Water and Snow Safety

Water and Snow Safety           
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards and Christine May, Senior Research Consultants, Clearinghouse for Sport, Australian Sports Commission 
evaluated by  Evaluation by: Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA) (November 2015), and Swim Australia (November 2015)
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated:  2 November 2017
Please refer to the Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer page for
more information concerning this content.

Community Sport Coaching
Australian Sports Commission

Introduction

Many Australians have access to coastal beaches and/or inland bodies of water (including swimming pools) for recreational aquatic and sporting activities. Swimming is a popular leisure, fitness and sporting activity. Therefore, aquatic safety is viewed by Australian governments at all levels as a national priority.

The Australian Government (Federal Government) also recognises the seasonal requirements for snow safety and has invested in programs and provides grants to organisations delivering recreational alpine activities..

Together, aquatic and snow safety strategies are part of the Australia Government’s National Recreation Safety Program.


Key Messages 

1

Because of Australia's climate, population distribution and cultural affinity for aquatic sport and recreation, governments uniquely place water safety as a public priority.

2

Snow safety is a seasonal component of the National Recreational Safety Program.


Australian Water Safety Council (AWSC). The Council was formed in 1998 as a consultative forum comprising the major water safety organisations, related government organisations, and industry sector representatives. The Council addresses key water safety issues and provides feedback to governments, industry and the community.

Organisations represented on the Council include:

  • Royal Life Saving Society - Australia (RLSSA)
  • Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)
  • Australian Council for the Teaching of Swimming and Water Safety (AUSTSWIM)
  • Swimming Australia Limited (SAL)
  • Australian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association (ASCTA)
  • Surfing Australia
  • Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA)
  • Divers Alert Network (DAN) Asia Pacific
  • The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia (Kidsafe)
  • Farmsafe Australia
  • National Marine Safety Committee (NMSC)
  • Australian Leisure Facilities Association (ALFA)
  • Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials (CASRO),
  • Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

Part of the AWSC’s commitment to improving water safety in Australia is the national strategic plan that aims to identify risk factors and propose intervention strategies. Programs developed from the strategy are designed to improve community awareness and encourage best practice aquatic safety within the sport and recreation industry.

Australian Water Safety Strategy 2016-2020: Towards a nation free from drowning (PDF  - 3.1 MB), Australian Water Safety Council (2016). The Strategy works toward the AWSC’s goal of reducing fatal drowning by 50% by the year 2020. It outlines priority areas in which Australian peak water safety bodies Royal Life Saving, Surf Life Saving, AUSTSWIM, AWSC Member organisations, and Federal, State/Territory and Local Governments must work together to prevent drowning. The Strategy identifies three priority areas where action is required: (1) taking a life-stages approach; (2) targeting high risk locations, and; (3) focusing on key drowning challenges. Within these priority areas there are eleven goals:

  • Goals 1 to 4 identify key age-groups (i.e. 0-14, 15-24, 25-64, and 65+) so that objectives can be set for reducing the incidence of drowning deaths within each group.
  • Goals 5 to 7 identify key locations where drowning deaths can be prevented – inland waterways, coastal waters, and aquatic facilities.
  • Goals 8 to 11 identify the key challenges – reduce alcohol and drug related drowning deaths, reduce boating and watercraft related drowning, reduce drowning deaths among high-risk populations, and reduce the incidence of disaster and weather related drowning. 

The AWSC provides a number of reports and reference papers for free download from their Resource Repository.  

Royal Life Saving Society Australia is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the prevention of drowning and advocacy for water safety; including education, training, risk management, leadership, and research.

The RLSSA publishes an annual report on the incidence and circumstances of drowning in Australia. This report provides information and statistics about the people who drowned in Australian waterways and in aquatic facilities each year and the activities they were undertaking at the time. Information is collected over a financial year and the report is generally published in October of each year. The information for the Drowning Report is primarily collected from the National Coroners Information System and the media.

Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2017, Royal Life Saving Society Australia (2017). The current report states that 291 people drowned in Australian waterways during the 2016-17 financial year. This figure represents a 3% increase on the 282 drowning deaths recorded last year. It also represents an increase of 4% on the 10 year average of 281 drowning deaths. The drowning rate for males (74% of all drownings) remains much higher than females. Other key findings in this year's report:

  • The 25 to 34 years age group had the highest percentage of drownings (15%), with 43 deaths.
  • There was a 4% increase in the number (29 deaths) of children aged 0-4 years who drowned this year when compared to the 10 year average. However, there was a 67% decrease against the 10 year average recorded for young people aged 15-17 years.
  • New South Wales had the highest number of drowning deaths (93), followed by Queensland (73), Victoria (45), Western Australia (42), South Australia (15), Tasmania (11), Northern Territory (8), and the Australian Capital Territory (4).
  • Inland waterways (97 deaths) continue to be a leading location for drowning, occurring in rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, dams, and lagoons.
  • This year, 20 overseas tourists drowned; of these visitors 45% were from European countries and 40% were from Asian countries, with most incidents occurring in ocean/harbour/beach locations.
Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2017 (YouTube), (11 September 2017)

Links to previous Drowning Reports

In July 2017 the Royal Life Saving Society Australia launched a landmark report, titled “A 13 year national study of non-fatal drowning in Australia: Data challenges, hidden impacts and social costs” (PDF  - 4.7 MB). Although often incorrectly reported as 'near-drowning' the World Health Organization now uses the term 'non-fatal drowning'. This acknowledges that drowning, in effect, has three potential outcomes; fatal, non-fatal with long term effects, or non-fatal with no long term effects.

The report identified that non-fatal drowning incidents have increased by 42% since 2002 despite drowning deaths decreasing by 17% over the same period. The report also highlighted several other significant issues and costs in relation to non-fatal drowning incidents: 

  • An average of 474 people were hospitalised for non-fatal drowning each year. Young children aged 0-4 years accounted for 42% of non-fatal drowning incidents. Among children aged 0-4 years, for every fatal drowning, there were over 7 non-fatal drowning incidents.
  • More than a third of non-fatal incidents occurred in either home or public swimming pools (36%), while nearly as many (35.5%) occurred ‘while engaged in sports’. A further 10.9% occurred ‘while engaged in leisure’. Common sporting activities included swimming, as well as surfing and boogie boarding.
  • On average for every 1 fatal drowning there were 2.78 non-fatal drowning incidents, this ratio was higher for swimming pools with 4 non-fatal incidents for every drowning death.
  • Males accounted for 66.1% of all non-fatal drowning cases, with females accounting for 33.9%. For every 1 fatal drowning incident among males, there were 2.36 non-fatal drowning incidents, compared to 3.97 non-fatal incidents for every 1 fatal drowning among females.
  • The total economic cost of non-fatal drowning averages $188 million per year, including the direct harm from long term disability caused by non-fatal drowning, as well as health care costs, long term care costs, and lost economic productivity
  • While the costs generated by the average non-fatal incident are comparatively moderate (approximately $400,000), this doesn't capture the very large costs imposed due to incidents in which the victims experience serious long term complications. The 5% of incidents leading to long term disability generate 88% of the total cost burden of non-fatal drowning, with each incident leading to average costs of $6.91 million.

The Royal Life Saving Society Australia publishes a number of reports that are grouped into three areas: drowning, research, and state of the industry.

  1. Drowning Reports. The RLSSA has published a drowning report annually since 1995 and they are archived on this page.
  2. Research Reports. This section including the latest information on Australian water safety strategies, conference proceedings, survey reports, analysis of drowning, evaluation, and water safety issues.
  3. State of the Industry Reports. Each year the RLSSA produces a ‘State of the Industry’ report to assess safety standards in aquatic facilities across Australia and provide an opportunity to benchmark the performance of the industry standards. Past reports are archived on this page.

RLSSA supports two ongoing programs: 

  • Swim and Survive. This is a comprehensive swimming and water safety initiative of the RLSSA that seeks to increase the swimming and water safety skills of all Australian children in order to prevent drowning and increase participation in safe aquatic activity.
  • Keep Watch. This RLSSA program has been educating Australian parents and carers for over 15 years on how to keep their children safe when in, on or around the water.  RLSSA provides a number of support materials for Keep Watch, they include:

Royal Life Saving Society Australia Annual Reports

SLSA accumulates statistical and analytical data on drowning incidents, rescues, and risk factors in costal environments and publishes an annual National Coastal Safety Report. SLSA maintains a central database, SurfGuard, to record details of coastal drowning deaths and serious incidents. Data is referenced against media monitoring reports, partner organisation reports, and the National Coroners Information System. More information on beach safety can be found on the SLSA website.

