RoSPA’s National Water Safety Congress next week will consider the roles of education versus legislation in promoting the safe recreational use of the sea, lakes, rivers and canals in the UK.

The conference, taking place in Bristol on Monday and Tuesday (March 3/4), will look at the importance of people having access to water safety education and information throughout their lives so they are able to make informed choices about safety issues, including their behaviour, in and around water.

But it will also consider the role of regulation in reducing the number of people who drown accidentally in the UK.

Peter Cardy, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, will give the keynote address about striking a balance between education and legislation.

Peter Cornall, Head of Leisure Safety at RoSPA, will call for the education system to provide young people with the opportunity to gain safety knowledge that will benefit them throughout their lives.

He said: “Young people need to be equipped to make and take independent action to protect themselves and participate in active lifestyles. For this to happen, we need to provide them with better skills than we currently do.

“We should be endeavouring to improve basic swimming ability, water safety knowledge and rescue skills.

“There is also a need for a proper debate about when safety is an individual’s responsibility and when society has a role to play.

“The most recent figures show that 1.1 million children under the age of 16 go to hospital in the UK each year after accidents outside the home. We also know that around 40 children drown in the UK each year. Figures such as these show the need for young people to be equipped with an understanding of risk and how to deal with it. They need to be risk aware, not risk averse.”

During the conference, Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s Occupational Safety Adviser, will speak about the safety leadership responsibilities of directors and senior managers, particularly in light of new corporate manslaughter legislation. Jeanette Harwood, a partner at Walker Morris Solicitors, will give a presentation about balancing sensible safety and common law liability.

David Cooke, Safety Officer at Northern Ireland Electricity, will talk about dealing with the aftermath of an incident or accident.

The 100 water safety professionals attending the conference will take part in workshops and discussions covering a wide range of issues including the impact of floods, national standards for swimming pool safety management, the challenges presented by the growing number of beach activities, and threats to water sports.

In the UK in 2005, 435 people, including 39 children, drowned accidentally. Nearly 200 of the tragedies are known to have happened in inland waters, such as lakes, rivers and canals; 80 around the coast; 37 in residential settings; 16 out at sea; and seven in swimming pools.

Full details of the National Water Safety Congress at Bristol’s Thistle Hotel can be found at www.rospa.com/water/.

RoSPA’s mission is to save lives and reduce injuries.

Any donation, large or small, will help us to achieve our mission. Please click on www.rospa.com/donate

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