National Water Safety Forum



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NWSF Newsletter - June 2024


Message from the Chair

Warmer weather towards the end of May brought the inevitable increase in people flocking to the coast and inland waterways... and sadly the loss of lives.

The loss of two teenage boys from Newcastle, who simply went out for some fun in the River Tyne, is a stark reminder of why we all need to continue to try to educate people about water safety risks and the importance of being well prepared to enjoy water safely. Our thoughts are with the families and community who have been impacted.

May also saw a lot of activity for the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), as we prepared for the release of the annual WAID report, which outlines analysis of the fatalities in water during 2023. This report has become an important source of information for all agencies and forums working to improve water safety. The link to the report is below and I’d like to thank all those involved who have helped to produce and promote it.

The NWSF is also involved in supporting the work of the World Health Organization in undertaking its upcoming review of drowning. The final report, due later in 2024, will no doubt draw some important conclusions and recommendations for all nations and point to good practice around the world.

The NWSF and its members are also busy making plans for the refresh of its advisory groups and strategy. A lot has changed since the initial UK Drowning Prevention Strategy was published in 2016, with the strengthening of Water Safety Scotland and Water Safety Wales, and the early development of a new forum of partners in Ireland, so it's important to ensure our national UK forum remains fit for purpose. 

As the summer arrives and we start to plan for the holiday season, it will be important to continue to share the core messages of our #RespectTheWater campaign.

Finally, as my time as Chair of the NWSF will be ending later this year and we’ll be seeking someone to take over this role, this is my penultimate newsletter. So, with that in mind, may I wish all members a positive summer season and thank you in advance for what I know is always the most demanding period for all those involved in water safety and response.

Dawn Whittaker

Chair, NWSF


Research and publications

WAID data release


The public have been urged to “learn what to do in an emergency”, as the latest statistics from WAID show 236 accidental drownings in 2023.

Key statistics

  • Of the 236 drownings, 157 were in England; 47 in Scotland; 28 in Wales; and 4 in Northern Ireland.
  • Males continue to over represent, with 83% of accidental fatalities.
  • Everyday activities, such as walking and running, accounted for 48% of accidental fatalities.
  • 83% of accidental fatalities were male.
  • Males aged 60-69 were the highest group for accidental fatalities.
  • 63% of accidental fatalities happened at inland waters.
  • Recreational activities accounted for 44% of accidental fatalities.

A full trend report for the UK and by individual nation can be accessed here.

The interactive dashboard can be accessed here.



Float to Live

The RNLI launched its 2024 Float to Live campaign in the last week of May. The campaign is underpinned by joint research with the University of Portsmouth, which highlights that everyone floats differently depending on factors including experience, practice, and the type of open water environment, e.g. freshwater vs salt water, moving water vs still water. The campaign has been independently tested using focus groups to ensure the message is understood clearly by people from different genders, background, ages and communities, so it should be useful to everyone, both inland and around the coast.

The RNLI is asking for your help to spread this message far and wide, so please share the campaign, both personally with friends and family, but also professionally via appropriate channels and networks. Various free resources are available to download from the RNLI website if you’d like to support the campaign. This includes a compelling Float to Live video, inspiring stories about how the campaign has helped save lives, an easily shareable 30-second social media video, comprehensive instructions on how to float effectively, static social artwork, and much more. 

To support the campaign, follow the links below:

Float to Live campaign

Survivor Float to Live stories

Float Toolkit


Drowning Prevention Week

Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Drowning Prevention Week (DPW) is one of the biggest water safety campaigns of the year, targeting families, carers, teachers and instructors of children aged five to fifteen years old with the aim of educating them about how to enjoy water safely. The campaign begins in just a couple of days (15–22 June) so please get involved!

This year, RLSS UK has updated lots of fantastic, free DPW resources using well-loved characters from its previous campaigns. These are available to download now, so please do make use of them during the campaign week. We particularly love the new colouring and activity sheets!

No child should drown, and with the right water safety education – such as knowledge of the Water Safety Code – accidental drownings are preventable. Please help RLSS UK by sharing its life-saving messaging far and wide this DPW. Together, we can reach even more families and ensure that everyone understands how to enjoy water safely, ahead of the summer holidays.


