The release of the annual National Drowning Report a few weeks ago provided a useful insight into the state of water safety in Australia. It identified that 291 people drowned in Australian Waterways, which is sadly an increase of nine (9) on last year and 25 on 2015.
45 of these drownings occurred in Victoria, with men accounting for a huge 74% of all drowning incidents. The report presents a new approach to examing the full burden of drowning and is a must read for all Aquatic Industry personnel.
Focusing in on Victorian Council pools, it’s very pleasing to advise that there were no fatal drowning deaths in 2016-17. Given that during this time, there were estimated to be over 70 million visits to these public facilities this is a huge achievement that the industry should be extremally proud of.
The report identifies a number of key factors impacting overall water safety. Many of these factors are challenges being faced by the Industry as they are directly associated with many of the higher risk user groups seen daily. These factors include the following changes since 2002/03;
• 24% population increase
• 50% population increase in people aged +65
• 49% increase in overseas migration
• 101% increase in overseas inbound tourism
• 108% increase in international students
The Industry has won a significant battle, but the war is not over. The Industry must continue this good work, whilst refocusing efforts on improved actions to reduce non-fatal drownings incidents. This involves improved preventative structures and less reliance on responsive actions. So what is a non-fatal drowning? And, What do we do to address non-fatal drownings?
The first question is easy. RLSSA advises that “There are three outcomes of a drowning: death, morbidity (injury), and no morbidity. If the person does not die from the drowning, then it is a non-fatal drowning with or without morbidity (injury).”
The second question is not so easy as many strategies are already in place. These strategies need to continue to evolve over time as the socio-economic landscape evolves. In short, the Industry must keep developing and fine tuning safety strategies to keep pace with local communities, whilst simultaneoulsy developing new strategies to address new risks which are introduced.
This is no easy task and one size will not fit all. It is however a priorirty and was the focus of a ‘Non-Fatal Drowning Symposium’ which brought together a range of key represenattives to begin to tackle this issue. For full details click here.