Surf Life Saving Tasmania issues safety warning ahead of long weekend

Thursday 25 January 2024

Surf Life Saving Tasmania (SLST) is urging beachgoers to follow safety advice with research detailing the increased risk of fatalities during holiday periods.

A study published in the The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health last year revealed the risk of coastal death (drowning deaths and fatalities due to other causes) more than doubled on public holidays and was even higher on long weekends.

This week, research published in Injury Prevention by BMJ shows the risk of coastal drowning increases by 1.5 times during school holidays.

With the school holidays continuing for almost three more weeks and a long weekend just days away, SLST General Manager Alison Stubbs is encouraging all Tasmanians to do the right thing when heading to the beach. 

“The numbers simply don’t lie,” said Stubbs. “There are a disproportionate number of rescues and fatalities in school holiday periods and on long weekends and everyone has a responsibility to be vigilant about their own safety, and that of their family and friends.

“We’re lucky to have so many volunteers who give up their time to keep the Tasmanian safe. When patrols are on the beach, the red and yellow flags indicate the safest area for swimming, and there have still been no drownings recorded between the flags.”

SLST recognises that only a limited number of beaches in the state are patrolled, meaning beachgoers at more remote locations need to take additional precautions to ensure their own safety.

“Those choosing to swim at an unpatrolled location should never do so alone, should know how to read the conditions including how to identify rip currents, and check for hazards before entering the water,” said Stubbs.

SLSA Research Team Leader Dr Jaz Lawes says understanding risk is key to preventing future tragedies.

“Activities with the highest risk of coastal death were swimming/wading and attempting a rescue,” said Lawes. “Too often we have seen tragic fatalities of bystanders, often a parent or carer who has entered the water to rescue a child or loved one in trouble, or someone who has overestimated their abilities or been accidentally caught in a rip current.

“It is crucial that people know their own limits in the water and always stay within them. Before you attempt to rescue someone, who may be in trouble, try a non-contact rescue and if you must enter the water, please take a flotation device to assist you both to return safely to shore.”

Surf Life Saving Tasmania issues safety warning ahead of long weekend