Posts tagged ‘leisure safety’

5 December, 2013

Sioned Rees: My accident was a wake-up call

I love mountain climbing. Ever since I can remember my father has always dragged me along his long hikes around the local mountains of South Wales where I was brought up. I grew to love walking and I have always especially loved the beautiful sights from the summit of Mount Snowdon.

Sioned’s first successful Climb up Mount Snowdon.

Sioned’s first successful Climb up Mount Snowdon.

Prior to my accident, I had attempted to climb Snowdon twice. The first time the weather was dreadful, but it was my 18th birthday and I was determined to reach the top. We didn’t make it and we were defeated by the weather. However, my second attempt was successful – my father and I scrambled across ‘y grib goch’ and we reached the summit!

On June 17, 2013, I had a spontaneous idea to climb Snowdon. This crazy idea involved me going dressed as I was, and unprepared for the conditions. As I approached the top, I was exhausted, but I went to find a quiet space along the summit. It was a little ledge tucked out of the way of the crowd of people gathered at the top. I sat down and lay quiet watching the spectacular views…

I wasn’t prepared for climbing up Snowdon. Not in the clothes I was wearing nor the equipment I had with me. Neither was I prepared to suffer the exhausting after effects of climbing so high so spontaneously. I fell asleep on the ledge I was laid on. Suddenly, I woke to find myself falling. Next thing I remember is being freezing cold and not being able to see a thing for the fog surrounding the mountain. Sixteen hours later I mustered enough strength through my shivering to scream for help but got no reply. I gather I must have fallen asleep or been out of consciousness for the next few minutes or so, enough for the fog to clear, and I was just about able to see the path, the ‘pyg’ trail. I saw some people walking and managed to shout a few times for help. This time I got a reply and one of them started running towards me. “Help, I’m stuck,” I screamed. They said they would call for help, and they did.

A photo of Sioned’s rescue.

A photo of Sioned’s rescue.

Twenty hours after I first fell, The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team had managed to climb down to find me. I don’t remember much detail but my gosh was I glad to see them. The RAF Mountain Valley Rescue team then turned up, and apparently it was piloted by Prince William. Finding me was half the battle as they didn’t know where I was. I was found 300ft short of the summit.

I was taken to hospital where I found out I’d suffered multiple spinal fractures as well as a fractured sternum and gouges to rival the Grand Canyon. I lay flat on my back for almost two weeks. I then learned to walk again following an operation to insert two titanium rods into my spine. I have learned never to go ill-prepared and always to let someone know where I am going, and what my plans are! The main factor contributing to my accident was my little preparation and the fact that I hadn’t told anyone even though I felt prepared. I didn’t realise the danger I was putting myself in to.

Sioned walks for the first time since her accident.

Sioned walks for the first time since her accident.

My recovery has been long and difficult. At the time of my accident, I was in my first year of a nursing degree. Now my hopeful career of nursing has had to be put on hold while I recover. I miss my old student life and would like to raise awareness of the dangers of climbing mountains unprepared.

Sioned Rees

Some guidance from our leisure safety manager David Walker:

Sioned has been very brave in sharing her story. Rescue operations of people who have misjudged the dangers while climbing mountains or who were unprepared for the conditions are common and there are lots of sources of advice for climbers, hill walkers, and mountaineers, available from the British Mountaineering Council.

RoSPA’s advice is to be prepared for the terrain and always have a plan B.

6 September, 2011

Shopping for safety with RoSPA and dbda

RoSPA’s partner in safety, dbda, has launched a shiny new website to showcase our range of products. Visit to take a look at what’s on offer.

Resources cover a vast range of topics and safety areas, from workplace safety to safety at home, on the road, in and around water, and at leisure.

Also on offer is an exceptional variety of safety education materials aimed at teachers and schools, as well as posters, books and activities for parents and governors. In fact, we’ve just released a new set of resources aimed at teachers – if you want to build safety into your lessons, your first stop should be RoSPA.

Posters, books and videos are a great way of supplementing and illustrating safety messages, helping to bring safety to life. Go and visit, and take a look around: there’s something for everyone and plenty of ideas to inspire a safer way of life.

