National Water Safety Forum


Latest News

There are 29 items on 6 pages.


Accidental drowning deaths continue to fall across the UK: 2019 WAID report

The number of accidental drowning deaths in the UK is continuing to fall, new data from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) show.

Latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, reveal that there were 223 deaths in UK waters from accidents or natural causes in 2019, a decrease of 40 from the previous year.

This represents a continuing downward trend in the number of accidental deaths in the country’s waters, and a 25 per cent decrease since 2016, when the NWSF launched its UK Drowning Prevention Strategy.

The 10-year strategy aims to reduce the number of accidental drowning deaths by 50 per cent.

George Rawlinson, chairman of the forum, said: “We are pleased to see the number of accidental drowning deaths fall for another year. This is in part no doubt to the tremendous work of all of our partners in the forum as we work towards our target of a 50 per cent reduction in the 10 years from 2016.

“But one drowning is one too many and we always urge the public to look after their own safety, knowing that tragically, by the time the emergency services respond to an incident, the fatality may have already occurred.”

Just over one third (78) of all accidental drowning deaths happened at the coast/shore/beach, so families are being warned to take particular care if they are planning to head to the beach during the summer months – the most deaths happened in June, July and August.

George Rawlinson added: “This is no time for complacency, so as lockdown restrictions ease, we are reminding people that lifeguards can’t be everywhere this year, so think twice about entering the water as cold water and other hazards still present a significant risk.”

Despite the warm weather, the water will still be cold enough to cause cold water shock, which can incapacitate even the most capable swimmers who are not accustomed and acclimatised to open water conditions. Safety should always be the main consideration.

If you do get into difficulty in the water, remember to fight your instincts and float first. If you see someone in trouble in the water, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard, or the fire service if you are inland.

Drowning Prevention Week, a campaign from the Royal Life Saving Society UK, runs from June 12-19, and this year focuses on giving individuals and families the skills and knowledge they need to enjoy the water, safely. More information can be found at

WAID compiles statistics from across the UK from a number of sources including inquests, and breaks these down into deaths by activity, age, location type and geography, to give those working in drowning prevention and water safety a clearer idea of where to target interventions.

A full copy of the UK Annual Fatal Incident Report for 2019 can be found at


Read More >


Launch of RNLI and MCA Beach Safety campaign

Dear Member

Like us, you'll no doubt be concerned about the level of activity that we might see around our coastline this summer as the Government eases its lockdown restrictions.

Coupled with a lack of lifeguard provision, we fear that we may experience a rise in the number of incidents and drownings.

In response to this, the RNLI and MCA are launching a Beach Safety campaign ahead of this May Bank Holiday weekend.

Through the campaign, they will be issuing advice on family supervision, inflatables, and the need to dial 999 for the coastguard in an emergency.

Please keep an eye on the RNLI's social media channels in the run up to this weekend, including its Facebook page, and help to share these important messages with your own audiences.

George Rawlinson



Read More >


April newsletter from the National Water Safety Forum


When I became Chair of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) I set an ambition for us to 'move up a level'. Using the collective influence and collaborative power of all partners and members, we have raised NWSF's profile and made an even bigger societal impact through water safety campaigns.

The results speak for themselves: every year since 2016 we have seen deaths from accidental drowning fall. This was not achieved this overnight but rather through patient work in partnerships. Integral to this success has been implementing the National Drowning Prevention Strategy.

Finally, in the light of the present situation with the outbreak of COVID-19, I would urge all partners of the NWSF to continue to spread the message about the risk of swimming and taking precautions if undertaking exercise near water. We all have our part to play in supporting the NHS at this moment of extraordinary strain on its resources. Reducing the number of accidental drownings, serious incidents, and 'near-misses' can help with this. Please support RoSPA's recently launched campaign, 'Accident Free, Avoid A&E' and point people towards their resources which will help people stay safe at home.

Going forward, three things are clear: firstly the need to speak with one voice, secondly to keep ourselves motivated by celebrating the achievements of the NWSF and thirdly to expand our reach. I hope that this newsletter can help with that.

George Rawlinson, Chair, National Water Safety Forum


Water safety during lockdown

On March 20, gyms, pools and other enclosed social spaces were ordered to close by the UK government to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  On Monday March 23, the government went further with its measures to enforce 'social distancing' and banned all gatherings of more than two people.

As a result, the RoSPA's Water Safety Conference Scotland which was due to take place in March, has been postponed to September 16. You can keep up to date with the latest NWSF events by checking our calendar.

Also, The Royal Life Saving Society UK, have made free a number of resources to help keep the kids entertained whilst social distancing restrictions are in place.


New WAID System

Progress is being made towards improving the WAter Incident Database (WAID) reporting system. Consultants have been appointed to assist with the project and a meeting of the major data contributors was held in Southampton recently.  

We need your help. Please spend a few minutes to provide feedback on the WAID system before Friday April 4.

2019 Annual Incident Report

The production of the dataset and report is progressing to schedule.  At this moment in time, we are deliberating when would be best to release the report. Please email David Walker ( if you would like to express your views on this matter.


LGA fire conference

Dawn Whittaker, Chief Fire Officer East Sussex Fire and Rescue service and David Walker represented the NWSF at the Local Government Association Fire Conference in March. Dawn gave a presentation about the work of the Forum and provided examples from case studies in Durham, Cornwall and East Sussex.

Events and campaigns

#WaterSafetyWednesdays, starts today at 10.15am a brand-new streaming series from RNLI for children of all ages.

The National Fire Chief Council's #BeWaterAware campaign will commence on April 20. Any support you can give would be most appreciated.

#AccidentFreeAvoidAandE is a campaign from RoSPA, starting this week to Help the NHS, and families to stay safe.

Don't forget to take a look at our regularly updated events calendar.



Read More >


RoSPA National Water Safety Conference 2019

Camber Sands, Thames and Manchester all to be discussed.

The conference in London on Monday, November 18, will hear from Dominic Watkins, a partner at DWF Law LLP, who led an independent review of the legal framework around who bears responsibility for ensuring water safety on our coastlines.

This presentation will be preceded by a welcome address from George Rawlinson, the independent chairman of the National Water Safety Forum.

Attendees at the conference will also hear about the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum’s strategy, which was launched earlier this year by HRH Prince William, and its #SaferThames campaign, and about the work currently taking place in Manchester following a number of incidents in the city centre – including challenging the myths around “The Pusher”.

Other speakers include: Brian Johnson, CEO of the MCA will present on the changes he has made to the structure of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency,  in support of drowning prevention and the recent publication of the ‘Managing Beach Safety' guide; Justin Scar, CEO of Royal Lifesaving Society Australia, giving the Australian and WHO strategy perspectives; and Dr Peter Aitken, director of research and development at the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, about what steps communities and organisations can take to prevent water-related suicide.

The conference takes place on Monday, November 18 at Glaziers Hall, London Bridge, and starts at 9.15am. To reserve your place, see

Read More >


From SafeTrx to beach surveillance: lifesaving collaboration

On Wednesday 16th October, the Coastal Advisory Group met in London to share potentially lifesaving initiatives and action. Members presented on their current activities related to coastal safety and identified ways to offer mutual support in such endeavours: ultimately to help save lives.

Attendees in the room included representatives from: RoSPA, Porthcawl Surf School, National Trust, RYA, RNLI, MCA, NCI, Swim England, Local Government Association, DWF Law LLP and the Harbour Master from Tees and Hartlepool, and Associated British Ports Southampton.

 Just some of the highlights include:

  • Beach webcam saving lives in Porthcawl
  • RYA SafeTrx – functionality and spreading the word
  • Supporting the Swim Safe educational programme
  • The MCA on beach safety and legal responsibility – continued
  • The RNLI’s coastal risk management app – continued
  • The MCA on suicide prevention strategy and updates from WAID

Coastal camera system in Porthcawl

Hugh Murray from Porthcawl Surf School talked about the success of a coastal camera system fitted at Rest Bay beach. The cameras have been installed as an operational asset to fill the gap outside of the Lifeguard season/hours, and can capture angles not visible from the shore, for example, where rocks or cliff corners obstruct the view of the water. The system is monitored in day light hours and when incidents are called in, the NCI and HM Coastguard have access so they can monitor the incident in real time, launch rescue units where needed or indeed stand down in cases of self-rescue. Lives have been saved and call outs reduced, which poses the question as to whether this pilot is something that could be used more widely along the coast in the future.

RYA SafeTrx

Andrew Norton from the RYA shared the latest functionality and plans for SafeTrx, looking at Coastguard incident data showing how often the alert function has been used, recent promotional campaigns at Southampton Boat Show and how the group can help spread the word to all recreational water users about the free app. Through respective organisations/channels, the group will continue to encourage recreational water users to get the app and a space has been reserved at the National Water Conference to showcase the app to the attendees via the VR SafeTrx experience.

Self-rescue skills with Swim Safe

Ashley Jones from Swim England and the RNLI presented on the educational programme for 7-14 years. The free 45 mins sessions teach invaluable skills and key messaging to get children safe for swimming in open water. The sessions take place every summer at inland and coastal sites throughout the UK, and the group have agreed to work together to expand potential sites so more sessions can be held, and make the difference to more young lives.

The next stop for the forum is the Water Safety Conference in November where over 100 organisations/representatives will be joined by our Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP.


Written by Rachael Phelps: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Read More >
There are 29 items on 6 pages.

Newsletter sign up

Fill in your details below to sign up to our Water Safety newsletter:

Twitter feed