LETTER: Be safe around open water

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I am writing to request your readers’ help in raising awareness of water safety during the school summer holidays and the warmer weather.

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is supporting the water safety campaigns being run by other organisations such as the RNLI, RLSS and the Fire and Rescue Services. Collectively, we do not want to discourage members of the public from enjoying the water but would like people to be aware of the risks and choose to swim in areas that are safe.

On average, there are circa 400 accidental drownings each year spread across the UK. Many of these tragic deaths are in open water such as quarry lakes, reservoirs, rivers and canals. All too often, these tragedies occur when people are enjoying a leisure activity or are engaged in what they perceive as harmless fun. The tragic death last week of a nineteen year old boy, who drowned whilst swimming with friends in a former quarry lake, is a tragic reminder of the importance of these messages.

Man-made quarry lakes or reservoirs can be particularly unsuitable for swimmers and paddlers. Often they can be extremely deep, have sudden changes in water depth, be difficult to exit and conceal a range of hazards such as pumps, entangling weeds, rocks and old machinery.

Significantly, the water in quarry lakes and reservoirs can be extremely cold even on a hot summer’s day. At 15C and below, the body can experience cold water shock when immersed in water, this results in a sudden, involuntary inhalation of water into the lungs which can be deadly. The cold water can also cause even strong swimmers to tire quickly, become breathless and potentially disorientated.

With over 800 active and thousands of former quarries spread across the UK, it is likely that many of your readers will live within a few miles of one of these sites. A large number of these sites will have lakes or similar water filled voids.

To find out more, view the campaign Facebook page Stay Safe Stay Out of Quarries and “share” this with others.

Elizabeth Clements

Mineral Products Association, London