23 March, 2015

RoSPA taking on the Wolf Run for LifeForce

The daring members of RoSPA's Wolf Run team

The daring members of RoSPA’s Wolf Run team

On June 13th, 15 fearless RoSPA employees will be running, climbing, swimming, wading  and crawling around 10 kilometres of Leicestershire countryside, as they take part in a Wolf Run. The aim is to raise lots of money for RoSPA LifeForce and to increase awareness of the work we do. 

Simon Day, assistant product manager and one of the 15 brave souls, blogs about the start of his journey to the Wolf Run, to explain a bit about the event, as well as providing a few tips on how to run safely in all conditions…

Challenge YOURSELF!

First things first, I’m not looking for sympathy. We’re not attempting to scale a mountain, or to swim the Channel or to do one of those extreme challenges that the likes of Walliams and Izzard seem to specialise in. We’re just going to complete 10km around a very muddy obstacle course. It’s something that thousands of other people do and it’s something that many more would scoff at. Indeed, some of the other members of the “RoSPA 15” are regarding the event as little more than a stroll in the park. “10km? That’s nothing, I run that most days.”

Nonetheless, 10km of mud represents a decent-sized challenge for me. I’m not completely unfit, a few years ago I considered myself to be extremely fit. I played cricket, football and badminton, I was a regular at the gym and I was even a qualified cricket coach. But I got older, lazier and became unfit.  In fact, until this recent episode began I hadn’t broken into a trot for about 18 months.  I’m also a bit of a coward…so I definitely do not want to get hurt or injured.

Get prepared and have the right tools for the job

When the idea of the Wolfrun was mooted, I didn’t exactly jump at the chance to put my name down. But for some strange, inexplicable reason I decided to say “yes”. I’d love to come up with something more cathartic here, but I’d be lying, I just said “yes” without really thinking about it!

I paid my fee…and then gave some thought to exactly how I was going to build up my fitness in three short months! Luckily, the modern world makes life easier and I soon stumbled upon an excellent app that aimed to take me from couch to 10km in 12 weeks. There are three runs per week, with the length and intensity increasing week by week.

Of course, I needed some kit first – after much scrambling around spare room drawers I found a Portugal World Cup 2002 shirt that just about fitted and didn’t appear to have any holes in it.  It did however lack a key component for running around the English countryside…it wasn’t waterproof! A visit to the murky depths of my golf bag soon rectified the situation – a lightweight, breathable waterproof jacket may sound like something from Alan Partridge’s sports casual range, but for cross country running it’s perfect.

shoe printNow it was time to find some trainers, I unearthed a pair that were emitting a stench that told a story of neglect. But I didn’t care, I’d be running through mud so aesthetics and aroma were hardly key considerations. What was important was that they were comfortable and provided support for my ankles.

Make sure your training matches your challenge

Then came the running bit. My years of playing sport had taught me the importance of warming up before exercise. So some stretching exercises were followed by a brisk five minute walk to loosen the muscles. While I’m on the subject, it’s also vital to warm down after exercising. It’s tempting to just collapse in a heap after running, but a few minutes of walking and stretching will help prevent injuries.

I decided that road running wouldn’t cut it, I needed to go cross country in order to better prepare. Luckily, I live in a pretty remote spot, but one that I know well. here are plenty of ignored footpaths and bridleways within easy reach of my front door. What’s more, most of them involve steep inclines and uneven ground. Perfect! I had a clearly defined route planned and was going to stick to it.

My app is a combination of running and brisk walking for half an hour. Easy in theory, but in practice it meant I was breaking into runs during very steep muddy climbs. There’s also the problem of uneven ground. Run on a street and you know that the surface will be solid. Run on mud and every step is a gamble. Sometimes you land hard, sometimes you squelch and sometimes your foot moves at a funny angle. That’s why it’s important to run during daylight hours. Seeing where you’re going is imperative – I encountered a number of stray branches that would currently be protruding from my eye socket had I attempted the run during darkness. Regardless of light, I was finding it difficult to differentiate between mud and horse manure during certain sections of the run. A post-run inspection of my trainers revealed that my differentiating skills weren’t the best.