World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD)

WDPD is held annually on 25 July. This global advocacy event serves as an opportunity to highlight the devastating and profound impact of drowning on families and communities, and offers life-saving solutions to prevent such tragedies.

The WHO is asking countries and partners to respond to the call to action for global drowning prevention: 


Do one thing

If you’re not yet involved in drowning prevention, just do one thing to support.


Improve one thing

If you’ve already started to work in your area on drowning prevention, then improve one thing


Add one thing

If you’re deeply engaged with drowning prevention, add one thing – there’s always more that can be done


The WHO has provided suggestions on how individuals, communities and countries can support the campaign:

  • visit the official WHO webpage
  • access the WHO WDPD resource materials and campaign page here
  • watch the recording of the WHO-led WDPD 2023 information webinar, which took place on 22 May 2023 (Passcode: HwKq3a*j).

NWSF - Led WDPD 2024 Webinar

The NWSF hosted a webinar on 06 June covering the UK’s plans to support WDPD 2024. If you missed it, watch the recording here.

The slides of the webinar can be found here.


Call to action

As the NWSF works with a broad range of organisations and partners, we want to share the powerful work that so many organisations are doing across the board to reduce drowning fatalities.

  1. Decide how you are going to support WDPD through the ‘Do one thing, Improve one thing, Add one thing’ call from WHO – watch the recording and read the slides for ideas.
  2. After WDPD, share your stories with us! We want to show the positive impact our partners have across the UK. If you have an example of how drowning prevention education has made a difference to an individual or community, please email us at

Thank you for your continued support in raising awareness of water safety and drowning prevention.



Water Safety Signage

Following the Water Safety Signage Research Report released earlier this year, Water Safety Scotland has released a full guidance document on the creation of water safety signage for use in Scotland.

The guidance has one key objective: to provide a step-by-step guide for landowners and managers to create consistent and easy-to-understand water safety signage. It complements previous guidance on Unique Location Codes.

The guidance will now be implemented across three or four areas of Scotland within the next nine months. The full guidance document is available online here.


Product Recalls

There were a substantial number of PPE products recalled from various outlets listed on 05/04/2024. Please see details below.

Product Recall: Camouflage Adult Buoyancy Vest sold via AliExpress (2403-0044)

Product Recall: WENTSEN Adult Buoyancy Vest sold via AliExpress (2403-0045)

Product Recall: Unisex Neoprene Super Light Buoyancy Vest sold via Wish (2310-0057)

Product Recall: Professional Polyester Adult Kid Life Jacket Orange Universal sold via AliExpress (2402-0073)


Other news

Water Safety Wales held a very successful event, A Wales Without Drowning: Our Joint Vision, at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay on 08 May.

The event celebrated the strengthened link between Water Safety Wales and the Welsh Government, and looked at how we can work together to strive for our vision of a Wales without drowning.

Keynote speaker was Huw Irranca-Davies MS, Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, who pledged his commitment to supporting drowning prevention in Wales.

Other speakers were Chris Cousens, Water Safety Wales Chair; Fergus Feeney, Chief Executive of Swim Wales, who spoke about the need to increase school swimming and water safety education in schools in Wales; and Leeanne Bartley, the mother of Mark Allen who sadly drowned in 2018, who spoke of her #MarkAllensLaw petition and campaign, which was the catalyst for the closer relationship between Water Safety Wales and the Welsh Government.

RoSPA, who also attended the event, has recently been awarded funding from the Welsh Government to support the delivery of the Wales Drowning Prevention Strategy 2020–2026 over the next year and hopefully beyond.

The event, which was kindly sponsored by Newport East MS, John Griffiths, also included displays of emergency service equipment and practical water safety demonstrations.

The following week, on 15 May, John Griffiths MS asked a question to Huw Irranca-Davies MS, in a Plenary session of the Senedd, about the event and the Welsh Government’s commitment to Water Safety work in Wales more generally. You can watch Mr Irranca-Davies’ answer at 1hr 34 mins of the recording here.

