National Water Safety Forum


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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