Know Risk is a community education program designed by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) to improve our understanding of insurance and how it relates to managing the many risks we all face in life.
Staying safe at the beach
Don't let your summer days at the beach be less than fun-filled.
Whether going for a swim, surf or doing a spot of fishing, a trip to the beach is on the to-do list for many of us over summer. Coastal waters can be unpredictable, though, which is why it’s important to be aware of risks that might make your summer days at the beach be less than fun-filled.
Swim between the flags
Rips tides and waves can be unpredictable, which is why yellow and red flags are used by lifeguards and lifesavers to show us the safest area of the water to swim. According to Surf Life Saving Australia, over 60% of the population still sometimes swim outside the safe area.
Only swim under supervision
While the temptation to go swimming at a secluded beach can be great, it’s also a risky proposition. It’s always advisable to swim at a beach that is patrolled by qualified lifeguards or volunteer lifesavers. Find more information about the role lifeguards and lifesavers play in keeping our beaches safe. If you are unsure about the conditions of the surf, ask the lifeguard or lifesaver on patrol for information.
Signs, signs, everywhere signs
Generally, there will be many different types of safety or warning signs present at beaches and it is important to understand the differences most importantly, to obey them:
- yellow warning signs usually feature a symbol showing you what dangers to be aware of
- red regulatory signs show red circles with a red diagonal line across a black symbol to indicate which activities are prohibited by law
- information signs are generally blue and highlight features or activities available at the beach
- green safety signs provide advice such as where to find first aid or emergency equipment.
Find more information on the types of signs at the beach.
It burns! It burns
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world so when you’re venturing to the beach, make sure you and your family are properly protected from sunburn by wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30+ and remember to apply it regularly, especially when spending time in the water. It is also advisable to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and to find or bring shade, such as an umbrella.
Coastal waters across the country are filled with a spectacular array of wildlife, some of which are potentially dangerous.
Sharks – While the majority of people are afraid of sharks, they rarely approach swimmers and lifeguards are constantly on the lookout should a curious one come in for a sticky beak. In the unlikely event that a shark is spotted, a warning siren will be sounded to notify you to calmly get out of the water.
Bluebottle Jellyfish – Also known as the Portuguese man o’ war, have transparent bodies and long trailing tentacles. Bluebottles can invade beaches over the summer months and can leave you with quite a nasty sting. Lifeguards will usually place signs warning people if bluebottles are in the area. Make sure you teach your children not to touch them and should you or a loved one get stung, get treatment from a lifeguard. If no lifeguard is present, the best form of treatment is to pour hot water on the sting, though cold water can also be used.
Box Jellyfish – Found between November through to April in tropical north Queensland, box jellyfish can be deadly. If there are signs warning you that these nasty little stingers are in the area, don’t swim in the water unless it is has been netted off for safety.
Blue-ring Octopus – Growing to a maximum of about 20 centimetres in size, the blue-ring octopus is one of the world’s most venomous animals. Found in shallow reefs and tide or rock pools around Australia, the blue-ring octopus is a master of camouflage and can lash out when threatened. When poking around rock pools, don’t touch anything resembling a small octopus. If bitten, call 000 immediately, apply a pressure bandage to the bite and apply CPR. Even if it doesn’t seem to be working, keep going – there’s a better chance of the patient surviving if you can keep their heart beating.
Rock fishing safety
Swimming or surfing might not be your thing and while fishing from the bank or rocks may seem a safer bet, it can actually be quite dangerous. To stay safe make sure you follow these simple tips:
- always go fishing with at least three other people and stay within sight of each other
- tell people where you are going fishing and when you plan on coming back
- always bring safety gear such as a life jacket, buoyancy vest or flares
- a major danger is getting swept off rocks from an unexpected wave so spend some time (at least 30 minutes) watching the area you intend to fish at – this will give you a better idea of the wave cycle and water conditions
- only go fishing in places you know are safe and listen to weather forecasts before you go – the last thing you want is to be caught on the rocks during a storm.
You can find more information on staying safe at the beach here: