Keeping Safe in the Water

Tara Hunt, occupational health and safety coordinator with Eastern Health

Tara Hunt, occupational health and safety coordinator with Eastern Health

Did you know that every year about 400 Canadians die in unintentional water-related fatalities? As an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Coordinator with Eastern Health, and an instructor with the Canadian Red Cross, I know first-hand the importance of safety.

During the day, I’m part of an OHS team that strives to keep our employees healthy and safe. We do this through a variety of things, including identifying and creating safe work practices, procedures and safety systems, performing inspections and providing employee training and education.

Eastern Health's OHS logoBut safety is never far from my mind, even outside of work. I know that we all have a role –and a responsibility– in regards to safety.

Safety is paramount in all aspects of our lives – at work, at home or while vacationing. It also plays a big role in the prevention of drowning. Now that the summer season has arrived, water safety is particularly important since as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we’re surrounded by water, and water is a big part of our culture and a reason for enjoyment!

Child enjoying swimming pool

Child enjoying swimming pool

As a former lifeguard, I believe that many of the water incidents I often hear about could be prevented by understanding the risks associated with water. Young children are especially vulnerable. The Government of Canada says drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children ages one to four. Even the best supervisors and caregivers can become easily distracted, and it only takes three minutes face down in the water for an accident to become fatal.

Children enjoying water activities at Lady Lake, Harbour Grace, NL

Children enjoying water activities at Lady Lake, Harbour Grace, NL

Remember, water fascinates young children, it is great fun and great exercise – but anyone can drown. In fact, a Red Cross report examining 10 years of drowning trends concluded that if all adult men wore a lifejacket or personal floating device, up to 90 per cent of all boating-related drownings could be prevented!

Sue Thompson, nurse with Eastern Health enjoying water skiing

Sue Thompson, nurse with Eastern Health enjoying water skiing

So, what should we do to be safe while enjoying water this summer? Here are some helpful tips from the Canadian Red Cross to keep in mind:

1. Assess water conditions
  • Never underestimate the power of currents. A boater, swimmer or wader in open water who underestimates the power of currents can be swept away instantly.
  • ALWAYS be cautious and know your surroundings before venturing into open known or unknown waters.
  • Never dive headfirst into water unless the individual is properly trained and is sure that the water is deep enough.
2. Check the weather conditions before venturing out on the water
  • The weather can change very quickly in Newfoundland and Labrador, hence the importance of planning ahead. Be aware of the forecast for the day and notify others where you are going and when you are expected to return.
3. Always swim with a buddy
  • Whether it’s a pool, hot tub, water-park, beach, or bath tub, always watch children actively around water – even if they CAN swim.
    The absence of adult supervision is a factor in most child drownings.
4. Lifejackets are like seat belts – they only work if you wear them, and wear them properly!
  • Every year, hundreds of Canadians drown while boating. Over 87 per cent were not wearing a lifejacket or a personal floating device (PFD) (or were not wearing it properly) when they drown. ■

This story was written by Tara Hunt, an occupational health and safety coordinator with Eastern Health. 

July 18-26, 2015 is National Drowning Prevention Week (NDPW)! To learn more or get involved, please visit the NDPW’s website.

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