Simon Day, RoSPA assistant product manager

Simon Day, RoSPA assistant product manager

Nevertheless, I completed runs one and two and felt surprisingly fine. On run three it rained hard. By hard, I mean really hard;

the sky was reminiscent of the end of Ghostbusters and to make matters worse, I discovered a fresh problem. Namely that wet Portugal World Cup 2002 shirts lead to severe nipple itching! Now, the sight of a soaking wet, panting man, scratching his own nipples may be appealing to some, but when you’re the man in question it’s a particularly miserable experience.

But once again, I completed the circuit. And you know what; I do feel slightly better about the whole thing. I know I can run, and I have a clearer idea of what some of the challenges will be. I’m still dreading the actual run, but I’m happy that I’m on the right track.

You can donate by visiting our Just Giving page HERE

5 March, 2015

Cycling to work: thoughts from our man on two wheels

As part of RoSPA’s Family Safety Week, Matt Cryer, our awards and events development manager, blogs on his reflections as a part-time cycle-commuter in Birmingham. The views contained are Matt’s own.

I live five miles from RoSPA’s head office. I cycle in around three days a week, using a combination of roads and traffic-free cycle paths, depending on the time of year. Here are my top tips and observations about how to safely enjoy riding to work.

Bike white wall 2Know your bike, kit and route

First and foremost, get to know your bike, and make sure it’s well maintained. This not only makes your bike safer, but also quieter and easier to ride. I’ve not always been great at this – noisy gears or squeaky brakes don’t inspire confidence and can hamper your enjoyment of riding to work.

Before heading out, I always give my bike a visual check (see the M-check safety video for how to quickly carry this out), and make sure my tyres are correctly inflated, as under-inflation makes them more prone to puncture from on-road debris. Finally, I check that my lights are working, and that I have a spare set of batteries. I also choose to wear a helmet and a high-visibility reflective jacket to improve my visibility to other road users.

Before you head out, choose a route you are comfortable with. You can often avoid heavy traffic and tricky junctions without making your commute much longer. For example, during the darker winter months, I tend to commute primarily on the road, but in the lighter months, I have the alternative of combining this with unlit cycle paths, which reduces risk by letting me cycle away from other traffic.

Build your Confidence

It’s easy to feel vulnerable on city roads and to want to hug the gutter to stay away from traffic. However, this isn’t the safest place. Gutter debris, painted lines and drain covers all make this a risky position to take on the road – particularly when it’s wet. On roads with parked vehicles, you’re also putting yourself in the “door zone”, at risk of colliding with opening vehicle doors.

I found reading up on road positioning to be really helpful. Learning about the primary (centre of traffic lane) and secondary (approx 0.5m-1m from kerb) positions and when to use them will transform the way you ride. Good positioning, clear hand signals and regular looks over your shoulder will help make traffic aware of your direction and intentions, and much less likely to squeeze you with an overtake where there’s not really enough room.

Bounce back

Vehicles will occasionally squeeze you with an overtake where there’s not really enough room. Not everyone makes good decisions, but don’t let it knock your confidence, or make you unreasonably angry, as both these states of mind affect your own judgement and concentration as you continue to ride. Just carry on riding positively and positioning your bike carefully – or take time out to calm down.

Don’t get too confident

Having been a cycle commuter for some time, I often feel my biggest risk is over-confidence. I enjoy riding in traffic, and making faster progress than other vehicles can definitely give you a buzz. But it’s easy to want to make progress at all costs, which can sometimes go against good judgement.

Be particularly careful when moving past stationary traffic, which won’t always be looking out for you.

While it might feel safer, make sure you only ever filter on the left if there is no chance that the traffic will start flowing suddenly.

From experience, drivers are less likely to check their left-hand mirror in heavy traffic and you don’t want to be caught on the inside of a long vehicle if it starts moving – particularly if it chooses to turn left. This is one of the most common causes of fatal cycling accidents, due to vehicle blind-spots.

Matt cycle gear 2

Matt Cryer, RoSPA’s awards and events development manager, in his cycling gear.

In stationary traffic, also be extra aware of pedestrians, who may register that vehicle traffic has stopped and step into the road without looking out for cyclists. This one nearly caught me out just last week. I avoided the pedestrian, but ended up in an undignified heap on the floor.