A key report released by SLSA documents the contribution of surf life saving to community safety and wellbeing.

BeachSafe. SLSA maintains a web based information service as part of their commitment to education and safety in the aquatic environment.  This website provides current information and conditions for the beach you would like to visit, hazards you might find, and services available to assist in your beach choice.

  • National Coastal Safety Report 2016 (eBook), Surf Life Saving Australia (2016). SLSA uses this annual report to provide a detailed analysis and evidence-based insights about drownings that occurred during the past year. This report also highlights the challenges ahead regarding improved water safety, with the goal of reducing Australia’s drowning rate.

SLSA conducts numerous research projects and promotes public campaigns and school education programs that focus on water safety.

SLSA also serves as the National Sporting Organisation for surf sports as competitive and recreational activities.

  • A review of sport & recreation in Surf Life Saving (PDF  - 603 KB), Repucom, a report to Surf Life Saving Australia (2015). This report reviews the position of surf lifesaving as a sport and recreation activity. ‘Surf Sport’ is generally defined as a collection of physical activities that generate enjoyment, passion and emotion, and an opportunity for excellence; with a connection to the surf environment. While competitive opportunities exist in the sport of surf lifesaving, it’s also about developing friendships and community connections. The SLSA ‘nippers’ program has the second highest public awareness profile for a junior sport program, after AFL Auskick; yet surf life saving has a relatively low fan base, ranking 37th overall among Australian sports. 

There are several relevant Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses that deliver skill sets for persons engaged in aquatic safety and/or swimming instruction. Qualifications can be obtained for first aid and resuscitation, lifesaving, pool lifeguard, swimming instructor or teacher, and swimming coach. The Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package identifies the competencies required as the industry standard. Organisations delivering VET registered courses must be a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and are subject to quality assurance within the VET system. Swimming Australia Limited and Surfing Life Saving Australia are also recognised by the Australian Sports Commission as National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) having jurisdiction over competitive programs, as well as coaching and officiating training. NSOs recognised by the ASC are listed in the Australian Sports Directory.

These organisations offer VET recognised training courses and are Registered Training Organisations (RTOs):

  • Royal Life Saving Society, Australia (RLSSA). Training courses include: pool lifeguard, Bronze Medallion, resuscitation, swimming and water safety teacher. RLSSA also delivers AUSTSWIM teacher courses.
  • AUSTSWIM. This organisation offers training courses and an accredited licensing system for: Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety, Teacher of Infant and Preschool Aquatics, Teacher of Aquatic Access and Inclusion, Teacher of Towards Competitive Strokes, and Teacher of Adults. AUSTSWIM also provides a swim school registration program as a quality assurance measure.
  • Swim Australia. This organisation operates within the 'Learn to Swim and Water Safety' industry as a division of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA). ASCTA uses the Swim Australia brand to badge its various Teachers Accreditation qualifications; namely, the Swim Australia Teacher (SAT) of Swimming and Water Safety, the SAT of Babies and Toddlers, the SAT of Learners with Disability, the SAT of Competitive Swimming, and the SAT of Adolescents and Adults.
  • Swimming Australia Ltd. (SAL) and the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA). SAL is the national sporting body for swimming and ASCTA is a stakeholder organisation delivering training courses as an RTO. They sanction training courses for swimming coaches under the guidelines of the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme (a program of the Australian Sports Commission) and manage swim coaching accreditation.
  • Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA). This is the national sporting body for competitive surf lifesaving and also a leader in the aquatic safety and lifeguard services industry. SLSA offers training and post training accreditation for lifesavers, lifeguard, and surf lifesaving coaches.

Other RTOs, such as TAFE Colleges and private training providers, may satisfy the requirement to deliver courses registered and recognised by the organisations listed above.

Within the aquatics industry (principally commercial providers of swimming instruction) there are several organisations that are dedicated to the professional practices used by Swim Schools; these organiations include AUSTSWIM, Royal Life Saving Society, Swim Australia, and the Australian Swim Schools Association.

  • Australian Swim Schools Association. This member organisation is dedicated to best practice Swim Schools, with the aim of promoting a nation of safer, lifelong swimmers. Its mission is to drive the Swim School Industry towards uniform standards of world’s best practice.

Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP). ACRISP conducts research across a range of sports injury and sports injury prevention projects. The aim of this research is to ensure that sport and physical activity is safe for everyone, with a minimal risk of injury. ACRISP is one of only nine centres worldwide to be selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be a member of the IOC Medical Research Network. ACRISP has campuses at Federation University Australia and Latrobe University. 

Kidsafe is the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia, a charitable organisation dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injuries and reducing the resulting deaths and disabilities associated with injuries in children under the age of 15 years. They provide education and advocacy on child safety issues, including aquatic safety, and support practices and programs of the RLSSA and SLSA.  

Farmsafe Australia also provides public awareness and education programs tailored to their constituency. The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS) reports that the greatest cause (40% according to 2003-06 statistics) of farm fatalities among children was due to drowning.

Monash University Accident Research Centre. The Centre conducts research and collects statistics on home, sport and leisure accidents and injuries. They publish a number of reports and make recommendations regarding safety practices.

National Marine Safety Committee (NMSC). This is an Intergovernmental Committee established in 1997 by COAG to achieve uniform marine safety legislation and practices throughout Australia.

  • Know the law before you leave shore, Marine Safety Victoria. In Australia, lifejacket laws differ from state to state and are actively enforced by marine authorities.
  • Lifejacket requirements eased for paddlers under supervision, Government of New South Wales, Transport for NSW. Changes to marine safety laws in New South Wales will ease requirements for some canoe/kayak paddlers to wear lifejackets while under the supervision of experienced and accredited coaches. Changes to the Marine Safety (General) Regulation 2009, allow paddlers to be exempt from wearing a lifejacket when more than 100 metres from shore on enclosed waterways when under the supervision of an accredited coach. There are two provisions to the exemption: (1) that a person not wearing a lifejacket has suitable swimming ability, skill and fitness; and remains close to the shore, and (2) that a person not wearing a lifejacket is directly supervised by an accredited coach at all times. An ‘accredited coach’ is a person who has achieved accreditation under the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme, recognised by the Australian Sport Commission as a Flatwater Coach Level 1 or Level 2. The Office of Boating Safety and Maritime Affairs would ease restrictions on paddlers training under appropriate supervision on enclosed waters, but there is no exemption for paddlers on open waters, such as the ocean, where lifejackets are still required to be worn at all times.

State/Territory legislation may also set benchmarks for the safe operation of public and domestic (home) swimming pools.  Local government authorities generally have the responsibility of managing compliance requirements (these may also involve registration) of home swimming pools. Best practice principles for the management of domestic swimming pools can be gleaned from a New South Wales Water Safety Taskforce study.

  • Management of domestic swimming pools and compliance levels: A comparison of approaches in three local government areas (PDF  - 2.6 MB), Weerdenburg K, Mitchell R and Wallner F, NSW Water Safety Taskforce (2003). Three local councils in regional NSW participated in this study which compared their approaches to managing domestic swimming pools and the levels of safety compliance achieved in relation to the current NSW Swimming Pool legislation. The management processes implemented within each of the three councils varied significantly, however a number of key processes were identified as significant to the efficient management of domestic swimming pools and the resultant levels of compliance: (1) regular surveys of pool owners; (2) inspections by trained personnel, such as the Royal Life Saving Society or private contractors; (3) making a domestic swimming pool compliance program a council priority; (4) clear lines of responsibility across and within relevant divisions of council; (5) establishing an electronic swimming pool register or database that is linked to a property-management system; (6) efficient enforcement of protocol, including use of fines endorsed by council; (7) maximum 3-5 year inspection cycle; (8) inspection fee to assist with program costs; (9) pool owners to be present during inspections, and; (10) community awareness campaign. 

Organisations including the Australian National Sportfishing Association (ANSA) and Divers Alert Network (DAN) have a vested interest in water safety issues and advocate for best practice methods regarding water safety and drowning prevention.

Australian Leisure Facilities Association (ALFA). This association represents members having an interest in the aquatics, recreation, and leisure facilities industry. The ALFA engages with other aquatics stakeholders to provide advocacy and education about water safety standards.

Life Saving Victoria provides an Aquatic Facility Safety Assessment process that is designed to assist facility managers in improving safety by auditing their facility against the best practice standards as set out in the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation (RLSSA publication). Data is collected and Life Saving Victoria publishes an annual industry report.

Aquatic Facility Safety Assessments, RLSSA offers comprehensive risk assessment of aquatic facilities and detailed recommendations on how to manage those risks.

Watch Around Water. This program is designed to educate the public about adequate supervision and to encourage parent/guardians to take on this responsibility when visiting a public aquatic facility. The program has been successfully implemented in public aquatic and recreation facilities in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. Aquatics & Recreation Victoria and Life Saving Victoria jointly promote and deliver this initiative in Victoria with the support from the ‘Play it Safe by the Water’ campaign.  The Leisure Institute Western Australia (LIWA) Aquatics promotes and implements the program in Western Australia.

Portable swimming pool safety. The Royal Life Saving Society has joined with consumer affairs agencies to provide information regarding the potential risks associated with portable swimming pools. Children drown in portable swimming pools every year in Australia and those most at risk are children under the age of three years, almost two thirds of those who have drowned are males. A portable pool safety campaign called Make It Safe aims to educate consumers on the risks of owning a portable pool and encouraging five simple safety steps to reduce the risks: (1) check with your local council regarding fencing requirements; (2) ensure you always actively supervise children within arms’ reach whenever they are in or around the water; (3) never rely on older children to supervise younger children, no matter how confident you are about their ability to supervise the younger child; (4) for smaller pools – ensure you empty them and put them away when you are finished, and (5) always store portable pools safely away from young children. Ensure the pool cannot fill with rain water or water from sprinklers.

Because a large percentage of drownings are linked to alcohol consumption, several public awareness campaigns have been launched to educate the public.

  • Don’t let your mates drink and drown, Australian Drug Foundation (2014). The Victorian Government launched its annual water safety campaign with a video that urges men not to let their mates ‘drink and drown’.
  • Don’t Drink and Sink, Royal Life Saving Society. (video) Sinkers is a campaign designed to raise awareness of adolescent drowning deaths involving alcohol. Alcohol is a factor in 41% of drowning deaths among people aged 15 to 29 years. Sinkers Campaign information.

Federal

The Office for Sport sits within the Department of Health and provides funding for programs that support water and snow safety initiatives. The Australian Government provides funding that aims to reduce water and snow injuries and deaths and this funding has two main focuses:

  1. Supporting the ongoing operations of four peak national organisations under the National Recreation Safety Program. The four peak bodies are: Royal Life Saving Society Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia, AUSTSWIM, and the Australian Ski Patrol Association.
  2. Enabling the Saving Lives in the Water initiative, which is made up of two elements.  The first is the ‘Australian Water Safety Strategy’ which provides support for projects that seek to reduce injuries and deaths from drowning in Australia. The second element is the provision of funding to support initiatives focused on water safety for children in the 0–4 years age-group. A key strategy is the ongoing reproduction and distribution of the 'Living with Water' DVD.

‘Kids Alive, Do the Five’ Early Childhood Program. The Early Childhood Program is a joint initiative of Kids Alive and the Australian Government, Department of Health. Interested persons can register (free) on the website to download resources.

State and Territory

State, territory, and local governments are engaged in many water safety initiatives, particularly programs designed to improve home swimming pool safety. 

New South Wales 

  • Water Safety NSW, the State Government’s water safety initiative. The website contains information on aquatic safety related to boating, fishing pool safety, inland waterways, and beach.
  • Swimming Pool Register, NSW Government. This site contains information about home pool safety, inspection, and legal requirements. 

Northern Territory

  • Water Safety Plan, Northern Territory Department of Sport and Recreation and the Northern Territory Water Safety Advisory Council (2002). 

Queensland 

  • Queensland Government pool safety register
  • On the Same Wave, Queensland Government and Surf Life Saving Queensland. This program is a joint water safety initiative that promotes water safety messages to culturally diverse communities, including migrants and refugees, international students, and international visitors to Queensland. Activities under the program include:
  1. Raising awareness of water safety messages at community festivals and events, through websites and social networking, and via Surf Life Saving Australia’s BeachSafe portal and smartphone app.
  2. Promotion of water safety messages to new migrants and refugees through orientation programs and settlement services.
  3. Delivery of water safety education workshops for at-risk communities including recently-arrived migrants and refugees.
  4. Development of volunteering pathways to make it easier for culturally diverse communities to get involved in surf lifesaving.
  5. Under the program, water safety information is currently provided in 72 languages, enabling culturally diverse communities to access vital water safety information in their best language.

