Other data sources

There are a number of sources of statistics and data about drowning and incidents but as yet there is not a single, comprehensive data set that is used by everyone involved in drowning and water incident prevention. This lack of comprehensive data can only hamper organisations and individuals who are trying to establish the causes of drowning and injury and use this information to inform prevention work.

*These data sets contribute to WAID data set.

Water Incident Database (WAID)

WAID is a system developed by members of the Forum, it combined data from multiple sources to provide a unique record of a water related incident. It has superseded a number of the data sources listed below. For more information, see the WAID homepage.

Office of National Statistics Data

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) in England and Wales takes data from death registrations. The equivalent of the ONS in Scotland is the General Register Office in Edinburgh and in Northern Ireland, there is a General Register Office in Belfast.

Deaths are classified using internationally agreed codes for cause, with each death being assigned a single underlying cause, which is then supplemented by an external cause where appropriate. There are ten categories of external cause to which drowning are allocated:

  • Water transport accident
  • Motor vehicle traffic accident
  • Air and space transport accidents
  • Other specified transport accidents
  • Accidental drowning and submersion
  • Suicide and self-inflicted injury
  • Injury undetermined whether accidentally or purposely inflicted
  • Accidental falls
  • Homicide or injury purposely inflicted by other persons
  • Other accidents

There are difficulties with this data that can be ascribed to misdescribed locations for drowning deaths, inconsistency and lack of information captured on death registration forms and with the complexities of the international coding system. However some of the data is available via the internet at www.statistics.gov.uk

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Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES)

All National Health Service hospitals in England provide coded data on hospital inpatients to the Department of Health who then collate the information on the HES database. The database uses the same internationally agreed codes as ONS and therefore there are similar difficulties with the coding system. This system will only capture some of the water incidents because it only records those, which result in the injured person being admitted to hospital. For more information go to: The National Archives

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The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has used a press-cutting service to compile annual drowning statistics in the UK since 1983 and these figures have been published annually. In 1982 The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) revived a system, first established by the Home Office in the 1970's, whereby reports on drowning events were collected from the police and coroners. Research conducted by the University School of Medicine in 1995 highlighted discrepancies in both systems. Using press reports only produced reasonable trend information from year to year and near comprehensive coverage of the deaths of young people, but there were gaps in other age groups. Not all police forces cooperated with the compilation of drowning report forms and there were incidents at which there was no police presence.

Therefore, from 1998 the systems have been combined through a joint initiative between RoSPA and RLSS UK and each year a database is compiled from both press reports and drowning report forms.

This data set now contributes to the WAter Accident Incident Database (WAID). Historical data back to 2005 is being transferred into WAID, older data and reports will be held in archive by RoSPA. See www.rospa.com

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Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCGA)

The MCA coordinates search and rescue operations and keeps records of incidents responded to or notified of. In a marine environment these are included in the SEAREM system, described below. Inland incidents are included in the INREM, again described below. For further information go to www.mcga.gov.uk

This data set now contributes to the WAter Accident Incident Database (WAID).

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In 1994, the RNLI adopted a more proactive approach to sea safety education in an attempt to reduce the increasing number of sea-related incidents. The Sea Safety Liaison Working Group and the Irish Marine Safety Working Group were formed, with the objective of working together with other organisations involved with safety at sea to achieve a common approach through a generic sea safety initiative. At this time, any data relating to marine incidents involving search and rescue was kept individually by the organisations concerned.

The Sea Related Emergency Database (SEAREM) was established in 1997 and is hosted and maintained by the RNLI. It contains incident data for all Coastguard coordinated incidents that have occurred on the UK and Ireland coastlines. Its main contributors include The Coastguard Agency, Irish Coastguard, the Defence Analytical Service Agency (DASA) and the RNLI. The RNLI continue to collect information about their own response to incidents in terms of lifeboat launches, but this is now augmented by the data collected through SEAREM.

This data set now contributes to the WAter Accident Incident Database (WAID).

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In 2001, RoSPA and the RNLI proposed the development of a similar database to SEAREM for inland waters, to be known as INREM. Initial research revealed that data on deaths and incidents was collected by individual organisations, like the police and fire services but they did not have a central collection point for data nationally. An INREM database has now been developed to capture information about inland water incidents. It is hosted and maintained by the RNLI. The police, fire and ambulance services have been involved in its development, together with the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities, Water UK, the Mountain Rescue Council, RLSS UK, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Defence and Analytical Services Agency and Association of Lowland Search and Rescue.

The INREM system has been capturing data from the agencies above since March 2004. Data is entered onto an on-line form and uploaded through a website. If you would like to become a user or would like further information, please contact: inrem@rnli.org.uk

This data set now contributes to the WAter Accident Incident Database (WAID).

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Currently the RNLI captures data from 20% of life-guarded beaches in the UK and Ireland. In order to provide a national picture of the number of incidents that happen on the beaches to sit alongside INREM and SEAREM, during 2004 it is anticipated that the RNLI's incident reporting scheme will be rolled out to other local authorities that operate lifeguard services (a further 61 Authorities). In the next few years it is hoped that this information will be collected and reported on centrally. Therefore the 'BEAREM' system is currently in the initial stages of development by the RNLI.

This data set now contributes to the WAter Accident Incident Database (WAID).

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Marine Accident Investigation Branch

The MAIB is part of the Department for Transport, examines and investigates all types of marine accidents to or on board UK ships worldwide, and other ships in UK territorial waters. The MAIB are not concerned with enforcing laws or carrying out prosecutions, they seek to determine circumstances and cause of accidents with a view to prevention in the future. There is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Health and Safety Executive, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the MAIB as to which organisation will take the lead in investigations where they share a common interest. The MAIB holds detailed data on the investigation that it has completed. For more information go to: MAIB

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Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA)

In April 2003, AINA launched a new incident reporting system called IRIS. The system includes a database and provides members with a system to record incidents in a consistent format. Members of AINA include British Waterways, Environment Agency, the Broads Authority, and the National Trust amongst others. For further information go to: www.aina.org.uk

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Health and Safety Executive

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) employers have a duty to report to the Health and Safety Executive certain work-related accidents affecting both employees, the self-employed and members of the public affected by work activity. The HSE keeps a database of this information. For further information go to www.hse.gov.uk

Water Sports Organisations

Some Water Sport Organisations compile their own accident and incident data. For further information go to the water sports safety section.

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UK Leisure Accident Statistics

Statistics on accident rates for leisure activities have been collected from hospital accident departments by the Department for Trade and Industry since 1978 using the Leisure Accident Surveillance System (LASS). Sports accidents can be analysed by the type of sporting activity and the age and gender of those involved. The collection of this data concluded in 2003 and the last available published data is for the year 2002. A copy of the complete database has been transferred to RoSPA's Information Centre who will provide an enquiry service based on the database for a further 5 years. More information can be found at: www.rospa.com/statistics

Collaboration for Accident Prevention and Injuries Control (CAPIC)

CAPIC is a multi-disciplinary multi agency collaboration of individuals and organisations, which support injury prevention initiatives across Wales. CAPIC is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government through the Wales Centre for Health and National Public Health Service for Wales, as a component of Health Challenge Wales.

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England Injury Information Resources Guide

A signpost guide to online statistics, databases, websites, strategies, policies, and reviews that may be relevant to work supporting injury prevention in England. For further information: England Injury Information Resources Guide

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Last amended: 08/11/2016 RB