National Water Safety Forum



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NWSF Coastal Group update

Covid-19, challenges and coastal impact

The National Water Safety Forum's Coastal Group reunited after longer than usual due to the challenges and conflicting priorities that came with the global pandemic.


Looking back

The group held a virtual get together which kicked off with each organisation reflecting on the impact of Covid-19. Discussions were held on how each member could continue to support one another and work towards the joint aim of reducing drownings by 50% by 2026 amidst these unique challenges. The virtual room also exchanged lessons learnt for the future.

Observations, new trends and activities

With many people flooding to the beaches for ‘staycations’ or to exercise, unsurprisingly it was the busiest summer on record for Her Majesty’s Coastguard, the RNLI and other local authorities and emergency services, in terms of emergency search and rescue incidents at the coast.

Some coastal visitors  were not familiar with potential hazards, but even the most frequent visitors were caught out by coastal dangers. From boating to kayaking, experienced and inexperienced participants alike, many people have also been going out on the water for all types of recreational water activities, with paddle boarding rising in popularity more than ever before.

Collectively these circumstances presented unique challenges for RNLI lifeguards, lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams, and many others, but also had implications for all members in the group. From local authorities responsible for managing crowds on the beach; boating organisations wanting to ensure safe sailing in line with government guidance for both new and experienced members and public users; to managing safety messaging and government guidance for all stakeholders across all nations. Other critical considerations and shared challenges included the human impact on staffing and resources for all members, and the need to ensure safe working practices.



But there were highlights and positives to take from the challenging circumstances. We saw partnership collaborations such as the National Water Safety forum advice for maintaining the safety of the public and staff during CoVID 19 and a  joint RNLI and HMCG multi-media beach safety campaign in relation to the influx of people to the coast, with the main aim of keeping the public safe and aware of potential coastal dangers. Other collaboration also emerged such as between the RNLI and RYA.


Looking ahead

It’s predicted that it will be a busier winter than usual, with more people visiting the coast for walks while other indoor activities are not possible. Also, with more UK holidays likely again in the summer, beaches and popular beauty spots will be much more crowded than in the past. Against this context, the group will continue to work closely together to support and collaborate with each other to develop safety campaigns and other initiatives to promote safe behaviour at the coast during these unprecedented times.


Other updates

The group also had updates on the SLSGB/HM Coastguard Agreement, RNLI/HMCG Operational agreement, RNLI Water Safety Strategy, National Water Safety Forum progress update, WAID new process and discovery phase and the latest progress on the review of legal responsibilities for beach safety.

The group will meet virtually again in February to work closer than ever to guide safe behavior for everyone visiting the coast.




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November newsletter from the National Water Safety Forum

Message from the Chairman

As we approach winter, severe gales have lashed our coasts and torrential rain has swelled rivers and lakes. This serves as a stark reminder of the unrelenting power of the weather and the risks it can present.

In our wake are the tragedies of hot summer days in, on, or around the water. So, the Forum's agenda is more important than ever. Thank you to all organisations and their Forum representatives for their individual and collective efforts to reduce drowning.

I would like to draw your attention to the Review of the Legal Responsibilities for Beach Safety which  was published earlier this month. I have been asked by the UK Government to lead a consultation on the report - I will be in touch with NSWF members about this in due course.

We remain focused too, on our ambition to replace WAID. Quite a challenge, but a high value reward at the end of it.

There is positive progress overall, and the Forum is in good shape to make a difference even during these challenging times, but we can always do better. Even more work to improve communications and to reduce water-related suicide is planned.

Let's keep our goals in sight and not sway from the task ahead.

Thank you for reading this newsletter. Ideas for its content and improvement are welcome.

George Rawlinson MBE
National Water Safety Forum

Legal Responsibilities for Beach Safety Review

The independent Review of the Legal Responsibilities for Beach Safety has now been published. The review, which was carried out by DWF on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, considers the legal framework and responsibility for water safety at the UK coast.

Issues such as the definition of a beach, current legal duties and emergency search and rescue response are all considered within the report. In addition, a number of recommendations are offered to help improve water safety:

Short term
1.       Update and consolidate guidance for managing beach safety. This task has been completed and the guidance can be found online here
2.       Engage in stakeholder management of this topic to drive solutions

Medium term
1.       Create a new legal duty to ensure beach safety
2.       Update the duties of the HM Coastguard to make them fit for the next 100 years

Long term
1.       Clarify that HSG 179 does not apply to the sea
2.       Consider if and how the Civil Contingencies regime could apply
3.       Consider changing the approach to beach lifeguarding and its long-term sustainability.

Robert Courts, Minister for Aviation, Maritime & Security, has asked the NWSF chairman to run a consultation with members in order to gather the views on the possible merits or drawbacks of a new legal duty. The consultation on this will take place until January 2021 and as such, all members of the NWSF will be invited to participate in an online survey to provide their views.

Surf Life Saving GB and Coastguard announce partnership


This new partnership will see specially trained SLSGB club volunteers responding to incidents at the coast that require assistance under the direction and at the request of HM Coastguard.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and this past summer, which has seen high numbers of visitors to the UK coastline, SLSGB and HM Coastguard have worked closely together to provide additional safety support to the public with voluntary beach and inshore coastal patrols.

Forum Focus: Local Ambassadors

Ross MacLeod, public affairs manager for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), reflects on a successful life-saving outreach programme:

'This summer the RNLI faced unprecedented challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With restrictions being eased the RNLI found itself in a position where our volunteer crews and lifeguards were needed more than ever.

Many coastal businesses are in areas where they encounter water users on a regular basis. The RNLI aimed to equip these businesses with the information and resources to enable them to deliver water safety messages and to know what to do if they saw someone in trouble.

We launched at the beginning of August with a short promotional social media film, which contributed to a significant number of signups.

To date, we have had 157 businesses sign up to be part of the scheme and there are plans in place to increase this further. Individuals can also sign up via the RNLI website, upon doing so they are provided with the information needed to have an informal conversation with members of the public, information about what to do if they saw someone if trouble, a simple poster with water safety messaging and a social media post for them to share via their platforms.'

NWSF chairman honoured for contributions to water safety

George Rawlinson, former RNLI Operations and Safety Director and current volunteer chairman of the  National Water Safety Forum, has committed to more than 29 years of lifesaving with the RNLI along with UK and Ireland Search and Rescue. He has been awarded with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services.

George’s inspirational leadership was the driving force behind the UK’s first National Drowning Prevention Strategy in 2016 which was subsequently adopted by the Government. The strategy served as the foundation of many city, inland and coastal water safety forums. Since then, the UK’s drowning rate has steadily reduced.

A number of RLNI volunteers were also recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours.


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