Playing in open water can be a great way to spend the summer. And in the Waterloo Region, we are very lucky to have tons of spots to enjoy the beautiful fresh water that runs through our Province. However, open water can be dangerous when the right precautions are not taken, so we would like to remind you of some of the essential safety measures to take when engaging in play around open water.
First thing’s first: Protect yourself from the sun! The sun is a hazard that we often tend to forget, especially on days where the sun is not shining brilliantly in the sky. However, even on overcast and cloudy days we are not protected from UV rays.
In our skin cells, we produce a pigment called melanin that provides us with a protective layer from the sun. This appears on our skin as a tan colour, however it is a slow process that takes repeated exposure to acquire. Because we are isolated from the sun for so much of the year, we tend not to have a well-developed layer of melanin in our skin to protect us from the sun’s rays. For this reason, it is very important that we take precautions to protect our skin.
Some common ways to avoid getting hit by the sun’s rays are to:
- Always apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out into the sun. Additionally, it is important to re-apply sunscreen after a few hours or after going for a swim or working up a sweat.
- Wear hats and sunglasses to protect your face, head and neck from the sun.
- Find shaded areas to get a break from the sun’s rays.
- Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.
- Listen to your body! If you start to feel as though you are overheating, or if you feel overtired, it is a good idea to stop what you are doing and get out of the sun.
Boats are a great way to explore nature from the water. It gives you a new viewpoint of the lake and an opportunity to get close to the aquatic animals in our lakes. Whether it is canoeing, paddle boating, kayaking, or motor boating, visiting the lakes by boat can be really exciting but comes with its proper risks.
Here are some key steps to ensure that your boating trip is safe from start to finish:
Use Life Jackets Properly
Life jackets are a lawfully mandatory device that have saved thousands of lives; however, they are only useful when they are used properly. Some common errors when using life jackets are choosing the wrong size; using old, ineffective life jackets; and putting the life jacket on too late.
Life jacket safety starts before stepping onto a boat. To start, check your life jacket for its expiry date and maximum weight limit. Be sure to choose a life jacket that is bright in colour and that fits your proper weight category.
Next, be sure to put the life jacket on before getting to the waterfront. Life jackets need to be buckled properly according the instructions on the inside panel of the jacket, and they need to be securely fastened before getting onto the dock to board into the boat.
Finally, be sure to keep the life jacket securely fastened until you have safely exited the boat. Your life jacket is only useful if it is on your body, so be sure to keep it securely fastened throughout your entire trip!
Bring Proper Equipment
Boating equipment may seem as simple as a boat, a life jacket and a paddle, but in reality there are many other small pieces of equipment that should be brought on board to ensure your safety in times of emergency.
Some standard safety items to bring along when canoeing, kayaking or paddle-boating include:
1. A whistle.
2. A bailing bucket.
3. An extra oar.
4. A rope.
Please note that pre-made kits are available at many outdoor apparel retailers, such as Canadian Tire or Bass Pro Shop.
For motor boating, there are more essential items that you must bring to ensure your safety. A comprehensive and detailed list can be found at Travel Canada’s website : https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-equipment-menu-1790.htm
The amount of safety equipment you are required to bring depends on the size of your boat, so please be vigilant and consult this list before you take your boating trip.
Open Water Swimming Safety
There are very few activities that are more refreshing than plunging into a cold pool of fresh water on a hot summer day. Swimming in open water is a wonderful way to cool off and enjoy the outdoors, especially when done safely.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when swimming in open water:
- Check the weather conditions before you go. Be sure to verify that the UV index is not too high, that there is no chance of thunder or lightning and that the wind levels are not too high.
- Choose a beach with a lifeguard. This is especially important when swimming with small children or if the adults or supervisors of the children are weak swimmers.
- Stay within arm’s reach of small children. Children under the age of 5 should are be clearly in your line of vision and within your arm’s reach.
- Bring proper life jackets in rough swimming conditions. In rough water conditions, be sure to wear a life jacket to ensure you will stay afloat should you the water overpower you.
Research any dangers about the open water you are swimming in, such as undertows, rough water and water currents.
Thanks for reading! We hope you continue to enjoy the hot summer and make the most of your summertime by living it up and always being safe.