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As summertime arrives, we become more aware of water safety, though many workers are exposed to water hazards all year long. Safety regulations require that waterside workers wear personal floatation devices, but sometimes people are careless about fastening their vests and lose them after falling into the water. There may be a risk that a customer or bystander will take a misstep and fall into the water-and not all people know how to swim.
Whatever the season, people who work or play near water--on the barge or the dock, at the lake, river, or swimming pool, should be alert to the potential for drowning and know what to do in an emergency. The following "Safety Clip" is printed with permission from Safety + Health magazine and offers useful tips and reminders:
Drowning kills about 4,800 Americans each year, according to Accident Facts, published by the National Safety Council. You can help reduce that number, and you don't have to be a lifeguard to do so.
The National Safety Council lists four basic steps you can take to help a person who is distressed in the water-even if you're a poor swimmer or a non-swimmer: reach, throw, row and go.
Reach: The easiest method to save drowning victims, and the one you should try first, is to reach out to them. Use a lightweight pole, long stick or ladder-anything that can extend your reach. Once you've snared each person, make sure your footing is secure and, if possible, ask a bystander to hold onto your waist for added stability. Keep talking to the people in the water while you pull each person out. It will calm each of you.
Throw: If you cannot reach the people, determine whether you can throw them something that floats-a large plastic container, a life jacket, a floating cushion. If rope is available, tie it to the object before you throw it so you can get it back if you throw poorly.
Row: If the victims are still out of reach and a boat, canoe, boogie board or some such thing is available, you might try to "go" to them. If you're in a rowboat, you must keep them in sight; turn around often to get a fix on them. And when you do get to the victims, don't try to pull them in over the side of the boat-this could cause it to capsize. Pull them in at the stern or the rear end.
Go: If none of these techniques works, you must determine whether you are a strong enough swimmer to enter the water and go to the drowning person. Be aware that doing this could put you at great risk. Don't overestimate your abilities and become a victim yourself. You should attempt to go to the person only if you have been trained in lifesaving techniques.
Do water hazards exist in your work environment or family activities? Have you thought about how you'll react if a co-worker, friend or family member is at risk of drowning?
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