Quarry operators in Norfolk are warning members of the public about the dangers of swimming in quarry lakes. They are asked to â€œStay Safe and Stay Outâ€ and not to ignore the warning signs and fencing designed to protect them from potential risks in both active and disused quarry sites.
Two men drowned in a former quarry site in Norfolk last summer during the period of unusually warm weather. With over 39 active sites and many restored sites in Norfolk, the majority of the population will not live far from one of these sites.
School holidays and the warmer weather normally herald an increase in the number of young people who may be tempted to enter a quarry uninvited. They do not appreciate that what they perceive as harmless fun may be putting their lives at risk. A quick dip in a quarry lake on a hot day can seem very inviting but can rapidly lead to even strong swimmers getting into difficulty.
The MPAâ€™s warning is also being supported by safety organisations such as RoSPA and the emergency services.
Elizabeth Clements of the Mineral Products Association said, â€œPeople do not appreciate that the water in a quarry can be extremely cold even after a period of prolonged warm weather. Cold water can produce a reflex action where swimmers inhale water into their lungs. This reflex can occur when swimmers encounter an area of cold water or jump into water from a rock face. Cold water also causes the muscles to tire far more rapidly increasing the potential for a swimmer to get into difficulty.
â€œIn addition to extremely cold water, other unexpected hazards may be present in a quarry lake. The water is often very deep and sides can be steep and difficult to exit. Underwater pumps, weeds that can entangle legs, concealed obstructions such as old machinery, or the high alkalinity of the water in some limestone quarries, all add to the dangers.â€
David Walker, Leisure Safety Manager at RoSPA said, â€œEvery year, in the UK, around 400 people die from drowning as a result of an accident in or around water. Many of these deaths are as a result of simple everyday mistakes, such as a trip or fall into water, or misjudgements such as underestimating the effect of swimming in cold open water unprepared can have. People should be able to enjoy adventurous activities but it is important that they understand the risks they are taking and take appropriate actions to mitigate them. â€œ
Roy Harold of the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said, â€œThe emergency services are regularly called to assist in the rescue of members of the public who have got into difficulty, often in quarries.
â€œFailure to appreciate the low water temperatures that exist in quarries, lakes and rivers even in summer causes difficulties for people and all too often results in the worst possible outcome.
â€œOther typical incidents have included falls from ledges and unstable quarry faces, being buried in sand whilst tunneling, being trapped and sucked down in settling ponds and injuries on trial bikes and mountain bikes.
The message to the public is simple â€“ never ignore the warning signs at quarries and similar industrial sites. These sites are not adventure venues but present real danger of serious injury and death as experience has tragically shown on too many occasions.â€
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