OSS Top 10 Tips for safe summer swimming

Simple tips for a summer of safe swimming

Photo: Tomek Baginski

No activity is free from risk but knowing more about the risk factors involved in swimming outdoors and being properly prepared will help safety.

For more advanced information, see OSS Intermediate Tips for Safe Swimming 

  1. Spot the dangers

Ask locals for advice, and read local warning and guidance signs. Find your exit point before entering the water
Beware of underwater hazards and currents.

  1. Swim sober

Alcohol and drugs impair  judgement, swimming ability and body temperature.

©Tyler B
  1. Swim with others

Take someone with you when you go into water. If something goes wrong they will be able to get help


  1. Increase your exposure to open water gradually

Enter the water slowly, getting used to the temperature. Cold water shock ‘gasp reflex’ can be triggered in water below 15c

Photo: Greta Schölderle Møller
  1. Don’t jump

Before jumping in, check for depth and hazards, and get used to the water temperature. Stay within your limits
Swim near the shore, not away from it.

  1. Watch children at all times

Find a safe area for children to play in and watch them all the time. It’s easy for them to fall and get into difficulty.

Photo: Philippe Murray Piet
  1. Swim at lifeguarded beaches

Where possible, stick to lifeguarded beaches and obey the flags. If you get into trouble, signal for help by raising an arm or leg. Beware of waves, tides, and currents, which will be affected by wind and weather conditions.


  1. Recognise the signs of drowning

People who are drowning are usually silent. Call for help – dial 112 or 999 and ask for the Coastguard or ask for the Fire and Rescue service when at any inland waterside location. Don’t attempt to save a swimmer in difficulty.
Find something buoyant you can throw to help keep them above the water.

Photo: Thomas Grillmair
  1. Learn how to spot a rip tide

If you get caught in a rip, stay calm. Swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore
If you can stand, wade, don’t swim. Raise your arm or leg and call for help

  1. Remember the SAFE swimmers code

Spot the dangers

Advice – follow safety advice and read signs

Friend – swim with others

Emergency – call for help, recognise the signs of someone in trouble


For more information about getting started visit the Survive on the website, and read the companion piece: OSS Intermediate Tips for Safe Summer Swimming.



Beyond learning to swim, there is learning to swim outdoors:


  • If you get into trouble, FLOAT TO LIVE is the key message of the RNLI Respect The Water campaign aimed at reducing drowning on the coast.
  • #bewateraware: young adult drinkers, runners and walkers and those away from home are three groups most likely to die as a result of accidental drowning (around 315 drown a year in Britain). The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) are seeking to reduce this number with the #bewateraware campaign The advise for anyone accidentally falling into water is turn onto their back and float, while shouting for someone to ring 999 and ask for Fire & Rescue service.