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Ice and winter water safety

Children are attracted to frozen waters such as lakes, canals and Lochs for play. But ice is a serious hazard.

People can fall through ice as a result of dog walking or when frozen water is used as a walking route/shortcut, as well as when playing on ice.

It’s important to speak to your children clearly about the dangers of frozen waters. To them, frozen water might look like a fun play opportunity or a handy shortcut.

It is never safe for anyone, of any age, to walk over or play on ice for any period of time as it cannot withstand the weight.

Ice safety advice for waterways

  • Stay off the ice and frozen waters at all times, they will not be able to hold a person’s weight
  • Always supervise children around ice and waterways, never let them go onto the ice
  • Speak to your children about the dangers of frozen waters
  • Plan your route if you’re going out near waterways in winter
  • Sometimes ice can be obscured by fallen debris such as leaves or snow, so keep away from the edges of frozen water
  • Look out for signs and warnings and adhere to them
  • Keep your dog on a lead near ice and frozen waters and don’t throw sticks or balls onto the ice for them

If you see someone in icy water:

  • Call 999 immediately and shout for help
  • Stay off the ice: Help from the land to the best of your ability if it is safe to do so.
  • Try to keep your eyes on the person at all times, especially in moving water
  • Shout to the person to keep still to maintain heat and energy, use a calm reassuring voice if possible. Read the RNLI’s information on ‘Float To Live’ here.
  • Making sure that you’re on stable ground, look for rescue equipment or anything that will extend your reach such as a rope, pole, branch or item of clothing.
  • Reach or throw out to the person with it. Gently guide and move the person to the shore. Make sure that you are on stable ground.
  • ​Keep the person warm and make sure they go to hospital.

You can read more about winter safety here.

Page last reviewed: 11-01-2023

Next review due: 11-01-2026