Warning about the dangers lurking in open water during Drowning Prevention Week

As the warmer weather approaches, you may be tempted to cool off in one of your local swimming spots.

Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 9:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 9:20 am
Skelbrooke Lake. Picture: NDFP Skelbrooke Lake MC 3

But taking a dip in a quarry could prove fatal, is the safety message from FCC Environment.

There are a number of risks associated with swimming in a quarry and they might not be the ones that instantly come to mind. FCC is urging South Yorkshire people to ‘stay away and to stay safe’, raising awareness of the dangers at Skelbrooke.

FCC Environment’s warning comes during this year’s ‘Drowning Prevention Week’ (14-24 June 2019), an annual campaign from the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) which aims to reduce the number of drowning and non-fatal drowning incidences that occur in the UK every year, over the past 10 years 54 people have lost their lives swimming quarries.

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The water in quarries is often much colder than that in the sea and rivers, meaning that people can suffer, and even die, from cold water shock. 

An automatic bodily response, cold water shock can seriously, sometimes fatally, affect your breathing and movement. It makes the blood vessels in the skin close up, increasing the blood flow resistance and heart rate, which can lead to heart attacks.

Cold water can also cause an involuntary large gasp for breath, raising the breathing rate uncontrollably and greatly increasing the risk of inhaling water into the lungs. It only takes half a pint of water to enter the lungs for an adult man to begin drowning.

A temperature below 15°C is defined as cold water – average UK sea temperatures are just 12°C. Rivers are colder and water-filled quarries colder still, even in summer, so the risks of quarry swimming are significant most of the year.

It’s not just the risks of the water temperature – it’s what lies within and beneath that can be dangerous too. Industrial pollution, dead animals and toxic algae all present potential hazards to your health if you chose to swim in stagnant bodies of water.

FCC Environment, which runs Skelbrooke is pleading with people to stay safe and not risk their lives by swimming in the quarry. FCC Environment’s Paul Stokes, Head of SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment and Quality)commented: “When we get spells of warmer weather it is common for children and teenagers to believe that sites such as Skelbrooke are ideal places to cool off, without knowing the dangers. We urge parents and carers to warn their children that swimming and playing in quarries is fraught with risk: they can be dangerous, even life-threatening, places.

“It’s also important to remind people that quarries are located on private land, so entering is trespassing and against the law. When this does occur, anyone seen intruding onto our sites will be photographed and any vehicle details recorded with a view to prosecution.”

Speaking on the danger of swimming in quarries, RLSS UK CEO Robert Gofton said: “In previous years we have seen a tragic amount of preventable deaths as people flocked to open water sites that are not suitable for swimming. It may seem an inviting way to cool off, but there are very real and very deadly dangers at these sites, such as extremely cold water, uneven depths and hidden debris that people can get injured on or caught in.

“Most people are surprised to learn that you are more likely to die from drowning than from being hit by a car or in a fire. We believe that the majority of drowning incidents can be prevented and urge people to swim where it’s safe. Don’t take unnecessary risks.”