Warning as risk of farm drownings revealed

·2-min read

People living on properties in rural and remote Australia are being urged never to work near water alone, as a new study reveals the drowning risks posed by ponds, dams and irrigation channels.

Figures from the Royal Life Saving Society reveal 60 per cent of all drowning deaths in the last 19 years have been in country areas, with an average of 168 lives lost per year.

The organisation's national research manager Stacey Pidgeon says a new analysis has shown the significant risks of bodies of water on farms, where recent flood and erosion may have changed once predictable conditions.

"People are aware of the risks posed by flooding and tend to take precautions when floods are peaking, or during the cleaning up period, but they forget the every day risks," Ms Pidgeon said, adding Farm Safety Week is an ideal time for a reminder.

She said while dams and irrigation areas cannot be fenced, property owners can set up safe play areas for children near the house so they don't wander off.

Signs warning of water are important, as well as never going near water alone, Ms Pidgeon said.

"If you need to do some work near an irrigation channel, pond or dam, don't go alone.

"If something unexpected happens and you fall into the water having someone who can respond straight away can literally be the difference between life and death.

"Don't go for a swim alone."

Royal Life Saving's 2021 national drowning report found 27 people drowned in dams or lakes in the year to June, including seven infants, and three children aged between five and 14.

Its data on drownings in dams and lakes between 2008 and 2018 showed 54 per cent occurred on private properties, many accidents were work-related, and nearly half of those who drowned were known to be alone.

Earlier this year, the organisation launched a campaign urging men to look after their mates on the water, called Make the Right Call, as males are far more likely to drown.

At the time, chief executive Justin Scarr said the campaign is vital because the effect of drownings can be far-reaching in country areas.

"Drowning deaths have a significant impact on communities, whether they know someone who has drowned, or they know people who have been involved in the search and recovery," he said.

"Drowning in regional communities has a snowballing impact."

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