Guidance: outdoor education group safety at the water’s edge

Guidance: outdoor education group safety at the water’s edge

Even “benign” activities can present serious hazards which require careful management…

Water margins provide wonderful opportunities for learning, play, enjoyment and challenge. They can nonetheless present significant hazards which require careful management – even during the most benign activities, according to the National Guidance document 7.2i Group Safety at Water Margins.

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

This particular guidance document is about activities that take place near the water or just in it, such as: walking along a riverbank or seashore; cycling along a canal towpath; field studies near water, collecting samples from ponds and streams; beachcombing; paddling or walking in shallow water.

It does not cover swimming, surfing or watersports activities such as the use of water-going craft.

Learning to swim – the ideal start

“The best way to help young people to be safe around water is to teach them to swim, and for them to learn (through guided and supervised first-hand experience) to identify water hazards and safe practices near them.”

Whatever your reason for going, having a clear purpose and plan will help your group to get the most from the activity – and will help to maintain safety.

It is good practice to make a pre-visit to the site before you go there with a group. Having a competent person with you on a pre-visit may help you to identify hazards and assist you if you get into difficulty.

The guidance also covers the following topics:-

  • Risk management at the water margins
    • Water quality
    • Tides and currents
    • Quicksand
    • Jellyfish and other sea creatures
    • The surroundings
    • Weather
  • Preparation
  • Plan B
  • Leader competence
  • Group management and supervision.

The download also contains direct links a variety of other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.


Download OEAP National Guidance document Ratios and Effective Supervision »

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

: Educational visits : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Risk management NewsBlog