Agenda item

Open Water Safety Update

Report of Interim Corporate Director of Regeneration, Economy and Growth

Presentation by Kevin Lough, Occupational Health and Safety Manager



The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director Neighbourhoods and Climate Change which provided the Committee with an update on Open Water Safety (for copy see file of Minutes).


The Occupational Health and Safety Manager gave a detailed presentation regarding Open Water Safety (for copy see file of Minutes).


Councillor Dan Nicholls addressed the Committee noting it was great to see there were no fatalities over the summer, but questioned the sporadic nature of the messaging on suicide prevention. He suggested that a system be put in place for stickers with the Samaritans number on in designated areas that could be reported when damaged and replaced.


Kevin Lough Occupational Health and Safety Manager informed the Committee that posters and literature was placed at known hot spots such as Durham and Chester-le-Street noting that proactive work was being carried out by Public Health.


Councillor Jake Miller asked if there were any commonalities with these hot spots and followed up by asking what more could be done in these areas.


Kevin Lough informed the Committee that there were no particular trends throughout the County noting that the City centre used to be the main hot spot for these incidents but they were now sporadic and scattered throughout the County.


Councillor David Sutton-Lloyd noted the fantastic work being carried out adding that perhaps members should look at their own wards as he could think of a few areas in his own that may not have preventative signs or notices up.


Councillor Joe Quinn was pleased to see the County was below the national average in terms of fatalities in open water. He did have concerns about rescue equipment placed in metal cabinets with a request to call 999 for assistance to open noting that if there was an incident people do not always think rationally and often panic. He asked if the best course of action was to have the safety equipment locked in a metal cabinet.


Kevin Lough responded to these concerns by informing the Committee that this was the national approach before adding that due to anti-social behaviour, equipment was becoming damaged and needing to be replaced. He confirmed 16 pieces of equipment had previously been replaced at that location. The choice was between having it in a locked cabinet or not at all.


David Balls sought clarity on what was considered a near miss.  He noted that since the group had started it had been several years since a fatality and this was to be commended. He added that across the County there had been few changes to the statistics and asked if there was anything to be learned from this.


In response Kevin Lough confirmed a near miss was any incident that had occurred with no harm, adding that the City centre was unique in that most incidents were linked with the night time economy. He Informed the Committee that the main drivers for a drop in fatalities were education and awareness noting the work done in the City Centre was very specific to that area and would be difficult to apply County wide.


The Chief Fire Officer Stuart Errington addressed the Committee firstly congratulating Kevin Lough for overseeing the work and for the successful partnership, noting the positive numbers throughout the County when compared to the national average. He informed Members that the current risk was being looked at station by station and they had recently upscaled staff specifically for this area of work. The Chief Fire Officer also reassured Members that this was an area of work that required an operational response adding that they would always look to prevention first.


The Chair informed the Committee that County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service Facebook page often had training videos uploaded, the most recent being on water training which could be shared to create more awareness.  


Councillor Cathy Hunt asked for some clarity regarding the education of the project and enquired whether schools were being visited to spread awareness, asking if the Governing bodies of these schools had been approached.


Kevin Lough informed the Committee that the Dying to be Cool initiative was offered to every school but that not all schools had taken this up, adding that those schools who had not were now being contacted and encouraged to do so. He advised members that so far 1500 students had attended some form of assembly on the topic and that a video on Dying to be Cool had been sent to some schools who did not want an assembly. With regards to how these schools were being approached it was noted that everything had been considered.


The Chair advised the Committee that as members they could perhaps approach schools in their divisions and encourage them to take up the offer of the course.


Councillor David McKenna asked what qualifications were needed to deliver the course and if youth groups were being approached to broaden the audience noting that it could be tailored to specific areas and their dangers.


Kevin Lough informed the Committee that the course had been delivered at New College, Durham Sixth Form Centre and other establishments and were actively looking to deliver the course to more places.


Supporting documents: