RNLI Announces Plan to Make UK Beaches Safer

Visitors to UK beaches can look forward to the prospect of safer fun at the seaside as the charity, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, today reveals its plan to develop and introduce a national standard for beach safety signage. The organisation believes that the new standard will lead to a reduction in the number of accidents at the beach, and ultimately to fewer seaside deaths.

Currently a standard UK beach signage system does not exist. Rather, the various beach owners (from local authorities to private landowners) make independent decisions about safety signage on their beaches.

Steve Wills, RNLI beach safety manager, in a presentation today to the 2004 National Water Safety Congress explains:

'Signage is often questioned after a drowning and is subsequently highlighted as a means to reduce risk in the future. Sometimes it is noted that there has been a lack of safety information, at other times there is lack of understanding about the information that was provided.

'RNLI research also notes that a high level of confusion exists among the general public when they interpret beach safety signs. The RNLI believes that the new signage standard will ensure that key beach safety information is simple to understand - by both adults and children.

'We would urge all beach operators and owners when reviewing their signage to adopt the new signage and so help create a national standard.'

The RNLI is completing trials of the new beach safety signage at Weymouth (Dorset) and South Hams (Devon) this year, and is hoping to launch the signage standard during 2005.

RNLI lifeboats and volunteer lifeboat crews have 180 years experience of saving lives while RNLI lifeguards have been patrolling 43 beach areas in the south west of England since 2002, expanding to 58 in 2004.

RNLI statistics reveal that on just these few beaches alone, RNLI lifeguards saved 27 lives and aided 7,819 people whilst dealing with a total of 7,226 separate incidents during 2003.

The British public will be reassured to know just how many highly trained RNLI lifeboat crews and beach lifeguards are looking out for them when relaxation and fun turns to worry, anxiety and sometimes grief. Now they may also be pleased to learn that the RNLI hopes that the common beach safety signage standard will be to hand where they do not have an immediate lifeguarding physical presence.

If you would like to support the RNLI, more information is available on our website at www.rnli.org.uk or call us on 0800 543210.