How a balanced approach will ensure that the risks are properly managed…
“Taking young people on a visit to the seaside or other open water in good weather, and then not allowing them to at least paddle or cool off in the water if it is safe to do so, is unreasonable and inappropriately risk-averse.”
So states the National Guidance document 7.1o Natural Water Bathing, which importantly adds that a balanced approach will ensure that the risks are properly managed so that young people are given these opportunities.
This particularly hot summer has already lead to a number of unfortunate incidents regarding young people getting into misfortune in rivers, lakes and the sea. Swimming and paddling in natural waters present real risks: around 400 people drown every year in the UK, with the overwhelming number of incidents being with peer-led unsupervised sessions.
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.
“The most effective way to reduce the risk of young people drowning is to teach them to swim and to give them the skills to make sound judgements about playing in and around natural waters.”
Natural Water Bathing should always be a robustly structured activity. This may be by reference to a pre-planned risk assessment and corresponding operating procedure, or it may be by making a more spontaneous plan, either of which should be reinforced by careful observation and judgement at the time. As with any activity, the leader must be absolutely clear that participants are not exposed to any significant risks. The pleas of participants to be allowed to bathe (e.g., because it is hot weather) must never be allowed to over-ride the leader’s judgement of the situation.
As with other activities, planning should consider the SAGE variables – each of which is dealt with in detail in the guidance document:
Guidance for swimming pools and safety at water margins
This document provides guidance for using swimming pools during off-site visits. It does not supersede any policy or guidance about swimming pools that your employer may have.
This 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.
The download also contains direct links a variety of other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.