Australian summer is the ideal period for spending time on the beach or cooling down with refreshing swims in the ocean, pool, or river. While having fun in a refreshing water body sounds like heaven, it's essential to understand water safety and the risk of drowning.

As such, we're going to take a look into water safety and drowning awareness so you can stay safe while enjoying yourself.

Factors that increase the risk of drowning

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury or death worldwide, with an estimated 236,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide, though this number can be considered a conservative estimate.

In 2022, Australia recorded the worst year for drowning deaths since 1996 (339 people over the last 12 months) due to a sharp increase in flood events, with 43 per cent of fatalities occurring during the summer. Men represented 82 per cent of all fatalities, with most deaths occurring in the 65 to 74 age bracket.

Various environmental, personal, and medical factors, as well as poor decision-making and risk-taking behaviour, affect the risk of drowning. Generally speaking, the main factors that increase the risk of drowning include:

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Taking medication and/or illegal drugs

  • Flooding

  • Medical or health issues, such as epilepsy

  • Cold water (which can cause hypothermia)

  • Hypoxic blackout (breathholding or purposeful hyperventilation before going underwater).

For a more in-depth look into each of these factors, head to the Royal Life Saving Australia website here.

Staying safe around water

The Australian Water Safety Council has regularly produced National Water Safety Plans and Strategies since 1998 to help guide community activities toward reducing the risk of accidents and drowning fatalities, as well as raising awareness about water safety. Generally speaking, there are five important tips to follow so everyone can enjoy the water safely:

  • Always supervise children around water

    • For indoors:

      • Always stay within an arm’s reach of your child when he or she is in or near pools, spas, bathtubs, toilets or buckets

      • Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed

      • Empty all buckets, containers, baby baths and wading pools immediately after use

      • Keep toilet lids closed and use toilet seat locks

      • Close top-loading washing machines

      • Never leave your child unattended in the bath or around any other body of water, even if he or she knows how to swim

      • Never leave your child alone or in the care of older children during bath time.

    • For outdoor areas such as pools, dams, creeks, and ponds:

      • Fence off the area between the house and any bodies of water.

      • Teach your child to not go near the dam, creek or water tank without you.

      • Secure a toddler-proof lid over any water tanks.

      • Fence off, drain or seal ponds if your children or visiting children are less than five years old

      • Make sure there are no trellises, ladders, windows or trees that your child could climb to get into the water tank.

    • For beaches, lakes, and rivers:

      • Always stay with your child when they’re playing in or near the sea, lakes or rivers.

      • Hold your child’s hand near waves and when paddling in rivers

      • Take your child only to patrolled beaches where surf lifesavers are present, and swim only between the red and yellow flags

      • Teach your school-age child what to do if they need help – stay calm, float and raise an arm to signal to a lifeguard or lifesaver.

  • Avoid alcohol around water

  • Wear a lifejacket

  • Know the conditions

    • Check weather alerts before and during a trip

    • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return

    • Know your limitations - If there's any doubt, then sit out

  • Avoid going alone

  • Know CPR.

For a more in-depth look into each of these safety tips and safety campaigns, head to the Royal Life Saving Australia website here.


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Water Safety Council, Australia.com, Kids Safe NSW, Raising Children, Royal Life Saving Australia #1, Royal Life Saving Australia #2, and World Health Organisation

Image credit: Gregory Rohan at Flickr

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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