Water Safety

Edited by Admin
Water Safety

Water Safety

We dream about summertime during long, cold Canadian winters, and many of us arrange our summers so that we can have fun in the sun by a lake, a pool, or a river. However, sometimes tragedy strikes in summer; according to the Lifesaving Society of Canada,  65% of all drowning deaths in Ontario occur during the months between May and September. How can you ensure that your family’s time in the water will be safe? Looking at the statistics can help to reveal some of the conditions that contribute to drowning deaths, and may help you to recognize dangerous behaviours.

For example, during the ten-year period between 2006 and 2015, approximately 160 people in Ontario died by drowning each year. 65% of them happened in lakes or rivers, 11% happened in pools, and, surprisingly, 16% happened in bathtubs. (The remainder of drowning deaths fall into the category of “Other”.) However, only 1% of those drownings happened in lifeguard-supervised settings. It’s easy to see that supervised swimming areas are much safer than those without lifeguards, and it’s also instructive to learn that the bathtub can be as dangerous as a swimming pool, especially for young children.

Swimming and Boating

The most risky activity is, of course, swimming. 39% of drownings in Ontario happen while people are swimming. Of these drownings, 44% involved people considered weak or non-swimmers; 36% happened to people who went swimming alone, and 27% of drowning victims had been drinking alcohol. From this we can see that it’s important to swim sober, that one should always have a swimming “buddy” or two, and that learning to swim proficiently can save your life.

Approximately 24% of Ontario drownings happen to people who are boating, or fishing from a boat. Of these fatalities, a shocking 92% of victims were not wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device. This underlines the absolute necessity of mandatory lifejackets for everyone who goes out in a boat. You can learn more about lifejackets and PFDs on this Government of Canada site. 32% of these drownings happened to people who went out alone in a boat, and alcohol was involved in 32% of the incidents. So again, we can see that alcohol use and being alone increase risk.

When it comes to children, there are many ways to reduce risk, but one is glaringly obvious: 92% of child drownings in Ontario occurred when adult supervision was absent. If your children are playing near water, make sure that they are well supervised, 100% of the time. In Canada, drowning is the  number one cause of unintentional injury deaths among children 1-4 years of age, and the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10 years.

Ensure Your Beach is Safe

Another consideration is the location where your family will be swimming. It’s estimated that 3 – 8% of the time, swimmers are affected adversely by the water they swim in. This can include stomach upsets, rashes, or other health problems. Before heading out to a swim location, you can check the health of the water by consulting The Waterkeeper organization’s Swim Guide. This handy reference tool lists major beaches in Canada and can tell you what the water quality is like at each of them, as well as what the weather’s like! Sometimes lakes experience algae blooms, contain harmful bacteria, or have been polluted by industry. Make sure you’re aware of any problems, and choose your beach accordingly. Also make sure to read any signs posted at the location, as they may be warning about problems with the water.

Other aspects to beware of are rip currents, which do occur on larger lakes such as the Great Lakes. Look for signs or flags warning of rip currents, and learn what to do if you are caught in one.

Stay away from hydroelectric dams. Because dams are operated remotely, a river bed downstream that's calm one moment can be swamped in whitewater rapids the next – submerging your boat or washing you into the current.

Never dive into water until you ascertain how deep it is, and/or how cold it is. Diving into water that is too shallow is the cause of many deaths and catastrophic injuries. In addition, water that is too cold can put unnecessary stress on your body.

If you or a family member has been injured or has drowned, depending on the circumstances, you may want to consult a personal injury lawyer to see if a claim can be made. Depending on the circumstances, you may have a case. Most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency basis, which means that you won’t have to pay unless you receive a settlement. A good lawyer can help you to explore your options.

Enjoy your summer – stay safe on the water!