South Australia 

  • State Water Safety Plan, South Australia, Government of South Australia. This plan provides a framework for ongoing and coordinated commitment to water safety in South Australia. Water safety refers to ‘safety around water’ and the prevention of drowning deaths and water-related injuries through programs, services and promotions. 

Victoria 

  • Play it Safe by the Water, this is the Victorian Government's campaign to increase community awareness of water safety. The program covers safety at the beach, at the river, by the pool, and while boating and fishing. The Victorian Government works in partnership with Life Saving Victoria and other industry agencies under the banner of Play it Safe by the Water to deliver its message. 

Western Australia 

  • Swim and Survive, Royal Life Saving WA. The Swim and Survive program is a broad and balanced program teaching a range of skills and knowledge to develop swimming, water safety, survival and basic rescue skills. The program seeks to increase the swimming and water safety skills of all Australian children in order to prepare them for safe participation in aquatic activity and prevent drowning. 
  • Water Safety: support and advice, Department of Local Government, Sport, and Cultural Industries, (2016).   
  • Injury Prevention in Western Australia: A Review of Statewide Activity for Selected Injury Areas (PDF  - 1.1 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Health, (2015). Chapter 9 relates to Drowning. 

New Zealand

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) has become the leading organisation for the water safety sector, absorbing the functions of the ‘Drowning Prevention Council’. WSNZ is charged with the responsibility to develop a sector strategy (in collaboration with industry, sporting and government stakeholders) and serve as an advocate, lead research, and monitor and evaluate programs.

WSNZ provides a number of useful reports and water safety resources, for example:

Although water safety issues are the primary concern in Australia, the potential risks of injury or even death when participating in snow sports and activities also exist. Water and snow safety are both part of the Australia Government's National Recreation Safety Program. The Australian Government supports the activities of the Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA) to improve safety in Australia's alpine areas. The overall objective is to reduce the number and impact of skiing accidents in Australia, and to enable all Australians to safely participate in, and enjoy, alpine activities.

The Government provides support for the ASPA so they can provide alpine rescue services, alpine safety education, public awareness campaigns, and produce/distribute alpine safety resource materials.

Australian Ski Patrol Association

The Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA) was formed to provide support for ski patrol volunteers. Its mission is to:

  1. serve the public without fee or charge in the rescue and first aid treatment of injured skiers and other visitors to alpine areas, and;
  2. serve the public by promoting awareness of the need for high standards of safety in Australian alpine areas.

ASPA Strategic Plan, Australian Ski Patrol Association (2013). The Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA) is the Australian ski safety body made up of 14 Ski Patrols representing a total membership of 650 patrollers. Member patrols are situated at all major resorts within the three States having alpine areas, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. On average, 12,000 incidents are attended annually by ski patrollers. ASPA is administered by volunteers; thus its strategic plan and subordinate business plans reflect the objectives of a not-for-profit organisation.

The National Patrol system was developed to promote the improvement of patroller skills and to provide a standard for patrollers that is recognised internationally. The ASPA has developed training courses for patrollers that combine the necessary skills for first aid and rescue training. Ski Patrollers gain the confidence that comes from being trained, tested and approved by their peers. They are also able to move from one ski resort to another, knowing that their skills will be accepted. ASPA recognised standards can be found in the publications: 

International Practice

National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). The NSAA is an organisation made up of ski area owners and operators in the United States. The 313 alpine resort members of NSAA represent 90% of the industry. The NSAA analyses and distributes ski industry statistics, including information on skiing injuries. The association provides educational programs, employee training, and is an active advocate on safety and state regulatory requirements. The NSAA website contains a number of resources on safety

The NSAA believes education, helmet use, respect, and common sense are very important factors in making alpine sports safe and enjoyable. The association has developed a seven point industry ‘Responsibility Code’ for ski/snowboard participants.

  1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.