26 August, 2011

Gone wild swimmin’

One of the many pleasures of moving to Cumbria last year was the opportunity to go completely wild a bit more often. I’ve been enjoying weekends and holidays up there for more than thirty years, so I’d already sussed out some great swimming spots (which will remain top secret!).

There’s nothing better after a day on the fells than to rejuvenate tired limbs in cold water, and with a sailing boat and a canoe in the inventory, to complement shanks’s pony and the (t)rusty bike, it’s easy to get into some remote spots where others might fear to tread water.

Our CEO takes a dip

With RoSPA having taken more than a bit of flak from open water swimmers in the past, it is now time to disclose that the CEO and quite a few others of us RoSPA folk often go wet and wild. To be even more honest, I have swum in some uncommon places, including all of the Great Lakes (some kind of bet), Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan (seriously, painfully cold) and the Ganges at Varanasi (spiritually uplifting but bacterially soupy). Also, if you take to cold water with all the happy, panting enthusiasm of a Newfoundland dog, you might as well swim there too, and I have.

Of course at RoSPA, we know only too well that people should never swim where it is prohibited (e.g. some parks, rivers, reservoirs and gravel pits), should never be impaired by alcohol and should not swim directly after a meal.  There are plenty of websites devoted to the joys of wild swimming, containing advice, information and recommending places to get wet.

And despite the image of bohemian freedom conjured up by wild swimming, there are quite a few pointers that I have learnt along the way, to suit my own appetite for “wild”. In Cumbria, my greatest fear is being swept away, so in a river if the current looks too fast, it is too fast and I look for somewhere more benign.

I also do a quick recce around the spot in case anything looks dangerous or has changed since the last visit – a boulder likely to tumble, a fallen tree or a jumble of rocks to get your foot trapped in – all need to be scoped out.

Swimming shoes are must-haves (light and easy to pack in a rucksack) to protect the feet and give some kind of grip on slimy rocks, as are trunks (middle-aged man alert!) because the alternative, though DH Lawrence-esque, could easily spook any passing walkers. Mountain Rescue has enough on its plate!

Not everybody was enamoured of the cold...!

Submerged, waterlogged trees are as rigid as iron and very painful if a sharp branch hits a vital part. So I go in slowly and get my breath before swimming and if the water is really cold (I’m a wimpy April-October type), I aim to stay within my depth, swimming parallel to the shore, in case of cramp in those tired, fell-worn limbs.

Most importantly, I have never, ever gone alone, tempting though the solitude is, and whether my wife, one of my sons or a friend is with me, we always have a brief chat about the hazards and what to do in an emergency.

But taking these precautions is only a tiny impediment to the feeling that soon follows once the body settles down and the “hit” of that peaty, cold water washes over the soul, the pleasure heightened by the glorious Lakeland surroundings. It is pure magic, a cleansing, invigorating antidote to all the cares of the world.

When you emerge, reborn and renewed, everything in your life looks that little bit sharper and brighter, there is a tiny, involuntary smile on your lips and, for the rest of the day, you walk, springy with joy, on a soft cushion of fresh mountain air.

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s Chief Executive


12 July, 2011

Scramble your way to a coastal adventure

As promised in the last blog on tombstoning, we’d like to introduce coasteering: a popular and developing activity that involves traversing the intertidal zone – or, in everyday language, scrambling around the coastline having fun.

Those taking part in the activity use a combination of scrambling, walking, swimming and jumping to complete the

The idea is NOT to stay dry...

journey – if you set out with the intention of staying dry, you’re not coasteering!

In its early days, coasteering was a niche activity which began in Pembrokeshire, south Wales, where there are miles of wild, rocky coastline to explore. It was run by a small number of well-managed outdoor centres; but since then the activity has spread around the UK. This growth in the sport’s popularity has brought new activity providers onto the scene.

In the summer of 2007, primarily as a result of several incidents and near misses, members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) began to think about the management and development of coasteering – and, in parallel, approaches to managing “tombstoning” incidents.

In response to these incidents, a joint project was launched with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS). Under the direction of the NWSF beach advisory group, an industry working group was established involving some 120 organisations and individuals providing commercial coasteering services to the public. The project aimed to reduce the number of accidents, and implement an industry standard for organisations offering coasteering activities.

How did we address the issue?

  1. Developing an industry group. Bringing the providers, regulators and rescue organisations together has been the key activity over the last few years.

New and emerging sports often have local pockets of knowledge and excellent practice; sharing this and embedding good practice was the objective, along with helping the industry to formalise the knowledge that was sometimes locked away.

One of the early achievements was the development of a workable definition of coasteering:

Coasteering involves traversing along a stretch of intertidal zone, often as part of an organised group activity. Participants travel across rocks and through water, using a variety of techniques including climbing, swimming and jumping into water. Coasteering guides and participants wear appropriate clothing and equipment while undertaking coasteering activities.

  1. Agreeing industry standards and common practice. This was no mean feat. Many of the providers had to sacrifice some of their hard-earned commercial experience and compromise.

The maxim of “not allowing excellence to be the enemy of good” proved true; many providers had first rate standards and operations, which were beyond the capability of smaller companies. The working group addressed this by developing a “safe as necessary” standard that was achievable by everyone in the industry. The group put together two documents outlining the agreed practice and information.

The guidance has proved to be influential and both documents have been adopted by the outdoor industry regulator, the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA).

  1. Developing capacity. One of the issues identified early in the project was the number of organisations involved in developing the sport, who were doing a good job in terms of promoting good practice, but had little resource to scale this nationally.

The original industry group has now progressed from being a NWSF working group into the National Coasteering Charter (NCC), which now includes the majority of providers and training bodies. This group will take forward the sharing and embedding of good practice across the sport.

Adventure is beautiful

Did the project deliver everything we wanted?

No. Not all the training providers are currently involved, nor are some of the other wider industry groups. But, and this is an important “but”, the key providers are involved and they have a common vision of improving the safety and quality of the sector.

However, the wider impact of the project shouldn’t be underestimated.

The process itself and the fact that an industry group overcame its difficulties to work together through what were contentious issues and achieve a good number of excellent outcomes have been noted both in the UK and internationally.

The coasteering project was presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam (look out for a blog on this event soon!).

So, what next?

The NCC will take over governance of the key documents with RoSPA, the RNLI, the MCA and other members of the NWSF taking more of a watching brief. The NCC, if it grows as promised, looks to be the best forum for managing the issues associated with coasteering and as such it will have a formal reporting route through the NWSF and, we hope, through other groups.

For more information about coasteering:

Coasteering is great fun, and a unique way of experiencing our country’s beautiful coastline. Get out there and have a go!

David Walker, RoSPA’s information manager and NWSF member

This blog was based on an article in RoSPA’s Staying Alive journal. Take a look at RoSPA’s Flickr account for more coasteering photographs (all owned by John Paul Eatock and Keirron Tastagh).

3 May, 2011

Jenny Spink: an inspiration

Every now and then, you get to meet someone who really opens your eyes. Someone who makes you realise that, however bad life may look at times, things CAN get better – and those with the will to change their world can do so.

RoSPA takes work experience students from all walks of life, and they all have something special to offer. But Jenny made a real impression when I met her at the recent CSEC/LASER meeting. Despite her nerves (or mild terror, as I’m sure she would correct me) she gave a first-class presentation about her work with Fairbridge and the project she undertook while working with us at RoSPA.

I asked Jenny if she would write me a short article for the blog about her life, how Fairbridge helped her, and what she did while she was working with us. Here is part of her story:

My name is Jenny Marie Spink. I am 24 years old. I was born in Birmingham and I have now moved to West Brom.

I have been through a rough lifestyle with mental health issues and had no confidence or self motivation. I was then put into contact with Fairbridge by my CPN [community psychiatric nurse] in 2009. I wasn’t sure whether this would work for me as it involved mixing with groups my own age.

I was bullied at school and was afraid to face other people in case it happened again. I had developed a stammer aged 18 due to past experiences and I was scared that people would take the piss out of the way I spoke.

During my access course I felt safe because I was in a safe environment and with people with similar issues that I could relate to. I realised we were all in the same boat and made some good friends that I still speak to, to this day, even though they have now moved on from Fairbridge. The whole experience pushed me out of my comfort zone, doing things I’ve never done before like mountain climbing and rock climbing. At the end of my access course I felt that I had achieved something and faced my fear of meeting new people.

Through my time at Fairbridge I have built up confidence and self esteem. I also faced a fear of sailing on open water when I sailed on Spirit for six days. It was an amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have also had opportunities in training to be a youth worker, working with people from all backgrounds.

I was first introduced to an organisation called RoSPA when Fairbridge young people, including me, wanted to put on a talent show event and awards evening. We went to RoSPA to find out about risk assessments and how it takes place on venues.

The Youth Liaison Worker, Cassius, asked me about my interests and I told him that I was interested in sport and leisure. He said that he offers placements in the leisure department and asked if I wanted to do a work placement to gain more experience. I applied for the position mentioning that I had a particular interest in water safety due to an incident that happened when I was younger involving a friend who nearly drowned.

I had a formal interview for the placement and had to wear a suit. I didn’t sleep the night before as I was too nervous. I was interviewed by Cassius and Nathan, who was to be my direct line manager. I had to prepare and give a five-minute presentation on water safety. I was nervous as I had never had to do one before. It went really well and I got full marks for my presentation.

In October 2010, I completed a two week, full-time work placement at RoSPA researching child drowning abroad. I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience being back in a work environment and it made me more aware of how parents and young people are unaware of how many drownings occur. I was the first person in Europe to carry out this research. The research is now being used in schools making children aware of how to stay safe in and around water.

Now I have a different outlook on life and have pushed myself out of the world I was in when I thought life couldn’t go on anymore.

I am now currently a youth worker at Fairbridge and a volunteer at Safeside and I am hoping to become a full time, paid youth worker in the future.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Fairbridge and the opportunities I have had to put my life back on track.

Jenny Spink

8 April, 2011

Safety-related news stories from this week


Blind cord death – A toddler has died after becoming tangled in the looped cord of a vertical blind in a bedroom of his home in Plymouth. The youngster, aged 21 months, was found strangled early on Friday evening. It is thought he had reached the window space after climbing on to a chest of drawers. (Plymouth Herald). Meanwhile, RoSPA’s blind cord safety campaign is featured in the Sunday Mercury – encouraging more parents to apply for free Make it Safe packs.

The Sunday Mercury reported several house fires at the weekend. Two men died at their home near Nottingham on Saturday morning, while a woman suffered the effects of smoke inhalation after a fire ripped through her farmhouse in Ross-on-Wye. In addition, a disabled pensioner was saved by her dog after it woke her up as flames spread through her Nottingham home. They both escaped unharmed. A 33-year-old man and his six-year-old daughter have died after a fire in the kitchen of their family home in Telford. It is thought the fire started in the kitchen and may have burnt itself out. An investigation is underway. (D. Telegraph / Metro)

Boy, 14, choked on memory stick cover – RoSPA is quoted in the Yorkshire Post, which reports on the death of a 14-year-old boy in Beverley last December. He choked on a memory stick cover, Hull Coroner’s Court heard. Verdict: accident.


Football star banned from the road – Birmingham City footballer, Marcus Bent, has been banned from driving after he was caught speeding at 110mph on the M5, near Oldbury. He was banned for 56 days and ordered to pay £1,210. (Sunday Mercury)

Coach in nine-vehicle crash on motorway – The M11 motorway was brought to a standstill yesterday after a crash involving four lorries, four cars and a coach near Stansted Airport. An elderly coach passenger is in a life-threatening condition, and there were several minor injuries. (Nationals)

The Daily Express reports that Jon Snow was knocked off his bicycle in central London last week when a driver opened his car door without looking, sending him crashing to the ground. He escaped with a sore elbow and sore ego; but was much cheered a few days later, saying: “The chap who knocked me off my bike has sent me an exceptionally good bottle of wine. I could build quite a cellar this way.”

