Advice to stay safe near water

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Scottish Water is reminding people to take care and play it safe near the county’s rivers, reservoirs and lochs this summer.

The water authority is warning against taking risks around watercourses of any kind and is calling on children and parents in particular to make sure they stay safe during the forthcoming summer holidays.

Latest figures show that 407 people drowned accidentally in the UK in 2011, including 47 who were under 19 years old. Almost half of the children and young people who died were aged 15 to 19 and drownings in this age group were mostly in a river or loch, according to the National Water Safety Forum.

Stephen Scott, Scottish Water’s Regional Communities Manager for the area, said: “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’s also vital that they stay safe.

“We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is backing Scottish Water’s call and Carlene McAvoy, community safety development officer, said the number of accidental drownings peak during periods of warm weather.

She said: “Avoid swimming near weirs, both upstream and downstream. Even on a hot day, the water might be a lot colder or deeper than you were expecting, there may be strong currents and underwater debris that you cannot see from the bank.

“This is why it is important to consider how you are going to get out of the water before you get in it, and be honest about your swimming ability.”

Reservoirs in particular can have hidden dangers including dams, overflows and water intakes - underwater pipe work that takes water out of the reservoir - meaning they are best avoided completely.

Mr Scott added: “Natural hazards can lurk beneath the surface, where people can get entangled in vegetation or stuck in mud. Other dangers at reservoirs include steep banks and the majority of reservoirs are remote, so there is a lack of immediate assistance.”

Ms McAvoy added that RoSPA’s advice is to swim at properly-supervised sites, such as beaches, lidos or swimming pools.

She added: “We encourage parents and carers to discuss the dangers with their children and to remind them that children should never swim alone at unsupervised locations.”

Anyone wishing more information can contact Scottish Water’s Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 or log on to www.scottishwater.co.uk/takecare.

Further information about RoSPA is available online at www.rospa.com while details about safety, or how to get involved, can be obtained from the Royal Life Saving Society’s website at www.drowningpreventionweek.org.uk.