There will be a fuller debrief of the event at the next Water Safety Wales group meeting on 26 June.





RoSPA are looking for a Trainee Water & Leisure Consultant to join their team. If you are interested in finding out more about this opportunity, please visit the vacancies page on the RoSPA website or contact Izzy Albutt, Head of RoSPA’s Academy ( ).


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Press Release


As weather warms up, public urged to Respect the Water

June saw the most accidental water related fatalities last year alongside October, with 28 lives tragically lost during both months. This unusual pattern is causing experts concern as drownings usually peak in July & August, so people are being urged to Respect the Water this June to prevent last year’s rise becoming a longer-term trend.

As summer weather arrives across the UK, more people will be spending time enjoying the water, and although air temperatures are rising, water temperatures remain dangerously cold, with many people unaware of associated risks like Cold Water Shock. The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is reminding people to take responsibility for their own safety near water by learning about risks and knowing how to help themselves and other people in the event of a water-related emergency.

Sadly 236 people accidentally died in water related fatalities in 2023, in line with the five-year average of 243, but ten more than 2022. The are also 211 further cases where the cause is still unknown, so the number of accidental fatalities is likely to increase as additional information becomes available from coroners.

The 2023 Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the NWSF, show us that:

Inland waterways, continue to be the leading locations for accidental drowning, accounting for 63% of deaths in locations including rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs, and quarries.

Males continue to over represent with 83% of accidental fatalities.

Of the 236 accidental fatalities in the UK in 2023; 28 occurred in June, with 20 in July and 21 in August

Everyday activities like walking and running accounted for 48% of accidental fatalities.

Many of those who lost their lives were not intending to enter the water, 88 of the fatalities (37%) were walking or running before the accident.

Of those 236, 157 were in England; 47 in Scotland; 28 in Wales; 4 in Northern Ireland


#RespecttheWater is the partnership campaign run by the NWSF and provides simple life saving advice, to help people take personal responsibility for their own safety near water, with a focus this year on knowing how to help other people in trouble.

If you see someone else in trouble in the water this summer, remember Call, Tell, Throw:


Call 999 to get help

Tell the struggling person to float on their back.

Throw them something that floats, such as a life ring, inflatable toy, or bottle


The Forum will be promoting the #RespectTheWater campaign throughout the summer including on World Drowning Prevention Day on 25th July.

Dawn Whittaker, NWSF Chair and National Fire Chiefs Council Lead for Drowning Prevention and Water Safety said:

These new figures give us a poignant reminder about the importance of raising awareness of water safety and drowning prevention. We will continue to urge the public to understand the dangers and to learn the importance of knowing what to do in an emergency: if you see someone in trouble in the water, the best way you can help is by staying calm, staying on land, and following the 3-step rescue guide – Call, Tell, Throw.

It’s hard to predict what this summer will bring, but with the increased likelihood of extreme weather events like heatwaves and flooding, we will be promoting the #RespectTheWater campaign to help people stay safe while enjoying their time in and by the water.”

“Over the last few years, the number of people participating in water sports and water-based activities has risen as has the number of incidents associated with activities such as stand-up paddleboarding and open water swimming. We want people to enjoy the water safely, so we will continue to focus on guidance, education, and awareness for the public.

“We will continue to work together to reduce deaths caused by drowning and water related injuries in the UK. The global water safety community is onboard with a UN resolution recognising the scale and burden of drowning, calling for urgent international action.”

To view and download the WAID 2023 report visit here.

For more information about the #RespectTheWater campaign visit


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NWSF Newsletter - March 2024

Message from the Chair

As we approach the start of spring 2024, our member organisations are all busy focusing on plans for campaigns, events and progressing education opportunities for water safety.

This is a very full newsletter with lots of information, and I’d like to thank all contributors for sharing their updates.

I was delighted to attend the RNLI 200th anniversary at Westminster Abbey on Monday 04 March. I’m sure all employees and volunteers associated with the charity will feel rightly proud.

