Water and coastal safety

Safety at water margins

If you are planning to work or carry out research at water margins, you need to ensure you consider water-related risks in your risk assessment. ROSPA has guidance on water safety. The HSE has guidance on personal buoyancy aids (.pdf).

Blue-green algae

Bloom and scum forming blue-green algae can produce toxins. These toxins can kill wild animals, farm livestock and domestic pets. In humans, they can cause rashes after skin contact and illnesses if swallowed. Not all blue-green algae blooms and scums are toxic, but you can't tell just by looking at them, so it's best to assume they are.

The Environment Agency gives further information on blue-green algae (.pdf).

Leptospirosis (Weils' Disease)

Those working close to the water edge may also be at risk from leptospirosisleptospirosisleptospirosis, an infection caused by bacteria carried in rat’s urine which contaminates water and banks of canals, ponds, rivers and ditches.

Coastal trips

Visits to the coast can present a number of hazards. In parts of Essex there is a high risk from deep mud and rapidly advancing tides, which can be a serious danger to those unfamiliar with the area.

Before arranging visits to the coast you will need to call the local coastguard for advice. For Essex call the Thames Coastguard on 01255 675518. They will be able to tell you about tides, weather conditions and location-specific risks, such as areas of deep mud. To call a lifeguard in an emergency call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard. See also the RNLI's advice on beach and coast safety.

For advice on water safety during fieldtrips and outings also refer to our fieldwork guidancefieldwork guidancefieldwork guidance.


If you carry out diving in the UK as part of a research activity it will come under the Diving at Work Regulations (DWR). The Regulations cover all divers when one or more divers are at work. The following guidance:

Although the Regulations do not apply when diving overseas, the standards should still be applied as far as is practicable, to ensure that we are meeting our duty of care to staff and students who take part in diving activities as part of their research or studies.

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