Elderly driver’s wrong turn causes panic on motorway – An 87-year-old man from Lockerbie caused panic on the M6 in Cumbria after driving for six miles down the fast lane in the wrong direction. When police eventually managed to make him pull over and off the road, somewhat surprisingly they released him without further action. (D. Telegraph)


In nuclear news – The Daily Telegraph reports that Japanese school playgrounds in the Fukushima area are to be tested for radiation as children return to classes in the aftermath of the nuclear crisis. The Independent says that the Japanese government has set its first radiation safety standards for fish after contaminated water was released into the sea. The Guardian reports that the UK Government’s plans to build new nuclear power stations will be delayed by at least three months so that lessons can be learned from Fukushima.

Fire engines stop attending some alarms – The Daily Telegraph reports that Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has stopped sending its engines to investigate some alarms in order to cut costs. It will test a new procedure which will see a fire safety officer alone responding to some automatic alarms to cut the “significant drain on resources” caused by false alerts. This seems reasonable when you read:

25 firemen sent to save cat – When a cat became stranded on a roof, the local fire service dispatched five appliances and 25 firemen to rescue it. The decision, apparently driven by rules for “working at height” is thought to have cost £10,000 – although Suffolk Fire Service says it was no more than £250. Suffolk County Council defended the action, claiming it was in line with health and safety rules. (D. Telegraph / Metro)

Graduate left brain damaged after 999 crew waited two hours – A 33-year-old woman was left with severe brain damage after she was forced to wait nearly two hours for paramedics, who were parked just 100 yards away. Because the address had been red-flagged as “high risk”, a crew just seconds away was ordered to wait for a police escort before attending. (D. Mail)

Hero boys defy 999 operator to rescue man from icy canal – Two friends, aged 19 and 20, saved a drowning man by ignoring the health and safety advice of the ambulance service and jumping into a freezing canal in Bristol. They called 999, and attempted to reach him with a stick, but the man was too far away and kept going under, so they boys jumped in and saved him. (D. Express)

M&S “exposed shoppers to deadly asbestos” – Marks and Spencer failed to protect customers completely from asbestos during the refurbishment of branches in Plymouth, Reading and Bournemouth, Winchester Crown Court heard. M&S denies six charges of failing to ensure the health and safety of its staff and others. The trial is expected to last up to 15 weeks. (D. Telegraph)

Battle over £100,000 trip – Tower Hamlets Council, which is being sued for up to £100,000 by a woman who tripped over an uneven paving stone, is fighting the case, insisting it is not obliged to keep the pavement “like a bowling green”. The 31-year-old woman from east London tripped over in 2005, injuring her knee, and has apparently “endured disability”. (D. Telegraph)


Woman dies after blading fall – A woman died after suffering brain injuries in a roller blading accident. The 44-year-old fell backwards during her first outing on in-line skates, striking her head on a footpath in Darlington. She was not wearing a helmet. Though she had two emergency operations to remove clots from her brain, her family made the difficult decision to turn off her life-support machine at the weekend. (Times)

Surfers’ paradise lost as “danger reef” shuts – An artificial reef that cost more than £3million and was supposed to turn Bournemouth into a surfers’ paradise has been declared unsafe and closed after inspectors found it was producing dangerous undercurrents. The reef, which was constructed in 2009, is made of 55 submerged sand-filled bags, which are believed to have been displaced and need to be repositioned. Remedial works are expected to be carried out soon. (D Telegraph)

Mountain rescue teams condemn iPhone navigators – Ramblers who use their smart phones to navigate and have no idea how to read a map are causing the number of emergency call-outs to rise by 50 per cent, mountain rescuers claim. Lake District rescue teams said younger walkers relied too heavily on phones equipped with navigational “apps” and satnav technology. (D. Telegraph / D. Mail)

Have a safe and FUN weekend in the sun!

Vicky Fraser

RoSPA’s Press Officer, Web Editor and Resident Blogger

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