Child Safety Scotland

Water & Leisure Safety


Death by accidental drowning is an important issue in Scotland. Our country is surrounded by coastal water - The North Sea, The Irish Sea and The Atlantic Ocean. But we also have numerous bodies of inland water including rivers, burns and about 25,000 lochs. Being safe around water is therefore a key priority.

The Statistics

  • In 2012, there were 60 deaths as a result of drowning (up 13% from the year before). The majority of these took place in the summer months.
  • Roughly five children die in baths in home in the UK each year
  • Recent analysis has shown that Scottish men aged 15- 30 years are at the highest risk of drowning in the whole of the UK.

What is drowning?

Drowning is usually classed as death from suffocation by submersion of liquid e.g. sea or fresh water. It is usually the result of one or more of the following factors:

  • Misjudgement of danger
  • Lack of supervision
  • Access to water hazard
  • Inability of the victim to be rescued or cope in difficulty.

Any of these factors could lead to drowning. It is important to remember that even if you are a good swimmer, you can find yourself in danger from fast flowing water and underwater obstructions. This is especially so when submersed in cold water as it can lead to cold water shock.

Cold Water Shock

Cold water shock is the physiological response of the body to cold water which can result in gasping, hyperventilation and ultimately heart failure or drowning. It usually leads to death in the majority of people in the first few minutes of submersion.

For more information on cold water shock please visit: or watch a film clip at

To check your knowledge on safety issues please also see the Parents' Safety Check.