New water safety guidelines for service providers aim to enhance children’s safety throughout Europe.
Drowning is the second leading cause of injury death to children in Europe. Children and youth are at increased risk of drowning or being injured in the water while on holiday (1). Yet according to the European Child Safety Alliance, most these injuries are preventable with basic safety measures that can be supported by water-related service providers.
The Alliance, a programme of EuroSafe, today launched a document entitled, “Protecting children and youth in water recreation: safety guidelines for service providers” in cooperation with EU Consumer Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, and Chair of the Internal Market and Consumers Protection Committee, Arlene McCarthy. Developed with the support of the European Commission and in collaboration with professional water recreation associations and injury prevention experts across Europe, these guidelines provide injury facts for 13 specific water related settings and sports and recommendations on preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of injuries and drowning. The aim of the guidelines is to encourage safe participation of children ages 0 to 18 years of age in water recreation activities through out Europe.
Commissioner Kuneva said, “The guideline recommendations will allow those working in the water recreation industry – whether as a hotel manager, a rental provider or tour operator – to implement good safety practices. Simple but crucial actions, such as providing the proper equipment and clearly signaling any hazards, can significantly improve water safety for all consumers and help to save children’s lives.”
70% of Europeans will be spending their summer holidays by the waterside, and 25% of those holiday makers are traveling with children under 18 years of age. However, most families are unaware that adults and children have an increased risk of drowning or being injured while on holiday. In fact, tourists are 10 times more likely to die of an injury than they are of an infectious disease. Injuries cause 23% of tourist deaths compared to only 2% caused by infectious diseases. Dr. Klaus Wilkens, President of the International Lifesaving Federation of Europe who contributed to the guidelines, stated that “child drowning in Europe is a very grave problem that requires immediate attention. The implementation of these water safety recommendations will complement existing rescue services.”
Recreation service providers can play a key role in keeping families safe and saving lives.
Tourists consistently have higher injury rates than local residents. It has been shown, for example in Britain, more children drown in swimming pools while on holiday abroad than at home. And in the coastal region of Portugal, 72% of children admitted to the hospital for a submersion incident are foreigners. Within the European Union every year it is estimated that there are approximately 50,000 injuries related to water sports and boating, and more than 200,000 swimming pool injuries (1).
Most of these injuries are not caused by faulty equipment or unduly dangerous conditions, but rather by inappropriate behaviour of the users, who are often woefully uninformed about possible hazards. Water recreation service providers can play a key role in preventing these injuries. By implementing simple safety measures such as providing size-appropriate personal flotation devices, informing clients of possible hazards, forbidding the use of alcohol, and establishing and enforcing clear expectations and rules, service providers can prevent many holiday tragedies while also improving their own business profile.
MEP Arlene McCarthy, Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, said, “Many people assume that tourist locations will have the same safety provisions in place that they are used to at home. The reality is there is very little consistency in safety practices from country to country, let alone from resort to resort within a country. Tourists’ unfamiliarity with their new environment and inconsistent training and safety provisions by service providers combine to greatly increase risks. As it is estimated that nearly 50% of water related injuries to children in the European Union can be attributed to a safety of services issue we see these guidelines as a much needed support to be used Europe-wide.”
European water recreation associations and injury prevention organisations contribute their expertise to “Protecting children and youth in water recreation”
In order to provide the best possible information, the European Child Safety Alliance reached out to water recreation associations and injury organisations from all over Europe for their input. Included in the guidelines is a risk assessment plan that was developed specifically for water recreation service providers by applying the European Commission’s criteria (2) for safe services to water-related hazards for children. This is the first time these EC criteria have been applied in a practical way.
The guidelines also contain informative fact sheets on water recreation injuries and drowning in Europe and on the roles of alcohol and tourism in such injuries. Specific risks and recommendations are provided in detail for snorkeling, SCUBA diving, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, motor-boating, personal watercraft, tow sports, kite surfing, windsurfing, as well as waterside, swimming pool and waterslide safety.
Joanne Vincenten, Director of the European Child Safety Alliance stated that “these guidelines provide service providers with the tools they need to begin to assess the safety of their services with a specific focus on children and youth. No activity is without risk, and sometimes risk is part of the fun, but by implementing the simple measures provided in these guidelines, providers can protect their businesses, improve the profile of European tourism and provide customers with the fun and safety they are seeking.”
Recommendations for all water recreation service providers:
During water safety recreation activities the Alliance recommends that all service providers undertake the following prevention measures and that recreation, tourism and public health bodies promote their use:
• Perform a risk assessment of the area and activity
• Be aware of particular risks to vulnerable users, such as children and youth
• Provide age and size appropriate equipment, such as personal flotation devices (PFD)
• Be sure that all staff members are well trained in safety and preventive measures including CPR and first aid
• Inform customers of possible hazards and how to avoid them, and establish and enforce safety rules
• Have a detailed emergency plan in place
• Forbid the use of alcohol by those taking part in activities
• Use standard international symbols and signage to make hazards clear to all water users
The complete guidelines document can be downloaded at www.childsafetyeurope.org
For further information please contact: Joanne Vincenten, Director European Child Safety Alliance. J.Vincenten@childsafetyeurope.org or + 31 6 533 97060
Notes to Journalists:
1. Protecting children and youth in water recreation: safety guidelines for service providers- 2008 and fact sheets available at the website of the European Child Safety Alliance (ECSA) at www.childsafetyeurope.org
2. Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on safety of services. SEC (2003) 625. Brussels, June 2003.
Director European Child Safety Alliance
PO Box 75169 1070 AD Amsterdam The Netherlands
Tel. +31 20 511 45 13 Fax +31 20 511 45 10
The European Child Safety Alliance is a Programme of EuroSafe and is hosted and supported by the Consumer Safety Institute in the Netherlands