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Ice cover on inland water sites

Every year during the winter incidents occur where members of the public go through the ice on frozen areas of inland water, often with tragic consequences. In response to this all water operators and those with responsibility for water sites should develop a strategy for managing the problem of ice. This strategy should identify those at risk, usually children playing on ice, but commonly also adults attempting to rescue others in danger. There have been many instances of people getting into difficulty attempting to rescue dogs.


Generally Operators should make themselves aware of: where the public go onto the ice and when these bodies of water freeze over.

Once determined the following steps and controls might then be implemented:

  • Raise awareness of the risks of frozen water, publicise the dangers through media warnings on radio, TV and through the press. Carrying out educational initiatives in local schools
  • Look to re-deploy additional staff during cold weather spells and ensure that they are trained to carry out the tasks required of them
  • Develop an Emergency Action Plan so that, staff, know what they should do when responding to an incident
  • Liaise with the relevant rescue and emergency agencies to ensure that they are familiar with the water body you manage and ensure their access to the water at all times.
  • Where appropriate position Danger-Thin Ice' signs, such as the main approach routes around the water body and where the public are likely to gather (such as wildfowl feeding areas etc.)
  • Develop a policy* on whether to break ice around the edges of a water body.
  • Try to patrol water areas where a problem exists


When patrolling ensure that:
1. Life-saving equipment if used at the site is in place

2. That signage is in position and promptly removed following a thaw so that its impact and relevance is not lost

3. The public are discouraged from going onto the ice and

4. Those patrolling are trained and equipped to summon the emergency services and provide assistance in case of an emergency

* This decision should be based upon a risk assessment, which will be site specific. It maybe in some situations be preferable not to break the ice around the edges of the frozen water as, this may refreeze and heighten the problem and may also make it more difficult for the rescue services to affect a rescue. However breaking the ice around the edges may prevent people from getting further out into danger. Whether ice breaking is carried out or not will usually be the result from assessing: the depth of water around the edges, the ease in which people can get out of the water, and the degree of risk to those staff who carry out the activity and from consultation with the emergency services.
  • Irish Water Safety,  The Long Walk,  Galway,  Ireland.
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