Most of all, enjoy it!

With careful maintenance, thought-out road positioning and confidence, I find cycling to work extremely enjoyable and great for keeping fit.

Be sure to check out the Family Safety Week website for more advice on cycle safety for you and your family.

21 January, 2015

Make sure your sledging trip doesn’t end in A&E

David Walker, RoSPA’s leisure safety manager, writes on how to make the annual winter favourite safer for families to enjoy.

This month’s snow flurries have inevitably led to people dusting off their sledges, or creating makeshift ones, and getting out onto previously-grassy slopes. It’s a time-honoured tradition that allows the Great British public to enjoy the winter weather to the fullest – and compared to other winter-related incidents, it has a small accident rate.

RoSPA Copyright SledgersBut as with any activity, the increase in participants leads to an increase in the number of accidents, with those causing fatal or serious injuries tending to be those where the rider crashes into an object, or is hurt by their makeshift sled.

But this should not put off any would-be sledgers. The risk is obviously inherent, but no more so than any other sporting or physical activity.

RoSPA encourages people of all ages to get out onto the slopes, but as with everything else there are ways to reduce the chances of ending up in accident and emergency.

The best advice we can offer is to take time to consider your choice of sledging location. It is obviously better if the snow is deeper, and the run should be clear of obstacles such as trees, fences and rocks.  It is also best to avoid sledging near to roads, pavements and bodies of water, regardless of whether it is frozen.

If you walk up the slope first you will be able to get a feel for how safe the run will be, giving yourself time to spot hazards, finding out how steep the slope is (as standing at the top can give a false impression of the gradient), and checking for the amount of stopping distance at the bottom.

If the slope is particularly busy, be considerate to others using it as clashes can result in some nasty injuries, and only go

sledging in the daytime.  It’s also best to go down feet first!

David Walker, RoSPA leisure safety manager

David Walker, RoSPA leisure safety manager

And finally, if you are planning on taking a homemade sledge, think about what could happen if you crash with it, such as “are there sharp edges?”

Sledging is a fun way to enjoy the cold weather, and with a few simple steps you can ensure it doesn’t end with a trip to A&E.

8 January, 2015

Businesses back our life-saving mission beyond the workplace

Michael Corley, our head of campaigns and fundraising, takes a look at how businesses are getting behind RoSPA’s life-saving work.

By entering our awards, taking our training or becoming RoSPA members, we know that companies are champions of safety in the workplace.

But since setting up our fundraising team, we’ve come to realise that many of the organisations we work with are standing up for safety beyond the factory gates and office doors.

For 18 months we’ve been working with some of the UK’s largest companies, getting their staff on board to raise funds for our life-saving mission.

Here is just a flavour of what they are doing to support our work:

  • In September 2014, Securitas staff from across the UK harnessed pedal power to raise money after seeing our appeals video at the RoSPA Awards. The week-long ‘Tour of Securitas’ also saw workers running raffles, competitions and bake sales
  • Outsourcing specialist Bunzl donated £15,000 to our managing occupational road risk campaign. Their UK managing director and key staff also attended our forum in October which looked at new ways to help employers manage the risks staff face (and create) when they use the road for work purposes
  • Morrison Utility Services and others have joined our “Family of Fundraisers” scheme
  • Cycle clothes manufacturer Proviz has designed a reflective cycle jacket, with £5 from all sales generated through a promotional video going to support our work.
The Tour of Securitas

The Tour of Securitas

It’s been a fascinating journey for us – and for the companies we are working with. Many are genuinely surprised by the number of different areas of safety we are involved in – from our work to get more carbon monoxide alarms in people’s homes to our campaign to prevent children being poisoned by household products.

And it’s not all about fundraising. Many firms want to get staff volunteering, taking their safety knowledge out beyond the workplace.

They have learned that improvements in road safety and workplaces mean that homes and leisure pursuits now cause far more injuries and deaths – 1,000 per month – than car crashes and industrial accidents.

Michael Corley

Michael Corley

So they’re keen to get involved in our upcoming volunteer scheme, which will take their safety knowledge into people’s homes to keep vulnerable individuals and families safe.

