Water Safety Stakeholder Group: action plan

Action plan to discuss renewed efforts to work together collaboratively to help to prevent drownings in Scotland and reach agreement on appropriate next steps.

Following a tragic spate of drowning incidents in Scotland’s waterways during the summer of 2021, the Minister for Community Safety, Ash Regan, convened meetings with a range of water safety stakeholders in August and September 2021 and in January 2022 to discuss renewed efforts to work together collaboratively to help to prevent drownings in Scotland and reach agreement on appropriate next steps.

The stakeholders involved to date have been:

  • Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Crown Estate Scotland
  • Her Majesty’s Coastguard (HMCG)
  • Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
  • Police Scotland
  • Royal Lifesaving Society (RLSS)
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)
  • Scottish Ambulance Service
  • Scottish Canals
  • Scottish Community Safety Network (SCSN)
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)
  • Scottish Government (including Education Scotland and Marine Scotland)
  • sportscotland
  • Scottish Swimming
  • Scottish Water
  • Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE)
  • Water Safety Scotland (WSS)

A key theme emerging from the discussions has been the value of further supporting and solidifying the role of Water Safety Scotland (WSS) as a forum for enabling individual agencies to take a consistent, collaborative and evidence-based approach and ensure that the impact of their efforts is more than the sum of their parts.  To strengthen this pivotal role, the Scottish Government has committed to providing an additional £60,000 in 2022/23 to RoSPA, which established and continues to provide operational support for WSS.  More broadly, as summarised in this document, the stakeholders have agreed to work in close partnership with WSS and also to focus actions across the following key operational areas:

  • partnership working
  • intelligence gathering and sharing
  • awareness raising
  • skills training
  • response to incidents

Open the following outcomes to see the actions associated with them:

Outcome 1: partnership working.  We agree that efforts should continue to build on existing good practice in collaboration and engagement between our respective organisations; and to continue to support the role of Water Safety Scotland as a centre of expertise with a focus on improving water safety in Scotland.  


Action 1.1: All partners to consider becoming members of Water Safety Scotland.
Lead Organisation(s): All
Status: A number of organisations have joined WSS over recent months including: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park; Scottish Ambulance Service; Police Scotland; Moray Council; West Dunbartonshire Council; Fife Group; Argyll and Bute Partnership Approach to Water Safety Group; West Dunbartonshire Partnership; Approach to Water Safety Group; Scottish Flood Forum.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 1.2: Relevant partners to identify members within their organisations to sit on Water Safety Scotland Subgroups and devote time and energy to taking forward their respective work programmes.
Lead Organisation(s): All
Status: Work programmes and division of tasks to be discussed and undertaken at relevant WSS subgroups.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 1.3: Identify appropriate routes for families affected by water-related fatalities to be involved in identifying and developing improvements to current practice.
Lead Organisation(s): Water Safety Scotland
Status: Exploring the potential to set up a Family Bereavement Subgroup  within Water Safety Scotland.
Work plan for the group currently under development.
This will work with families affected by water-related fatalities to advocate their ideas to help reduce drownings in Scotland.
Timing: Ongoing.

Outcome 2: intelligence gathering and sharing.  We have reviewed our approaches to information gathering and sharing, including around fatal and non-fatal incidents. We agree to share data more collegiately and have an agreed process in place for this data to be pulled together and shared to facilitate mutual understanding of issues and improvements in practice.


Action 2.1: Introduce a voluntary Drowning and Incident Review (DIR) procedure to ensure a comprehensive review of each accidental water-related fatality to gather all relevant data and intelligence to help prevent future incidents. 
Lead Organisation(s): Water Safety Scotland
Status: A DIR process has been developed and piloted. A training package will be developed via SFRS, RoSPA and Water Safety Scotland. 
A full guidance document has been produced and published.
A third and final pilot took place in early 2022, to be recorded and used within a formal evaluation case study that will be undertaken by RoSPA in collaboration with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health/Heidelberg University and the George Institute for Global Health/UNSW.
Five-year audits of DIR meetings to identify trends in water-related fatalities.

Action 2.2: RoSPA to build on and progress further improvements to the Water Incident Database (WAID) system to ensure data can be shared quickly, securely and in real time.
Lead Organisation(s): RoSPA
Status: Proof of concept for WAID v2 completed in Nov 2021 with new system to be delivered within 12 months.
RoSPA to provide a briefing on updates to the WAID system and its capabilities.
Timing: November 2022 and Spring 2022 respectively.
Action 2.3: Police Scotland to feed incident data into the Water Incident Database (WAID).

Lead Organisation: Police Scotland
Status: Police Scotland are now an active member on the Water Safety Scotland Data Subgroup.
Work is ongoing to identify and deliver an IT solution to enable routine sharing of data.
Interim agreement for data to be shared via DIR process (see action 2.1)
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 2.4: Continue to support and develop Partnership Approach to Water Safety (PAWS) Groups to collate and utilise relevant data from stakeholders to develop comprehensive local approaches to drowning prevention. 
Lead Organisation(s): Water Safety Scotland, RNLI, SFRS, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, COSLA and SOLACE
Status: Meeting with Chairs of three local groups took place in Sept 2021 and Jan 2022 to identify consistency of approach across 3 local authority areas going forward (primarily set up to check in with Chairs regarding consistency and how the National Park Association will support PAWS).
Group will meet quarterly to report findings and highlight areas of improvement in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. 
Wider roll out of the PAWS approach to be promoted across all areas of Scotland and all local authorities to be encouraged to have a water safety policy.
PAWS groups will utilise WSS DIR (see action 2.1) in their local areas. 
Timing: Local PAWS group meetings held quarterly or bi-monthly.

Action 2.5: Scottish Ambulance Service to analyse water incident data to identify hotspot areas and review current location of water assets.
Lead Organisation(s): Scottish Ambulance Service
Status: Scottish Ambulance Service currently identifying regional lead to become a member on the Water Safety Scotland Data Subgroup.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 2.6: RoSPA to analyse WAID data to identify hotspot areas and provide information to SFRS to utilise across Scotland and use this to implement action plans for these areas through the creation of PAWS groups.
Lead Organisation(s): SFRS and RoSPA
Status: Following identification of hotspot areas, SFRS will work with partners to coordinate the most appropriate response to ensure best use of resources.
Timing: Ongoing throughout 2022.
Status: WSS Policy Subgroup to focus water safety policy promotion in hotspot areas.
Timing: Summer 2022.
Status: RNLI, RoSPA and Water Safety Scotland to host policy workshop for local authorities concentrating on high fatality areas.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 2.7: Her Majesty’s Coastguard to share intelligence with all Scottish Local Authorities on incident trends to allow more targeted and responsive mitigations to be put in place.
Lead Organisation(s): HMCG
Status: Monthly data mailshots to be disseminated to inform beach safety risk assessments.
Covers all incidents, not only fatalities, which expands scope for learning. 
Intention to develop reports further to cover inland waters as well as coastal. 
Timing: Monthly updates in run-up to summer 2022.

Action 2.8: Collate data on water sports participation in Scotland to identify emerging/new sports and changing behaviour in relation to water sports participation and subsequent requirements for awareness-raising and training to reflect this.
Lead Organisation(s):  Water Safety Scotland and sportscotland
Status: Numbers of recreational participants in water-based sports are relatively low and are generally not picked up through national surveys, so changes in participation rates are hard to evidence.  Other data sources need to be explored to understand this further.
Timing: Ongoing.

Outcome 3: awareness raising.  We agree to enhance existing activity around raising awareness of the dangers of water and all aspects of water safety, notably through engagement and support of Water Safety Scotland; and we agree to promote appropriately consistent signage and ensure that it is correctly positioned.


Action 3.1: Deliver enhanced educational resources
Lead Organisation(s):  Water Safety Scotland
Status: A lesson plan has been developed for 13-15 year olds.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 3.1(a):Develop and roll out a national educational resource on water  safety for each educational level on water safety.
Lead Organisation(s):  Water Safety Scotland and Education Scotland
Status: Currently being piloted with youth groups. 
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 3.1(b): Develop progression pathway, lesson plans and supporting guidance  to aid practitioners in water safety teaching and learning.
Lead Organisation(s):  Water Safety Scotland
Status: Progression pathway being developed to include lesson plans for all age groups. 
Identify further opportunities to develop water safety resources for education to use (e.g. digital resource for online school assemblies).
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 3.1(c): Create Scotland-specific video resources.
Lead Organisation(s):  Water Safety Scotland
Status: Two Scotland-specific videos are being created with Scottish Tech Army to enhance water safety learning opportunities for young people.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action: 3.1(d): Encourage young people to experience being safe in open water environments.
Lead Organisation(s): Water Safety Scotland
Status: WSS sub-group to review scope for developing expanded opportunities for young people.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 3.2: Develop and promote consistent public safety messaging on water safety and drowning prevention in advance of spring and summer 2022.
Lead Organisation(s): Water Safety Scotland, with all stakeholders as appropriate.
Status: Scotland’s Water Safety Code has been developed forming the basis for all educational material, messaging and communications. 
2022 communications planner developed and available online.
WSS Communications Subgroup being developed to take forward communications planning and ensure consistent approaches for prevention, incident and post-incident phase.
All partners to utilise and promote core water safety messages; secure use of Neighbourhood Watch Scotland alert system to spread water safety messaging.
Work with VisitScotland to raise awareness with visitors to Scotland.
Undertake a wholesale review and update of the WSS website to enhance signposting, storage of best practice, communication resources and key contacts, utilising the Respect The Water campaign.
Timing: Ongoing, with strong focus over spring and summer 2022. 

Action 3.3:  Put in place a programme of pop-up water safety events during 2022 at key sites in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to promote water safety and drowning prevention. 
Lead Organisation(s): Loch Lomond &The Trossachs National Park
Status: Links to launch of WSS and Education Scotland national education resource (see Action 3.1(a).
Provisional dates set for partnership events through spring/summer, including promotion of safe and responsible access to water, guidance to mitigate risk (hidden hazards, cold water shock), learning how to use public rescue equipment safely, advice on when to call emergency responders).   
Review by-laws in park.
Timing: Ongoing during 2022.

Action 3.4: Undertake an audit of existing water safety signage in Scotland to facilitate the delivery of a consistent, effective approach. 
Lead Organisation(s): RoSPA, RNLI. SCSN and Water Safety Scotland
Status: Call for evidence sent to key landowners in Scotland, including all local authorities.
Signage audit framework agreed.
Returns to be analysed using agreed framework.
Run a workshop on consistent water safety signage to facilitate the delivery of a consistent, effective approach (funding will be required). 
Timing: Audit to be complete and published by end of summer 2022.

Action 3.5: Compile a list of Scottish beaches and carry out an audit of public rescue equipment and signage to help identify suitable control measures to prevent injury and drowning. 
Lead organisation(s): RNLI
Status: Collate a list of Scottish beaches that would benefit from a risk assessment.
Work with relevant landowners, including local authorities, to help identify suitable control measures to prevent injury and drowning. 
Timing: February 2022 onwards.

Action 3.6: Undertake a two year programme to review signage and security at the most popular reservoirs in Scotland.
Lead organisation(s): Scottish Water, including Police Scotland
Status: The programme will raise awareness of relative dangers and locational information in terms of advice and guidance where lone access presents risk. 
Police Scotland National Rural and Acquisitive Crime Unit will continue to engage with Scottish Water to support this programme.
Timing: Ongoing to March 2024.

Action 3.7: Erect signage at popular hotspots in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
Lead organisation(s): Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Status: Similar to 2021 water safety campaign, posters will include advice and recommendations to wear buoyancy aids or lifejackets when participating in water sports, and focussing on ‘being visible in the water’ for open water swimmers.  Specific posters to include aerial imagery showing dangers of deep water close to shore.  
Timing: Installation expected before Easter holidays and run until end of September 2022.

Action 3.8: Carry out a review of water safety and drowning prevention arrangements across all canals and destinations to deliver a consistent and proportionate approach to help identify measures (including signage, public rescue equipment and communications) that will reduce the likelihood of drownings on our waterways.
Lead organisation(s): Scottish Canals
Status: Water Safety Steering Group to be established to deliver Scottish Canals’ Drowning Prevention Action Plan.
Warning signage provided at Townhead Reservoir following swimming-related fatality in June 2021. Additional signage to be provided at known hotspots prior to spring/summer 2022 season.
Timing: Ongoing, to March 2024. 

Action 3.9: Promote water safety partnership working.
Lead organisation(s): RoSPA and Water Safety Scotland
Status: Deliver promotional insights in two phases: an online conference; and an open day to support World Drowning Prevention Day.
Timing: Conference on 7 April 2022 (online).
World Drowning Prevention Open Day 25 July 2022 (location tbc).

Outcome 4: skills training.  We will review what core skills are required for the general population and for specific groups and agree our role in developing and improving these skills.


Action 4.1: Deliver the ‘Waterside Responders’ course to those who live or work near water to train the public on the use of water-related public rescue equipment.
Lead organisation(s): RNLI and SFRS, supported by Water Safety Scotland.
Status: Four Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park staff now available to train businesses, visitors and communities around the park on how to use public rescue equipment.
Timing: Complete by March 2022.
Status: Waterside Responder training will be offered to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park stakeholders in early spring. 
Timing: Complete by August 2022.

Action 4.2: Develop practical lifesaving provision across Scotland, including lifesaving training.
Lead organisation(s): RLSS
Status: Recruitment underway for National Development Manager for Scotland.
Focus on increasing provision and access for lower income families and young people from ethnically diverse communities. 
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 4.3: Promote quality learn to swim programmes.
Lead organisation(s): Scottish Swimming and Scottish Water 
Status: Continue to develop the National Learn to Swim Framework to promote quality learn to swim programmes delivered in partnership with local authorities, leisure trusts and aquatics providers.
Continue to work with learn to swim providers to promote the importance of children learning this life skill via launch events, branding displays and PR opportunities.
Work with RLSS and RNLI in support of the planning and implementation of specific campaigns such as drowning prevention week.
Develop a “School Learn to Swim Framework” with Scottish Water to provide a targeted programme for those who need it most. 
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 4.4: School swimming provision.
Lead organisation(s): Scottish Swimming, sportscotland, Scottish Water, local authorities.
Status: Establish a project group to identify the high level principles in developing a deliverable programme of school swimming
Timing: August 2022.

Action 4.5: Explore the scope for designated ‘safe swimming’ locations in Scotland.
Lead organisation(s): RLSS
Status: Identify similar initiatives elsewhere (e.g. Beyond Swim) and scope to identify designated swimming locations in Scotland.
Timing: Ongoing.

Outcome 5: response to incidents.  We have more effective and proactive preparations for responding to incidents; and have considered the most effective collaborative approach to resource distribution, alert notification, rapid mobilisation and location identification.


Action 5.1: Explore potential to develop a Search and Rescue Water Safety Subgroup focussed on emergency response to water safety incidents. 
Lead organisation(s): Water Safety Scotland, SFRS, Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service and HM Coastguard
Status: Search and Rescue Subgroup has been scoped and agreed by WSS and to be led by SFRS.
Draft work plan has been developed to: improve understanding of the response for rescue of water related incidents; improve communications both pre- and post-incident; and increase inter-agency water related training.
Timing: April 2022 to start up subgroup.

Action 5.2: Emergency responders to identify any areas of improvement and joint training requirements.
Lead organisation(s) : SFRS, Police Scotland, Scottish Ambulance Service and HM Coastguard
Status: Meeting held with emergency service control rooms.
Identified potential for joint training across emergency responders and control centres and best practice guide for search and rescue.
Joint training exercise to be held in 2022, supported by Scotland’s Multi-agency Resilience Training Exercise Unit (SMARTEU) to record learning.
Use to be made of Police Scotland air support drones for monitoring hotspots at key times.
Timing: Complete three training events per calendar year.

Action 5.3: Review the ‘Multi Agency Incident Response Guidance’ (MAIRG) for Loch Lomond in advance of summer 2022 to ensure protocols are consistent and effective.
Lead organisation(s): Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
Status: Updated MAIRG shared with partners in March 2022, reflecting feedback from prior dialogue. 
Timing: Implementation and impact to be kept under review and supported throughout 2022.  

Action 5.4: Undertake training exercises on alert notification, rapid mobilisation and response.
Lead organisation(s): Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park / PAWS (led by PAWS, supported by LLTNPA)
Status: West Dunbartonshire PAWS undertaken training (submerged vehicle; and throwline exercise).
Multi agency response table top exercise planned in early 2022. Particular focus on 999 procedures for inland waters. 
Post-incident meetings take place to highlight areas of improvement.
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 5.5: Ongoing review of the nature, number and deployment of incident response and of rescue equipment.
Lead organisation(s): All Search and Rescue stakeholders
Status: Individually, and in consultation with partners, all relevant stakeholders will carry out an on-going review of the nature, number and deployment of their responders and of their equipment (e.g. lifebelts / ropes, lifeboats etc).
Timing: Ongoing.

Action 5.6: Support to local Search and Rescue Committees in all coastal areas of Scotland.
Lead organisation(s): HM Coastguard
Status: Local Search and Rescue Committees chaired by HMCG are present in all coastal areas of Scotland. They review data and trends to identify where changes to resource distribution are required and ensure that the response to incidents is appropriate.
Timing: Ongoing.




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