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Swimming and Water Safety Tips

2019 Swimming and Water Safety – Key Messages


Canadian Red Cross

Boating Safety

o        One of the leading causes of drowning in Canada involves the use of small boats. An average of 125 Canadians die in boating-related incidents each year, with men accounting for the majority of these fatalities.

o  87% of unintentional boating-related deaths were not wearing or improperly wearing a lifejacket.

o  Alcohol and boating do not mix. Alcohol was present at the scene or in toxicology reports in almost half of fatalities

o        Have a plan before you head out on the water and be prepared for any possible weather changes or emergencies.

o  Make sure you have enough lifejackets for everyone on board as well as the necessary boating safety equipment.

o  It's not enough to have a lifejacket on board, you need to wear it. It is unrealistic and unsafe to assume that a boater will be able to retrieve and properly secure a flotation device while falling overboard, capsizing or colliding with another boat or object.

Pool/Beach Safety

o        Caregivers need to actively supervise children – it’s not enough to be nearby, eyes need to be on kids all the time.  Reading a book, texting or surfing the internet nearby is not active supervision. 

o        Swimmers or caregivers should be aware of their or the swimmer’s abilities before entering the water. 

o  Non or weak swimmers should wear a lifejacket in, on or around water. 

o  Register for swimming lessons at your local pool. 

o  Find out more about water safety information at 

o        Even strong swimmers can encounter problems when they are swimming. Always swim with a buddy nearby in case of emergencies. 

o        Only swim in areas that have readily accessible reaching or throwing assists and prepare for unexpected emergencies by having a working phone and first aid kit.

o        Exercise caution on slippery pool decks, walk carefully, and ensure that decks are free of tripping hazards. 

o        Open water is very different than swimming in a pool - distance can be deceiving, and you often must contend with cold water, waves, currents, drop offs, sandbars, water visibility, undertows, and underwater obstacles, as well as watercrafts.

o  If you become caught in a river current or fast-moving water, roll onto your back and go downstream feet first to avoid hitting obstacles head first. When you are out of the strongest part of the current, swim on a forward angle toward shore.

Active Supervision

o        Every year an average of 35 children age 1-14 drown while swimming and playing in or around the water.

o  1 in 5 fatalities from falls into water are children under the age of 5.

o  4 in 10 children drown in water less than 1 metre deep.

o         Adults and caregivers need to take steps to protect children around water.

o  More than 90% of kids who drown in shallow water are not with an adult.

o  Caregivers need to actively supervise children – it’s not enough to be nearby, eyes need to be on kids all the time.  Reading a book, texting or surfing the internet by the pool is not active supervision. 

o  Take the time to learn what a swimmer or person in distress looks like in the water. It typically does not involve a great deal of splashing or noise. Know how to recognize the early signs of distress.

o  Caregivers who need to step away from their responsibilities as the supervisor near water should take children with them or designate another adult to act as the supervisor.

o  Consider requiring young children and non or weak swimmers to wear a lifejacket to help them stay at the surface.

o  Children wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device in the water still require constant supervision to ensure their face remains out of the water as they may not have the physical abilities to right themselves.

o  Backyard pools should be properly fenced (recommended at least 1.2 m in height, with gaps no larger than 10 cm), and have self-closing and self-latching gates, with an inside latch that is above the reach of children (and is locked when not in use).

o   Pool decks should be cleared of toys and debris to prevent trips and falls.


o        When choosing a lifejacket/PFD, choose one that is appropriate for your size, weight and activity. 

o  A lifejacketis designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe. A PFDis designed to keep you afloat in the water and is generally smaller than a lifejacket with limited turning capacity.

o  Pool toys do not provide the same level of safety as a lifejacket or active supervision.

o  The Department of Transportation approves PFDs and lifejackets. Be sure to check the label.

o  It is important that children wear a Transport Canada approved device that fits the child correctly. Safety straps will be around the torso to keep the device in place as well as one that sits under the crotch area to keep the device from riding up over the child’s face.

o  To make sure your PFD or lifejacket is going to be effective, double-check that:

o It is comfortable and snug;

o All zippers, buckles and snaps are fastened;

o It doesn’t come up over your nose when you pull it at the shoulders;

o There is no discoloration, fading or tears;

o All the buckles, zippers and straps are in working condition.

Water Toys

This summer countless Canadians will use recreational water toys, like inflatables, motorized toys or wakeboards. Sadly, tragic and preventable water-related fatalities occur each year. From 1991 to 2010 50 Canadians have drowned or died in a water-related incident while using water toys such as pool noodles, inflatables, or recreational rafts. In this same 20-year period, more than 3,300 Canadians drowned or died from a water-related incident while boating. This includes 19 people who died in pedal or paddle-boat incidents, and 8 who were being towed behind a power boat (e.g. tubing, water skiing).


o        Always play with a buddy: When going out on the water make sure you are with another responsible swimmer. Children should be with an adult. Water toys of any size are not a substitute for adult supervision.

o        Know your swimming ability: Many of these activities will involve being in the water, and usually away from shore. Be aware of your swimming ability in the event that you fall off or lose your craft.

o        WEAR your lifejacket: When it comes to lifejackets, keeping one close by isn’t close enough. Choose to wear your lifejacket and make every water activity a safe one.

o        Regularly check equipment for wear and tear: Before every use check your equipment including lifejackets/PFDs, tow ropes for water tubes or skis, safety leashes for paddle boards, wind surfers, surf boards, anchors and ropes for large inflatables, rafts, or party islands.

o        Refer to our Health and Safety Tip Sheet on Water Toys:


Supervise swimmers using mermaid tails: Mermaid tails can be lots of fun for children and adults alike but can be dangerous if used by inexperienced swimmers since they bind together the legs of the wearer - which can negatively impact their ability to float and maneuver in the water. Always directly supervise any swimmer wearing a mermaid tail. Contact your local pool to inquire whether they offer mermaid tail classes.