Research undertaken by Business in the Community and others shows that when employees take part in volunteering, they feel more engaged, more motivated and more confident as a result.

It’s a win-win situation for both a business and the charity it supports. So, if you would like to find out more about how we could work with your company, please get in touch on 0121 248 2507 or email mcorley@rospa.com. I’d love to hear from you.

4 December, 2014

Drowning – the silent, global pandemic

Ten key actions to prevent drowning (WHO report)

Ten key actions to prevent drowning (WHO report)

Every single hour, of every single day, 40 people around the world die from drowning.

This preventable killer is among the top 10 leading causes of death in every region of the world, and sadly it is children under five who are at the greatest risk of what is, essentially, a global pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last month published its Global Report on Drowning, which now recognises the serious extent of the problem.

It’s a long-awaited and welcome report that sets out just how serious the issue is, and lists suggestions as to what can be done so that the global community can start to tackle the problem. Such is the enormity of the issue that it’s astounding that this is the first report and strategy of its kind to be published.

We hear about other terrible blights in the press every day, but drowning is the silent pandemic. An estimated 372,000 people die every year but the true figure is likely to be much higher, possibly as high as 50 per cent more in some countries, due to the methods of data collection used.

Regardless, the estimated death toll still puts drowning at two-thirds of that of malnutrition, and more than 50 per cent of that of malaria. Despite this, we have targeted prevention methods for these two issues, but none for drowning.

And let’s not kid ourselves that this is solely a Third World issue, as despite more than 90 per cent of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries, the problem also exists in developed nations where walking next to or being near water leads to a high number of incidents of drowning. The majority of drowning happens in inland water, in everyday situations. Within poorer nations, travel and fetching water are the major factors where drowning occurs.



The WHO report outlines 10 key actions to prevent drowning, simple steps which could help to save thousands of lives every year:

  1. Install barriers controlling access to water
  2. Provide safe places away from water for pre-school children
  3. Teach school age children basic swimming, water safety and rescue skills
  4. Train the public in safe rescue and resuscitation
  5. Strengthen public awareness
  6. Set safe boating, shipping and ferry regulations
  7. Manage flood risks and other hazards
  8. Coordinate drowning prevention with other sectors
  9. Develop a national water safety plan
  10. Address priority research questions with studies.

On top of these key actions, the report also outlines four recommendations that nations can implement to begin to address the pandemic, recommendations which RoSPA supports.

Nation states should A) implement proven prevention strategies tailored to their own circumstances, B) take steps to improve the data available, C) aim to develop a national water safety plan, and D) band together to form a global partnership for drowning prevention.

Together, we can tackle an issue that is so easily preventable that it should not even be a problem. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying needlessly each year, and, as the report states, the time to act is now.

David Walker, RoSPA’s leisure safety manager

21 November, 2014

Avoiding the dangers of asbestos

Guest blogger Clive Searle, sales director at Sussex-based BSW Heating, talks about what asbestos is, its history and dangers, and how to avoid harm if you work with the substance.

Asbestos TapeAsbestos is a material that was regularly used as a method of insulation for domestic and commercial properties as well as industrial buildings during the earlier 20th century. It was incapable of burning, making it the ideal material to stop households from suffering severe fire damage.

However, it was soon discovered that asbestos had potentially damaging effects on people’s lungs that could result in an unpleasant cough and noticeable shortness of breath. If someone was exposed to asbestos that was gradually deteriorating over a significant period of time or being broken up, drilled or chipped, they were at risk of a disease known as asbestosis.

The difficulty was that symptoms of asbestosis were not apparent until many years after exposure in most cases, so there were many tradesman working alongside the material that were completely unaware of the scarring taking place in their lungs.

Asbestos gained substantial media attention after it was linked to a form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Strict regulations were introduced to avoid workers being exposed to asbestos in the 1970s as a result of the findings.

Asbestos is the name given to a long strip of crystalline fibres that are resistant to heat, chemicals and electricity. With properties such as these, it was concluded that asbestos could potentially be used to great effect in various industries such as insulation, railway, shipbuilding, construction, electricity and more.

Three different types of asbestos were introduced into these industries, including crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and chrysotile (white asbestos). The most common of these was chrysotile, which was used up until 1999 when it was officially banned in the UK.

Blue and brown asbestos are far more dangerous than white asbestos and were banned in the 1980s. Neither blue nor brown asbestos could be imported into the UK after the asbestos regulations were introduced in 1970. People who have or may suffer in the future from asbestosis are entitled to compensation for working amongst the materials in the past.

The threat of asbestos has been widely reported across the UK since the regulations were first introduced. Around 4,000 workers a year die from past exposure to asbestos and asbestos-related diseases are by some distance the main cause of work-related deaths. Campaigns have been set up to support workers who have suffered from diseases associated with handling asbestos.Asbestos

Asbestosis and other serious asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma are not yet curable, meaning that almost all workers diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. Asbestos is often referred to as “the hidden killer” due to the fact that so many workers are oblivious to the threat it poses to their health.

The most worrying fact of all is that many old buildings that require construction work still contain asbestos, meaning that there are still workers today being exposed to the dangerous material despite its ban. Thankfully, tradesmen are now given specialist training to identify asbestos and deal with it appropriately.

It is essential for anyone who believes they may be at risk from the presence of asbestos in their home or working environment to get in touch with a specialist asbestos removal team. You can also get in touch with campaign groups to receive detailed information and assistance regarding the steps you should take. By reading up on asbestos, what it looks like and where it may be present, you can make an informed, accurate assumption and realise when professional assistance may be necessary.

Workers who are at risk of being exposed to asbestos or believe they may have worked with it in the past will benefit from the following set of guidelines:

Avoid it

You should never be forced to work somewhere where asbestos may be present. You are fully entitled not to start working on a project you believe may be contaminated with asbestos-related materials.

Whoever assigned you the job, whether it’s the customer or your boss, should always make you aware of asbestos before you start a project. Ultimately, it is advised that you avoid asbestos wherever possible.

Be aware of its forms

There are different types of asbestos as mentioned above. Some of these types of asbestos were best suited to certain parts of a property, such as the plumbing and insulation areas.

You should not work on any asbestos materials at any time without the correct training but it is essential that you do not approach asbestos products that come in the form of spray coating, lagging or

Clive Searle, sales director at BSW Heating

Clive Searle, sales director at BSW Heating

boards. Some types of asbestos are more dangerous than others and require the attention of licensed contractors.

Asbestos training required

If you have asbestos training you can continue to work but it is vital that you do this only if you have the correct training. Simple advice or information is not enough as specialist training is required to identify certain materials and approach them in the correct way.

Always wear the correct clothing

You MUST wear the correct clothing and equipment when dealing with asbestos, which includes a specific asbestos protection mask and NOT a standard dust mask.

Hand tools instead of power tools

When working on asbestos, be sure to stick with hand tools rather than power tools to reduce the amount of asbestos dust produced. Use a specialist vacuum to clean as you go as well as asbestos waste bags that are properly labelled when disposing of the material.

19 November, 2014

Preventing burn injuries to children

Dr Toity Deave, associate professor for family and child health from the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health at the University of the West of England, Bristol, gives an insight into ongoing efforts to reduce burn injuries to young children.

hot_drink“I never realised that it would be as bad as that. If only I had known.”

How many times have parents said that to emergency department staff, to burns specialists or to their health visitors?

In the UK, we drink so much tea and coffee but are generally unaware that a hot drink can scald a child even up to 15 minutes after it has been made. Therefore, if a child pulls it down over itself, the liquid will spread over the trunk, shoulders and arms. Because their skin is 14 times thinner than ours as adults, they will be scalded much more quickly than us and will have an extensive injury. As someone with a health visiting background, I can’t help but want to do something to raise awareness.

How many more children need to be injured before there is a national hot drinks awareness week with, for example, coffee shops doing their bit to educate their customers and ensure that they support the “hot drinks pledge”?baby_hands

Prevention is key, but adequate and appropriate first aid prevents further tissue damage and subsequent morbidity. It is amazing to learn that running under cool water for 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes; believe me, that feels like a long time!), even up to 1-3 hours post-injury, will help the healing and reduce scarring.

“Cool, call and cover” is the message. Cool under running water for 20 minutes, call for help (111, 999), cover the cooled burn with cling film or clean, non-fluffy cloth.