Water Safety Guidelines and Resources

  • Flotation & Aquatic Toys, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Product Safety Australia (2010). Flotation and aquatic toys come in various shapes, sizes and materials. Flotation and aquatic toys are not safety devices and the mandatory standards for these products covers only labelling and product disclosure.
  • Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations. Guidelines for water safety, aquatic safety services, and Australian lifeguard network; produced by the Royal Life Saving Society Australia.
  • The Model Aquatic Health Code (PDF  - 15.5 MB), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). This is a set of voluntary guidelines based on science and best practices that were developed to help programs that regulate public aquatic facilities reduce the risk of disease, injury, and drowning in their communities. It contains sections covering these topics: water-association outbreaks and chemical related injuries; model health code; aquatic sector responsibilities; facility requirements. Annex to the First Edition (PDF File  - 22.5 MB).
  • PaddleSafe App (NSW). This PaddleSafe Waterways Guide is an application for iPhone®.  It is the first app in Australia to combine a comprehensive paddling guide with real-time conditions and trip planning functions. The PaddleSafe Waterways Guide promotes safety by helping paddlers plan safe and enjoyable paddling excursions on NSW major rivers, lakes, bays and coastlines.
  • Portable Swimming Pools - Make it Safe, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Product Safety Australia (2015). Mandatory standards for portable swimming pools came into effect on 30 March 2014. Standards cover labelling and product disclosure only and do not apply to spas, hot tubs, or whirlpool tubs. Because portable pools pose a serious drowning risk to young children, the ACCC and state/territory consumer affairs regulators have partnered with Royal Life Saving Society Australia to educate consumers about the drowning dangers associated with portable pools and provide tips and resources to help keep kids safe.
  • Swimming and flotation aids: product safety supplier guide (PDF  - 768 KB), Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (2011). This guide provides a summary of the requirements for the supply of swimming and flotation aids that may be used for water familiarisation and swimming tuition. A full list of mandatory standards and bans is available. The mandatory standard applies to aids designed for children under 14 years of age worn on or attached to the body or in which the user sits for the purpose of either enabling them to gain confidence through water familiarisation or assisting them in acquiring unaided buoyancy through swimming tuition.
  • Tasmanian Adventure Activity Standard: snorkeling and wildlife swimming (PDF  - 583 KB). This document provides the industry standard safety practices for conducting aquatic activities in and around marine mammals.
  • Victorian Water Safety Guide. This guide is a resource developed for the Play it Safe by the Water campaign of the Victorian Government.  The guide provides: safety information for water activities and locations including pools, beaches, inland waterways, boating, fishing and surfing & body boarding; information about water safety signs; a resuscitation action plan and emergency contacts; locations of public pools and patrolled beaches, and; updates on events and activities.
  • Water Safety Essentials for Local Governments (PDF  - 861 KB), Royal Life Saving Society Australia (2008). This guide has been created to point people in the right direction and provide an overview of essential references with respect to water safety in all aquatic locations. A best practice approach has been taken in this document, which aims to reduce the risk of death and injury at all aquatic locations under the control of local councils.