The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) coordinating committee held their Spring meeting virtually on 12 March. During this meeting plans for the next UK Drowning Prevention Strategy, as well as this year’s campaigns, and preparing the annual data report for 2023 incidents were discussed.

I encourage any new readers of the newsletter to visit here and consider registering with the NWSF mailing list. For more information, email

Dawn Whittaker

Chair, NWSF


Research and publications

Association between air temperature and unintentional drowning risk in the United Kingdom 2012-2019: A nationwide case-crossover study

A new study has been published which examines the relationship between weather conditions and the risk of drowning. Hills, S., Hobbs, M., Brown, P., Tipton, M. & Barwood, M. (2024).

You can read it here.


Promoting Swimming: A Positive Approach to Public Health

Letter to the BMJ highlighting the benefits of swimming. Watson, M. C. & Neil, K. E. (2024).

You can read it here.


Handbook on Drowning - Prevention, Rescue and Treatment (3rd Ed.)

Martin Barwood, Professor at Leeds Trinity University and a member of our Coordinating Group, will be contributing to this forthcoming publication with a chapter on ‘The epidemiology of drowning by location’.


New guidance

Education Resources

The NWSF education group has been working to build a framework to help with the development of educational materials and messaging on water safety.

The framework provides a set of consistent core messages for practitioners and organisations working at all levels to plan, develop, deliver and evaluate water safety education campaigns, teaching and learning resources, and interventions. Please note that this is for England only – devolved nations have their own educational strategy for water safety.

You can read about the resources for England here.


 Water Safety Partnerships - Guidance

On January 24, we successfully launched NWSF guidance on how to set up a Water Safety Partnership. The document brings together three approaches to creating a water safety group, the six key elements to consider when setting up a group, as well as four case studies from across the UK.

Topics include:

  • How to set up a group
  • Water safety toolkits
  • The benefits of partnership working
  • A case study of best practice

You can access the guidance and a recording of the webinar launch here.


Unique Location Codes Guidance

Water Safety Scotland (WSS) has launched its guidance document on Unique Location Codes (ULCs) for use in Scotland.

The aim of the document is to provide a consistent format for water safety assets such as signs, Public Rescue Equipment (PRE) stations, and other fixed installations. This will help promote consistency and ensure one format to embed into emergency service control room systems.

Linked to coming research on water safety signage (see below), ULCs are an essential part of a water safety sign. To read the new guidance document, click here.


Signage Research

WSS has released a new report detailing three phases of research undertaken in 2023 and 2024 on water safety signage.

The results of the research show that the proposed new signage, created by WSS partners, is clear and understandable to members of the public. Participants demonstrated a high rate of understanding of the component parts of the sign, such as hazard identification, the ULC, and what to do in an emergency.

Read the full research report here.


Campaign updates

 Water Safety for Little Explorers Campaign

In February, the Canal & River Trust launched the second year of their Water Safety for Little Explorers campaign. The campaign aims to give parents, carers and early educators the confidence and tools to speak to children under five about being safe by water.

This year, the Trust has launched a water safety storybook. It tells the story of Squirrel and Mouse, who lose their acorn ball in a canal. With the help of their friends, they get their ball back and learn all about staying safe by water.

2,000 nurseries along the Trust’s 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales received a free printed copy of the book and the Trust ran storytelling events during the February half-term holiday in libraries and at Trust museums and attractions. Since the start of the campaign, the Trust has secured funding to print another 3,000 English books and a new bilingual book in Welsh and English.

To read the online storybook (available in English and Welsh), watch a short film with catchy song and access downloadable learning resources click here.


 Be Water Aware

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) will be running Be Water Aware on 22–28 April.

Be Water Aware is NFCC’s UK campaign to raise awareness of the risk of accidental drowning. It aims to provide advice to people so they can enjoy time in, on and around water safely and raise awareness of what to do if an incident should happen. It is supported by fire and rescue services and partners, and we encourage members to support the campaign.

The campaign is timed to run ahead of the warmer weather, when fire and rescue services see an increase in incidents.

Further information and resources to support the campaign will be available on the NFCC website


RNLI turns 200!

