OF LATE, there have been many calls for better safety measures at Kuala Lumpur’s rivers following the recent drowning of a teenager in Sungai Kerayong, near the Taman Maluri LRT station as reported.
Based on my observations, many of our rivers as well as disused mining ponds are easily accessible due to lack of safety signage and fences.
Children can easily gain access to these rivers and play there without a thought for their safety.
The authorities should act to improve the safety aspects of rivers and ponds within the city to prevent more tragedies.
What is of utmost concern to me is the frequent drowning deaths not only in Kuala Lumpur but also in other parts of the country which warrant the attention of the various authorities.
One cannot be unconcerned about the growing number of drowning deaths in various parts of our country each year, especially during school breaks.
According to the Fire and Rescue Department, the number of drowning cases run into a few hundred nationwide each year and this must be viewed seriously. In Kuala Lumpur alone, 18 deaths have been reported since 2013.
There is a need to focus attention on the worsening number of drowning cases in the country either at beaches or in disused mining ponds, rivers, waterfalls and even hotel swimming pools.
Proactive steps must be taken to prevent more deaths.
It is unacceptable to see more drowning deaths, especially involving children, due to negligence and lack of safety measures undertaken by those responsible for public safety.
There are many factors which cause drowning such as unrestricted and ready access to rivers, lack of knowledge and understanding of the water conditions, ignorance, disregard or misjudgment of the hazardous water conditions, absence of constant visual supervision and, particularly, lack of awareness and education on water safety, personal survival and life saving.
Safety and risk management strategies are crucial to ensure the reduction of death by drowning.
The implementation of an effective risk management programme can reduce the incidence of death by drowning.
It is the responsibility of those organisations, agencies and authorities with jurisdiction over the beaches, disused mining ponds, rivers and swimming pools to identify the dangers and hazards and take steps to minimise the risks of injury or death by drowning.
This responsibility is not sufficiently satisfied by installing signs or providing safety equipment alone.
We should advocate for proper supervision of our water attractions, and educate parents about the need for close supervision of children at beaches, rivers or pools.
Apart from that, education on safe practices during water activities and making safe decisions about water-related activities and appropriately managed water-related hazards are among the prevention strategies that should be adopted.
To address the issue of drowning deaths, we need to establish a National Water Safety Council, which will have various functions, including:
¦ Promoting water safety awareness in a holistic and comprehensive manner covering all segments of society as well as to introduce national water safety standards;
¦ Encouraging and enhancing swimming proficiency as a critical living skill, particularly for children, as well as teach them some basic life-saving skills to be put into practice in an emergency;
¦ Promoting appropriate design of the built environment for water-related recreational facilities equipped with up-to-date water safety features and equipment;
¦ Ensuring timely aid and quick response by civil defence, fire and rescue department, police and other relevant groups in the event of emergencies and water disasters;
¦ Determining appropriate water safety signage, similar to road safety signage, for display not only at all beaches, but also in all places with water bodies such as holiday resorts, hotel pools, waterfalls and disused mining ponds;
¦ Providing lifeguards for all beaches and other water-related activities in public areas including at hotel pools; and
¦ Warn incoming tourists on the dangers in our waters through adequate information material and with the help of tour guides.
Raising public awareness and organising educational campaigns on water safety and safe practices during water activities is essential to minimise drowning.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh)