Fun in the Sun – Safety on the Water

Summer is generally a time when people want to get outdoors, enjoy the weather and have fun. Cottages, campsites and beaches are popular summer destinations. Many summertime activities centre around water; whether relaxing on a pool or lake or taking part in water sports such as boating, jet skiing and swimming. However, we are often quick to forget the inherent dangers that water-based activities can pose. Coupling any of those dangers with alcohol and there is a much increased risk of water-related injury or death.

According to Ontario statistics that have been analyzed over the last decade, almost two thirds of water-related fatalities occurred in May through September, with the highest number of drownings occurring in July and August (peak summer months). Men and older adults are at the highest risk for drowning. The highest proportion of incidents occurs during a recreational activity, most commonly swimming. Lakes and large bodies of water are the leading locations of injury or death. Alcohol consumption continues to be a prominent factor in injuries and drownings. Indeed, the numbers continue to be staggering.

The lawyers of In Your Corner have seen some tragic water-related injury cases over the years. Two major cases both resulted from a very popular summertime water activity – tubing. In the first case, a gentleman suffered a severe brain injury that was caused by excessive whipping forces generated by a tow-line that was too long. The owner and operator of the boat had no idea that there were proper guidelines relating to the length of the tow-line.

Another injury case concerned a teenage girl who was riding on a boat with friends when suddenly a large gust of wind blew the tube out of the back of the boat. As the rope unraveled, it wrapped around the young girl’s leg causing her to suffer significant orthopedic injuries and, ultimately, yanking her by the leg out of the boat and into the water.

In both of the above examples, a fun summertime activity quickly took a turn to tragedy. Tragedies can often be avoided by following safety precautions wherever possible. The pool rules and safety precautions should be reviewed with each swimmer, particularly with children. Children should also be supervised at all times, as injury or death can occur in a matter of seconds. It is important to have a lifeguard available or otherwise a competent swimmer supervising the pool or swimming area at all times. Planning in advance is often essential to ensure a safe and fun experience on the water.

Christopher Dawson

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