work that takes water out of the reservoir) and other hazards common to natural bodies of water, for example reeds, strong currents, steep banks and deep cold water.

Also, as the majority of Scottish Water’s reservoirs are situated in remote locations, there is a lack of immediate assistance.

For these reasons, and in the interests of public safety, Scottish Water does not encourage swimming or diving in any of its reservoirs.

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.”

Scottish Water’s safety message is being supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Elizabeth Lumsden, community safety manager for RoSPA Scotland, said: “Winter is a great time for adults and children to get out and about. Unfortunately it’s also a time when we hear about people dying while playing or walking on frozen water.

“In 2013, there were 34 registered accidental deaths in Scotland due to drowning or submersion.  At this time of year, attention has to be given to the dangers that are associated with water during the cold winter period.

“Although frozen water can look tempting, there is simply no way of knowing whether it will hold your weight.  We advise people to take care around the edges of lochs, reservoirs and rivers because snow can obscure them.

“Children are among those most at risk and we encourage parents to talk to their children about the hazards of frozen water when playing outside.  Further winter safety advice is available at www.rospa.com.”

Police Scotland is also backing Scottish Water’s safety message. Superintendent Daniel Hatfield of Police Scotland Safer Communities, said: “Everyone wants to see our countryside and enjoy our waterways at this time of year, but we need to stress the hidden dangers they hold to everyone so sensible decisions can be made and we all stay safe.

“Holiday, and especially school holiday periods, are always a busy time for all the emergency services and for the volunteers who support us. With more than 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.”

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Every year there are a number of incidents where dogs fall through ice and these can result in tragedy for both the dogs and their owners. Anyone who finds any type of animal in distress in water this winter should call our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.”