Safety Tips when your around water

By June 27, 2018

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Dangers of Open Water Swmimming

Tips for staying safe around open water

With Summer arriving and the temperatures rising the temptation will rise to jump into open waters to cool down and have some fun. This, however, can be very dangerous.

There are plenty of stunning waterfalls, outdoor pools to see around the globe and we don’t want you to not explore these, we just want you to do it safely.

In the UK alone, 85% of accidental drownings happen at open water sites. The main reason is people’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the dangers of open water.

Across the world, there are many open water places to explore and visit. We don’t want you to not visit these places and potentially enter the water. We just want you to understand the dangers so you can enjoy yourself safely.

There is nothing I like more than after a hard days hiking is to jump into some open water to cool down and relax.

These are general worldwide rules for staying safe and apply in most places, but if your heading to a new county for the first time it might be worth spending 5 minutes doing a google search to understand what their signs mean.

It could mean the difference between having a trip to remember and it being your last trip.

Open Water:

Before we go on, lets cover what is classed as open water. Basically, open water swimming takes place in bodies of water which is outside. Examples of these can include, lakes, rivers, quarries, canals and reservoirs.

Forest river stones landscape
Beautiful autumn views of iconic Lake Louise in Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta Canada

Flat Water:

Flat water is designed as open water that has very little movements, such as lakes, ponds, lochs, reservoirs (there may be movement from locally induced wind currents, but this is excluded).


Flat water found in lakes and lochs is often the safest open water to swim in. However water always does come with an inherent risk and you must always analyse your surroundings before entering the water.

Open Water Safety Tips

Even if you have visited a place before, its always worth checking before you re-enter the water, as locations can change especially at different times of the year.


  • Always look for guidance and warning signs (these may be different in different countries, so worth spending 5 minutes before you travel somewhere new).
  • Never swim away from the shore. Always Swim parallel with the shore.
  • Avoid drifting in the currents
  • Do not enter fast flowing water
  • Be aware of  underwater hazards
  • Get out of the water as soon as you start to feel cold
  • Never enter the water after consuming alcohol or drugs
  • Only enter the water in areas with adequate supervision and rescue cover
  • Always wear a buoyancy aid or lifejacket for activities on the water or at the water’s edge (such as when boating or fishing)
  • Always take someone with you when you go into or near water. If something goes wrong they will be able to get help
  • If someone is in difficulty in the water shout reassurance to them and shout for help and call the emergency services (call 999 or 112)
  • Without endangering yourself see if you can reach out to them with a stick, pole or item of clothing – lie down to ensure you stay secure. Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy or anything that will float
do and Don't when swimming in open water


  • Swim at unsupervised (un-lifeguarded sites) including lakes, quarries reservoirs and rivers
  • Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature
  • Jump into the water from heights or ‘tombstone’
  • Swim into deep water which will be colder


  • Swim at supervised (lifeguarded) sites
  • Swim parallel with the shore, where you can quickly get to safety
  • Swim with friends or family, so that you can help each other if you need to
  • Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you are swimming
  • Think about what you will do if something goes wrong
  • Contact reputable outdoor pursuits or coasteering centre if you want to take part in more extreme activities
Rocks along coast with sun star

Dangers of open water include

  • The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning
  • Dangerous Animals – while we don’t really have to worry about these in the UK as much, there are some countries where you really need to consider this
  • The depth of the water – this changes and is unpredictable
  • Submerged objects may not be visible
  • Obstacles or other people in the water
  • Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue
  • The shock of cold water can make swimming difficult and increase the difficulty in getting out of the water

We don’t want to stop you from explore new places, we do, we just want you to do it safely so you can keep on exploring.

  • Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
  • Uneven banks and river beds
  • Water quality eg toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution

All of these hazards can be controlled through proper organisation and planning.


Do’s, Don’ts and the Dangers of Open water Swimming

If someone is in difficulty in the water –

  • Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 or 112)
  • Without endangering yourself, see if you can reach out to them, extend your reach with a stick, pole, item of clothing, lie down or stay secure. Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy, part filled plastic container, ball or anything that will float.
  • Keep your eye on them all the time and shout reassurance urging them to propel themselves to safety.
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