Despite safety and educational campaigns, drowning remains the third leading cause of accidental death among Canadians under 60 years of age. Boating activities represent more than 30 percent of all drowning deaths. In fact, more than 60 percent of all drowning deaths in Canada occur during recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, or boating.
Most of these deaths were preventable.
General water safety tips
Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe while enjoying some summer fun in the water.
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
- Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
- Read and obey all rules and posted signs.
- Children or inexperienced swimmers should take precautions, such as wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) when around the water.
- Watch out for the dangerous "too's" - too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).
- Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth charges, obstructions, and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices.
- Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
- Use a feet first entry when entering the water.
- Enter headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
- Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
- Know how to prevent, recognize, and respond to emergencies.
Keeping children safe around water
Maintain constant supervision. Watch children around any water (pool, stream, lake, tub, toilet, bucket of water), no matter what skills your child has acquired and no matter how shallow the water. For younger children, practice "reach supervision" by staying within an arm's length.
- Don't rely on substitutes. The use of flotation devices and inflatable toys cannot replace parental supervision. Such devices could suddenly shift position, lose air, or slip out from underneath, leaving the child in a dangerous situation.
- Enrol children in a water safety course or learn-to-swim classes. Your decision to provide your child with an early aquatic experience is a gift that will have infinite rewards.
- Take a CPR course. Knowing these skills can be important around the water and you will expand your capabilities in providing care for your child. You can contact your local Red Cross to enrol in a CPR course.
- Learn to swim.
- Have an Operator Competency Card. To operate any vessel fitted with a motor and under four metres in length (including personal watercraft) you are required to have proof of competency. The Canadian Coast Guard strongly recommends that all operators take an accredited boating safety course to get their cards. For a list of accredited course providers and more information, visithttp://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-menu-1362.htm or call 1.800.267.6687.
- Wear your flotation device. Every year more than 600 Canadian lives are lost due to drowning. According to the Canadian Red Cross, 70 percent of boaters who drowned were not wearing a PFD or lifejacket. If they had, many of these fatalities could have been avoided.
- Do not drink and drive. At least 40 percent of all power-boating fatality victims had a blood alcohol level above the legal driving limit. Mixing alcohol and boating is far more dangerous than most people realize. Fatigue, sun, wind and the motion of the boat dull the senses and alcohol intensifies these effects. Operating a vessel while impaired is illegal and an offence under the Criminal Code. Convictions, even for a first offence, can result in heavy punishment.
- Be considerate. Operating a vessel in a careless and inconsiderate manner is against the law and can result in fines. If you jump waves or come unreasonably close to other vessels, disturb the peace, speed near swimmers, play chicken or weave through congested traffic at high speed, you risk ending up in front of a judge.
- Beware of carbon monoxide. An alarming number of boating fatalities are caused by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Such deaths can occur when swimming or diving around pontoons or platforms mounted on vessels or being in areas where engine exhaust gases may accumulate. Cooking, heating or even leaving a motor on idle can result in a dangerous build-up of CO, a toxic, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating gas that can kill within minutes. Install a CO detection system and only use fuel-burning appliances under well-ventilated conditions. Age and horsepower restrictions
It's everyone's responsibility to know the rules:
- Children under 16 can't operate a personal watercraft, either supervised or unsupervised.
- Children between 12 and 16 can't operate a pleasure craft fitted with a motor larger than 40 horsepower.
- Children under 12 can't operate a pleasure craft fitted with a motor larger than 10 horsepower.
At the lake
- Be sure rafts and docks are in good condition, with no loose boards or exposed nails. Never swim under a raft or dock. Always look before jumping off a dock or raft to be sure no one is in the way.
- Select an area that has good water quality and safe natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs, and aquatic plant life are hazards. Water pollution can cause health problems for swimmers. Strong tides, big waves, and currents can turn an event that began as fun into a tragedy.
- Make sure the water is deep enough before entering headfirst. Too many swimmers are seriously injured every year by entering headfirst into water that is too shallow. A feet first entry is much safer than diving.
- NEVER swim alone.
- Make sure everyone using the pool knows how to swim.
- Never leave a child unobserved around water. Your eyes must be on the child at all times.
- Install a phone by the pool or keep a cordless phone nearby so that you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
- Post CPR instructions and 9-1-1 or your local emergency number in the pool area.
- Enclose the pool completely with a self-locking, self-closing fence with vertical bars. Openings in the fence should be no more than four inches wide. The house should not be included as a part of the barrier. The gate should be constructed so that it is self-latching and self-closing.
- Never leave furniture near the fence that would enable a child to climb over the fence.
- Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the pool and know how to use it. Pole, rope, and personal flotation devices are recommended.
- Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.
- Pool covers should always be completely removed prior to pool use.
- If a child is missing, check the pool first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom, and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area
At the ocean
- Stay within the designated swimming area, ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard.
- Check the surf conditions before you enter the water. Check to see if a warning flag is up or check with a lifeguard for water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.
- Stay away from piers, pilings, and diving platforms when in the water.
- Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants. Leave animals alone.
- Make sure you always have enough energy to swim back to shore.
- Don't try to swim against a current if caught in one. Swim gradually out of the current, by swimming across it.
- Be sure the area is well supervised by lifeguards before you or others in your group enter the water.
- Read all posted signs. Follow the rules and directions given by lifeguards. Ask questions if you are not sure about a correct procedure.
- When you go from one attraction to another, note that the water depth may be different and that the attraction should be used in a different way.
- Before you start down a water slide, get in the correct position – face up and feet first.
- Some facilities provide life jackets at no charge. If you cannot swim, wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Check others in your group as well.
- Wear a life jacket.
- Be sure the boat and ski equipment are in good condition.
- Always turn the boat motor completely off when you approach a fallen skier.
- Watch the water ahead of you at all times.
- Have an extra person aboard to watch and assist the skier.
- Run parallel to shore and come in slowly when landing. Sit down if coming in too fast.
- Use proper hand signals to signal boat operator.
- Do not ski at night or in restricted areas.
- Know local weather conditions. Make sure the water and weather conditions are safe .Because water conducts electricity, it is wise to stop swimming, boating or any activities on the water as soon as you see or hear a storm. Also, heavy rains can make certain areas dangerous.
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