We want to advise parents, childcare staff and others about the dangers of hot drinks but there have been national media campaigns, small scale, local endeavours but with short-term, if any, impact.

Why is this the case?

It is probably a mixture of factors including the fact that we often have hot drinks in a social setting so we don’t pay so much attention to our children, supervise them less and give less consideration to where we place our mugs. There is our lack of awareness about how even a cuppa at a temperature that we are happy to drink can still scald a young child. Those mugs with lids are expensive to those on a limited budget and, in reality, can you imagine serving up tea at home in one of those to all your friends?

Those of us in the Children’s Burns Research Centre are looking at ways to raise awareness and reduce scald and burn injuries.

We have just completed the Keeping Children Safe at Home (KCS) programme of work and submitted a 900+page report to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)! This was a huge programme of 16 separate studies that we undertook over a five-year period in four study centres based in Nottingham, Bristol, Norwich and Newcastle (universities and trusts), led by Denise Kendrick of the University of Nottingham. The University of Leicester and the Child Accident Prevention Trust were also involved.

For one of the later studies within this programme, we used a structured process of combining evidence with practical service delivery and we developed an Injury Prevention Briefing (IPB) to reduce fire-related injuries – a guidance document for children’s centre staff to use with families.

Why fire-related injuries? They have the steepest of all child injuries in the UK and there is evidence about effective interventions, such as working smoke detectors. We tested it out in children’s centres and, as part of this study, we asked children’s centre staff about parent responsiveness to the advice and discussions, barriers and facilitators to implementation and for suggestions for improvements to the IPB.

Consequent to that, we have developed a second IPB that’s used research results from other studies within the KCS programme (case-control studies, decision modelling, cost effectiveness and literature reviews) and advice from four workshops with practitioners in Nottingham, Newcastle, Norwich and Bristol. It includes key messages and research findings together with information snippets, links with child development checklists, quizzes, handouts and sources of further information and resources for falls, burns/scalds and poisoning injuries. It is aimed at a range of practitioners who can use it in their work supporting families with young children in a variety of different contexts. It is freely available as an interactive pdf.

• The blog was written to mark the Department of Health’s Week of Action last November, which focused on health professionals working with the families of children and young people aged 0-19.

Also in support of the Week of Action, a blog by Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser, is available to read on the blog site of Viv Bennett, the Department of Health’s director of nursing.

10 November, 2014

Claudia Winkleman’s daughter – A tragic wake-up call to us all

Candles burning in the darkLast week, the nation was shocked by the appalling Halloween accident involving television presenter Claudia Winkleman’s eight-year-old daughter Matilda. While the specifics of the incident are still not clear, the incident nevertheless serves as a shocking reminder of both the dangers of naked flames, as well as the devastating effect accidents can have in general – particularly when young children are involved.

Every year, more than one million children under the age of 15 experience accidents in and around the home, resulting in a visit to our already overburdened accident and emergency units. Accidents are the most common cause of death in children over the age of one and every year they leave many thousands permanently disabled or disfigured. While falls account for the majority of non-fatal accidents, the highest number of deaths are due to fire.

Last year alone, 138 people in England were admitted to hospital after their clothing either ignited or melted, and as the case of Matilda Winkleman shows, an unattended flame has the ability of turning a happy family event into every parent’s worst nightmare in a matter of seconds.

Perhaps most tragic of all, is the fact that most of these accidents are preventable through increased awareness, improvements in the home environment and greater product safety. As RoSPA’s recent work with Intertek shows, there are simple steps that parents can take to prevent a similar accident, such as ensuring all children’s Halloween costumes, masks and wigs must carry a CE mark (which means they comply with the European Toy Safety Directive and should they catch alight, the rate of burning is slow), as well as removing naked flames by not having candles within reach of smiling pumpkinchildren and making sure all outfits worn by children are well-fitted and not too long or flowing. RoSPA’s website is full of advice and guidance on keeping your loved ones safe from harm.

