With freezing conditions predicted to continue across the UK this week, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is urging people not to venture on to frozen waterways.
In recent days, the safety charity has heard of adults and children putting themselves and others at risk by venturing on to the ice of frozen lakes at locations across the country.
More than 20 people have drowned in the last 10 years after falling through ice into water, and many others have had to be rescued and revived. More than half of the incidents in which someone died involved the attempted rescue of another person or a dog. In many instances, the dog managed to scramble out to safety when the owner did not.
David Walker, RoSPA's leisure safety information manager, said: “We want people to enjoy themselves but you do need to take care around frozen lakes. We are urging people not to walk out on to the ice because you never know whether it will hold your weight and by the time you find out that it will not, it is normally too late.
“Children, who are obviously attracted to frozen lakes and canals because they present natural ice skating opportunities, are among those who are most at risk. Therefore, and particularly as we approach the weekend, we are encouraging parents to talk to their children about the hazards of frozen lakes, rivers, canals and ponds and the reasons to stay off the ice.
“We also advise dog owners to keep their pets on a lead when they are near frozen water and not to throw sticks or balls on to the ice for them to retrieve.”
If someone falls through the ice:
Call the emergency services
Do not attempt to go out on to the ice yourself
Tell the person to stay still to maintain heat and energy
Try finding something that will extend your reach, such as a rope, pole or branch
Throw the object out and, once ensuring you are stable on the bank either by lying down or having someone hold on to you, pull them in
If you cannot find something to reach with, try finding an object that will float and push that out to them
Ensure that you keep off the ice at all times during the rescue, continue to reassure the casualty and keep them talking until help arrives
Once the person has been rescued, keep them warm and take them to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected
RoSPA has produced ice safety advice for the operators and managers of sites that include water. See www.rospa.com/leisuresafety/information/ice_safety.htm
RoSPA's mission is to save lives and reduce injuries.