Calls for safety measures to be stepped up after UAE drowning tragedies

Experts have highlighted the importance of supervision after recent deaths in Ajman and Sharjah

Safety warnings have been issued over the dangers of learning to swim without proper supervision in the wake of two drowning tragedies in a matter of days.

The calls come after a swimming instructor was accused of negligence following the death of an Emirati man awaiting a swimming lesson in Ajman.

The man, who has not been named, was on duty at a sports club in the emirate on Saturday when the incident occurred.

Brig Abdullah Al Hamrani, deputy commander-in-chief of Ajman Police, said the case had been referred to public prosecutors.

Humaid Al Mandoos, 21, died after falling into the pool as he waited for his swimming lesson to begin.

“The incident occurred at night while the swimming instructor was busy and didn't pay attention to the man falling in the pool,” said Brig Al Hamrani.

“Others noticed the man after a while and pulled him out of the water and tried to help him, but he died.”

Brig Al Hamrani stressed the importance of having professional lifeguards at sports clubs to avoid drowning accidents.

The Sharjah family of a boy who died during his first swimming lesson last month urged authorities to enforce stronger safety measures at swimming pools.

The boy, 11, is at least the fifth child to die in a pool in the past year in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates.

He was being taught at Tiger Fitness Club at the Tiger Building Al Qadesia in Al Nahda on Sunday, July 28.

Now coaches and water safety specialists have weighed into the debate.

Experts said swimming instructors should not conduct any sessions without a lifeguard on duty and people should only swim or take lessons in lifeguard-patrolled pools and beaches.

Rebecca Carter, regional manager of Absolute Swimming Academy in Dubai, said it is crucial for all venues that provide swimming lessons to have an alert and qualified lifeguard employed at the facility.

“Swim coaches need to ensure they do not conduct their sessions unless a lifeguard is on duty. Ratio size (the number of learners per instructor)  also needs to be adhered to at all times,” said Ms Carter.

“I am saddened by the recent news of the two drownings in Sharjah and Ajman.

Such accidents can be easily prevented

“My advice is to ensure that there is a lifeguard on duty when arriving for swimming lessons and that the swimming teacher is ready for the lesson before entering the pool,” she said.

Luke Cunningham, managing director of Blue Guard Middle East, a Dubai-based consultancy specialising in water safety training, urged people to avoid going in the water without ensuring that a lifeguard in on duty.

“The drownings which happen at swimming pools before and during lessons are completely unacceptable,” said Mr Cunningham.

“Such accidents can easily be prevented by having a correctly trained and certificated lifeguard.

"Unfortunately, water accidents do happen and this is why we educate people to only swim at lifeguard-patrolled pools and beaches.”

Mr Cunningham said before any lifeguards are deployed or put on duty a full risk assessment should be completed by the management to determine how many lifeguards are required.

“Managements need to take into account the shape of the pool, blind spots, access points, site specific features, pool operating times and how many bathers will be in the pool at any given time,” he said.

“It’s not as simple as one lifeguard can look after one swimming pool.”

Mr Cunningham said lifeguards should only spend a maximum of two hours focused on the water, before taking a break.

“After two hours they should spend 30 minutes in another position which is not focused on looking at water - this naturally will rest their eyes and make their sight sharper when back on duty.

“A swimming instructor should not be alone without a lifeguard.

“What happens if a student panics and causes harm to the swimming instructor and who is there to rescue them.”