RoSPA believes that no parent should ever have to suffer the agony and uncertainty Claudia Winkleman and her family are undoubtedly going through following this horrendous incident. That is why every year we campaign to stop the misery and heartache preventable accidents cause by providing information, advice and practical support to parents across the UK and beyond. If you would like to support RoSPA in our mission to stop accidents like the one Matilda suffered from ever happening again, please visit our fundraising page to see the enormous difference your contribution can make.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

7 November, 2014

Schools must do more to get kids swimming

Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.comHaving swimming and water safety skills is fundamental, and along with being a lifesaver it opens up a world of fitness and leisure activities to create healthier lifestyles.

So it is surprising that new figures from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) show nearly half of seven to 11 year olds cannot swim 25 metres unaided – that’s 200,000 children every year denied the chance to learn this essential skill.

Swimming is the key tool against drowning. It is important because around one quarter (our estimate) of all drowning happens to people who never intended to get wet, and were just spending time by the water.

Although much is being done in the majority of primary schools to ensure their children can swim, to discover that 45 per cent of Key Stage Two students cannot perform this most basic task in water is a damning indictment.

There has been positive work to address the problem, retaining the obligation within the curriculum is good news, but more has to be done. For example, why should schools rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted retain that rating if they do not provide swimming lessons?

David Walker_2013

David Walker, RoSPA leisure safety manager

A particularly worrying finding is that four in 10 parents do not know their children’s swimming ability.

Not only does swimming help to prevent drowning, it also has a whole range of other benefits. It is one of the best forms of exercise, and gives people the confidence to try new and exciting activities.

We support what ASA is doing as every child has a right to learn swimming and water safety skills.

To find out more about what can be done, see www.swimming.org/schoolcharter

David Walker, RoSPA leisure safety manager

16 October, 2014

Automated gates – advice for homeowners

GSW LOW RES logo v2 web.fwIt’s Gate Safety Week (October 13-19, 2014). Here Michael Corley, RoSPA’s head of campaigns and fundraising, talks about how to play it safe when installing an electric gate.

Automated or electric gates are becoming a popular feature for homeowners. They are great for bolstering home security and help to create a sense of privacy.

For families with young children and pets, automated gates guard against the risk of an impromptu adventure away from the home environment. Older people or those with a disability may also be attracted to the benefits of automated gates, which do away with the need to get in and out of the car to open a potentially heavy gate.

But much as these gates are a welcome addition to many homes, they can be potentially lethal if there is a failure to stick to the recommended safety measures.

In the last four years, there have been seven accidents relating to automated gates, two of which have resulted in the deaths of young children. These occurred because the gates in question did not carry the correct safety features.

There have also been a further seven accidents, including four fatalities, involving heavy manual and automated gates which have fallen on top of the victim as a result of not having been properly installed.

It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of all automated gates do not meet the current recommended safety protocol, so the likelihood of another accident occurring is quite high, sadly.

Even though Gate Safe’s training course has been running for two years, it’s clear that many electric gates are still being fitted and maintained in a way that causes concern, and there are still gates that were installed before the current guidelines were introduced.

The message is simple: no one should install or work on automated gates without knowing the relevant safety standards.

Consumers should always find a suitably trained installer who understands the safety measures that need to be strictly adhered to.

Gate Safe’s advice to homeowners is:

• If you are having an automated gate fitted, always ask for an installer who has been trained to understand the risks associated with automated gates. Go to the Gate Safe website www.gate-safe.org to find your nearest Gate Safe Aware installer

• An automated gate is classed as a machine. It has a legal requirement to be CE marked

• Any automated gate should be supported by a minimum of two types of safety feature from a choice of safety edges / photo cells and force limitation. Gate Safe always recommends the inclusion of photo cells and safety edges on all automated gates regardless of whether a force limitation device has been installed to ensure the highest level of safety

• If you already have an automated gate, stick to the regular maintenance checks (a minimum of every six months) to ensure its continued safety. The price quoted for an automated gate should incorporate a 12-month fully inclusive maintenance agreement. The cost should also include a training visit to explain to the main users of the gate how to operate it safely and how to disable it in the event of an accident

• Alongside the recommended minimum six-monthly maintenance inspections, all automated gates should be regularly reviewed to identify any changes to the site (for example, if a brick wall is built within close proximity to the gate).

For more information, visit gatesafetyweek.org.uk/.



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