[SystemSafety] A Safety Issue, but not Tech - Drowning

Bruce Hunter brucer.hunter at gmail.com
Wed May 15 04:38:57 CEST 2019

Les raises some interesting points on drownings in Australia that relates
to risk assessment in unfamiliar locations. Due to the popularity of water
sports in Australia, ways to reduce the risk of drowning is seriously
studied and funded by the federal government.

I don't have statistics on efficacy of preventive measures but, according
to Royal Life Saving Australia report for 10 years to 2015, 27% of drowning
deaths in Australia were born overseas out of a total of 762. (https://www.
In overall deaths due to drowning, a higher representation (121 out of 762)
were males aged between 25 to 34 years; possibly due to a higher risk
appetite. A young, fit, male friend of mine was drowned in a rip a few
years ago at an unpatrolled beach. You could compare drowning risk of
patrolled versus unpatrolled water.

Life Savers have comprehensive risk assessment at beaches and the resulting
protective measures include only swimming between flags and a permanent
watch when beach is open. Beach drownings mostly occur when these measures
are ignored.

Behavioural risk is an interesting side to safety and is not always
considered (except in specific areas such as aerospace). Daniel Kahneman's
book, "Thinking Fast and Slow". published in 2011 provides some good
insight into the psychology of risk assessment and its narrow framing.
Although inspired by behaviour in business and politics (he was awarded
Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences) it still is very applicable to other
areas such as safety risk awareness and controls. Another book "Foolproof"
by Greg Ip, deals with risk desensitisation which could also be applicable.

I think the human element is often overlooked as in the previous email on
737 Max issues.

For those visiting Australia, airlines now do play videos and provide
brochures on the dangers of drowning. It's not just the poisonous creatures
we have to worry about in Oz.


On Wed, 15 May 2019 at 02:52, Les Chambers <Les at chambers.com.au> wrote:

>  Many of the drownings in Australia are Asian tourists who can’t swim but
> dive into our surf
> regardless.  They often get caught in rips , strong currents which drag
> them out to sea. A rip
> looks Deceptively calm. It usually only drags you out 200 m or so but if
> you’re not a strong
> swimmer and you panic it can be all over in minutes.  I often thought it
> would be a good idea for
> all airlines entering Australia to show a welcome video. “Welcome to
> Australia. This is what a rip
> looks like. Avoid them.“
> Les
> > An astonishing statistic. Of the 750 kids who drown annually in the US,
> half of them will do so
> > within 25m of a parent or other adult. Why?
> >
> > It is not a lot of kids, but it is evidently half-of-750 more than it
> needs to be.
> >
> > The reason is: because few people are aware of the signs of drowning. I
> certainly wasn't until I
> > read this. People become still in the water and don't move much - it's
> instinct. And if there is
> > stuff going on around them - people having fun in the water - it can be
> that no one notices.
> >
> https://www.soundingsonline.com/voices/drowning-doesnt-look-like-drowning
> >
> > It was referenced in John Naughton's Observer column today and I thought
> it important to
> propagate
> > as widely as possible.
> >
> > There are quite a few issues like this of public safety which arise. For
> example, people
> obtaining a
> > driver's licence in Germany have to have attended a first-aid course.
> There is also a law
> saying you
> > must render help as you can, in any case of accident, danger or
> emergency (rather, it is
> phrased
> > negatively: not doing so is a criminal offence punishable by up to a
> year in prison)
> > https://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/323c.html (in German, of course).
> >
> > Compare this with the US: the murder of Kitty Genovese is a well-known
> incident
> > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese
> >
> > Does anyone know comparative studies on how general policies such as
> compulsory first-aid
> courses
> > for driver's-licence applicants work out? Local serious accidents in
> Bielefeld, especially road
> > accidents and house fires, are well-reported in our local newspaper. But
> comparing accident
> rates
> > and establishing efficacy/non-efficacy of prophylactic measures appears
> to be very hard in
> general,
> > let alone with counterfactuals such as how many people in
> these-and-these accidents would
> have been
> > worse off had the people at the scene not done this-and-this before the
> emergency services
> arrived.
> >
> > PBL
> >
> > Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Bielefeld, Germany
> > MoreInCommon
> > Je suis Charlie
> > Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319  www.rvs-bi.de
> --
> Les Chambers
> les at chambers.com.au
> +61 (0)412 648 992
> _______________________________________________
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