Water Safety References

  • Accidental Drowning, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Leading cause of premature mortality in Australia fact sheet series, AIHW Catalogue Number PHE 205 (2015). Accidental drowning was the 57th leading cause of premature death in Australia during 2014-15, but the third leading cause among children 0-14 years of age.
  • Conferences, Australian Water Safety Council:
  • Drowning deaths in Australian rivers, creeks and streams: A 10 year analysis (PDF  - 1.7 MB), Peden A and Queiroga A,  Royal Life Saving Society, Australia (2014). This report details the number of drowning deaths in Australian rivers, creeks and streams across the last 10 years and the circumstances around those deaths. Rivers have consistently been the aquatic location with the highest number of drowning deaths in annual Royal Life Saving National Drowning Reports. Subsequent Australian Water Safety Strategies have highlighted the importance of reducing drowning deaths in rivers in order to achieve the Australian targets by the year 2020. A review of drowning deaths allows for patterns to be identified and evidence-based strategies for drowning reduction can then be developed.
  • Injury mortality in individuals with Autism (abstract), Guan J and Guohua L, American Journal of Public Health, published online (21 March 2017). This research examined epidemiological patterns of injury fatalities in individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Data from the United States were analysed for the period 1999 to 2014 for individuals with Autism. The mean age at death for individuals with Autism was 36.2 years, compared with 72.0 years for the general population. Drowning was the third highest cause of accidental death for persons with Autism. Therefore, persons with Autism appear to be at substantially greater risk of drowning than the general population and preventive measures, including water safety and swimming instruction, are recommended.
  • Interacting factors associated with adult male drowning in New Zealand, Croft J and Button C, Plos One, published online (17 June 2015). This paper looks at adult drownings in New Zealand from 1983 to 2012. Key factors examined were age, ethnicity, location, activity, buoyancy (flotation devices), and alcohol consumption. Frequency tables were used to assess the interactions of these factors. The results indicate that alcohol was involved in 61% of accidental immersion drownings for males aged 20-24 years. When alcohol was involved there were proportionally more incidences where a life jacket was available but not worn. Many 30-39 year old males drowned during underwater activities (e.g., snorkeling, diving). Older men (over 55 years) had a high incidence of drowning while boating. Different ethnicities were over-represented in different age groups; for example, Asian men aged 25-29 and European men aged 65-74. Numerous interacting factors are responsible for male drownings in New Zealand; drowning locations and activities differ by age and ethnicity which may require targeted intervention strategies.
  • Pool Safety Barriers (PDF  - 354 KB), NSW Government. This booklet helps to clarify the pool safety requirements of the Swimming Pools Act (NSW) and other relevant requirements.
  • Recreational Fishing in New South Wales: An overview of drowning related fatalities and current practices (PDF  - 7.4 MB), Royal Life Saving Society, NSW Branch (2011). Fishing is a popular recreational activity in Australia, but all too often recreational fishing can become a dangerous and sometimes deadly experience if appropriate safety precautions are not undertaken. This report examines the causes and circumstances of recreational fishing fatalities in NSW.
  • Shallow Water Blackout, Aquatic Safety Research Group. Shallow water blackout (SWB) results from an insufficient amount of carbon dioxide to activate the body's natural impulse to breathe. Swimmers who practice prolonged underwater breath-holding are particularly at risk.  This U.S. based research group has compiled information about SWB.
  • Swim Safe, Swim Sober: a study examining drowning in NSW and the influence of alcohol (PDF  - 404 KB). Many residents and visitors to NSW live near or visit beaches, inland waterways or swimming pools. A love of aquatic recreational pursuits coupled with alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of drowning and a decreased ability to respond to potential hazards encountered in and around the water. 'Swim Safe, Swim Sober' provides evidence of the link between alcohol consumption and the risk of drowning.
  • Trends in injury deaths, Australia 1999-00 to 2009-10 (PDF  - 2.2 MB), Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015). Chapter 4 provides a summary of all drowning deaths that are identifiable in the hospital death statistics data. There were 290 unintentional drowning deaths reported in Australia during  2009–10; about 3.5 times as many males as females. About 11% of all drownings occurred among children ages 0–4 years and the highest rate of drowning (28%) occurred among the 25-44 age-group.
  • World Conference on Drowning Prevention, International Life Saving Federation. Biennial conference focusing on bringing together the world's foremost experts, research, systems and information on drowning prevention, rescue, lifesaving and water safety for exchange, debate and further development that will lead to reduction of death and injury in all aquatic environments worldwide. Presented papers from some of the previous conferences, and information about future conferences is available on this website. 

Snow Safety References

  • 'Patroller Survey 2006', Dickson T, University of Canberra, Centre for Tourism Research and the Australian Ski Patrol Association (2006). The Centre for Tourism Research was commissioned by the Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA) to conduct a survey that sought input from individual patrollers as part of ASPA’s broader marketing strategy for human resources management – recruitment, training and development, reward and remuneration and retention of ski patrol members.
  • Profiling Australian Snowsport Injuries: A snapshot from the Snowy Mountains (Abstract), Dickson T, Gray T, Downey G, Saunders J and Newman C, Journal of Sport & Tourism, Volume 13, Number 4 (2008). One of the barriers to snowsport participation is that people perceive snowsports as dangerous and so, fear being injured. This study explored snowsport-related injuries to participants aged 18 years and older in the Snowy Mountains over 31 days during the winter 2006 ski season.
  • Training delivery, Australian Ski Patrol Association. Information about the scope of training provided.







Is this information complete? 

The Clearinghouse for Sport is a sector-wide knowledge sharing initiative, and as such your contributions are encouraged and appreciated. If you would like to suggest a resource, submit a publication, or provide feedback on this topic, please contact us.
Alternatively, if you would like to be kept up to date with research and information published about this topic, please request a research profile setup.