On Monday 4 March, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) celebrated 200 years of volunteers giving their time to save lives at sea.

Over the past 200 years, RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards, funded entirely by public donations – have saved an incredible 146,277 lives.

Since the charity was founded in 1824, its volunteer crews have launched lifeboats 380,328 times, saving 144,277 lives, while its lifeguards – who became part of the RNLI’s lifesaving service in 2001 – have responded to 303,030 incidents on some of the UK’s busiest beaches, saving around 2,000 lives.

The number of lives saved by the RNLI equates to an average of two lives every day for 200 years.

A Service of Thanksgiving to mark the 200 years took place at Westminster Abbey on 04 March 2024.

Throughout its bicentenary year, the charity is running events and activities to remember its history and celebrate the modern lifesaving service it is today, while hoping to inspire generations of future lifesavers and supporters.

For further information about the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, visit


Water Safety Partnerships: Spotlight on Manchester

The Greater Manchester Water Safety Strategic Partnership (GMWSSP) has established Water Safety Partnerships (WSPs) in 9 of the 10 Greater Manchester (GM) boroughs and is currently in discussions to establish the 10th and final WSP.

GMWSSP is encouraging all WSPs to undertake a comprehensive risk review of all local water risks. This will then form the basis of a Community Water Safety Action Plan. Additionally, a Tactical Group will meet quarterly to align its approach across GM and share best practice.

This will allow national and regional experts to deal directly with local practitioners. Funding for all 10 WSPs has been applied for from the Greater Manchester Police Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (proceeds of crime) fund and further funding and joint procurement opportunities are being sought locally. 


Product Recalls

There were a substantial number of PPE products recalled from various outlets listed on 22/01/2024. Please see details below.

Product Recall: NEWAO Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0063)

Product Recall: NBY Life Jacket (Blue) sold via Wish (2310-0050)

Product Recall: Inflatable Lifejacket P14061 (Blue Camouflage) sold via Wish (2310-0053)

Product Recall: SBART Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0135)

Product Recall: NEWAO Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0147)

Product Recall: Blue Camouflage Inflatable Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0148)

Product Recall: NBY Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0149)

Product Recall: Unbranded Orange Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0151)

Product Recall: Yellow Life Jacket CQYBII-150N sold via Wish (2310-0152)

Product Recall: Protackle Multifunctional Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0154)

Product Recall: Yellow NBY Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0153)

Product Recall: Pink and Blue Children's Swim Vest sold via Wish (2310-0156)

Product Recall: Blue NBY Flotation Aid sold via Wish (2310-0157)

Product Recall: HAOYUANGXING Adult Life Jacket (Orange) sold via Amazon (2311-0061)

Product Recall: Unbranded Black and Orange Life Jacket sold via Amazon (2311-0063)

Product Recall: Sailtrek Life Jacket sold via Amazon (2311-0078)

Product Recall: Hisea Life Jacket sold via Amazon (2311-0106)

Product Recall: Omouboi Life Jacket sold via Amazon (2311-0109)

Product Recall: Yon Sub Life Jacket sold via Amazon (2311-0112)

Product Recall: Black Life Jacket with Two Buckles sold via Amazon (2311-0113)

Product Recall: Marine Work Life Jacket sold via Amazon (2311-0114)

Product Recall: Children's Blue and Grey Patterned Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0143)

Product Recall: Jiuran XS Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0150)

Product Recall: Unbranded Pink Floral Swim Vest sold via Wish (2310-0158)

Product Recall: Unbranded Orange Hand Tie Closure Life Jacket sold via Wish (2310-0155) 


Other news

A recent BBC article examines the proposal that naming heatwaves might be introduced (as the Met Office currently does with storms) to increase communication and awareness, and help people to protect themselves.

Please let us know your thoughts!


Events and opportunities

  • 15th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, Delhi, 02–04 September 2024
  • Calling all stand up paddleboarders: Discover how to have a great time on the water this year with the RNLI’s water safety team and Canoe Wales in a free one-hour webinar on Tuesday 26 March at 7.30pm. We would encourage anyone thinking of heading onto the water in 2024 to sign up.






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