Canada Day is coming. Remember SUMMER FUN = SUMMER SAFETY!

by John McKiggan

Our senior associate Mark Raftus sent me this article and I thought it was good timing since Canada Day is this week and it marks the unofficial start of summer here in the Maritimes.

We all look forward to spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather and the summer activities we have waited so long to do given the long, hard winter we just endured.

Whatever your chosen activity: swimming, boating, cycling or relaxing outside on the playground or fields with your children there are precautions that should be taken so a fun day spent in the sunshine won’t have an unhappy ending.


Statistics Canada advises that the largest percentage of all injuries occur in the summer months ( 30% ) with half of these injuries taking place between noon and 6pm.

These are the peak summer activity hours for many Canadians.

The same article advises that the main cause of summer  injuries comes from falls or overexertion with 3 in 5 falls among adolescents caused by falls during sporting activities.

Many of these adolescent sports related injuries happen as part of the ordinary risk of playing the game but a significant amount of these falls also occur due to inattention while participating in non-sport related summer activity.

Sadly, many of the falls involve children entering into water while unsupervised.


With the warm weather comes the idea of going for a swim at  the beach or pool. Some of us are even lucky enough to be able to get out on the lake or ocean in a boat.

But all of these activities have risks associated with them.


Wherever the outdoor activity occurs care must be taken not to get too much sun.

The Government of Canada has authored articles on Sun Safety to help prevent sunburn and skin cancer through common sense precautions such as wearing sunglasses and using sunscreens

However, it is not only the common summer sunburn of which swimmers should be mindful but the need to take proper safety precautions to avoid needless tragedy.


Too many Canadian adults and children die in preventable drowning deaths at home pools and beaches every year.

Statistics reveal the role played by those in position of supervising children not paying proper attention to children playing near pools or open water. The statistics support the fact that alcohol consumption too often plays a role in the supervisors lapse in attention.

The Red Cross reports the following alarming statistics:

  1. From 1991-2010 of all water related fatalities 32% were attributed to boating accidents, 22% to aquatic activity, 19% to unexpected falls and 16% to transportation issues.
  2. On average there are 525 water-related fatalities each year across Canada .
  3. 60% of the fatalities occur in the summer months.
  4. Children aged 1-4 and men aged 15-34 are the most at risk.
  5. Alcohol was stated to be a factor in at least 38% of the water related fatalities in individuals over 15 years of age.
  6. Males accounted for 83% of all water related fatalities.

The article states:

Canadians enjoy an abundance of aquatic activities across thousands of waterfronts (oceans, lakes, rivers, and private pools) and recreational facilities. Tragically, hundreds of Canadians die each year in water-related incidents. Of these incidents, many of Canadians are injured or drown while engaging in activities where they never expected to enter into the water. Despite significant water safety awareness initiatives, Canadians continue to participate in unsafe behaviours around the water and continue to be at risk. Often, the risk of water-related injury and death when on or near the water is far greater than perceived. Swimming skills combined with water safety knowledge and skills save lives.

Every year, an average of 525 Canadians die needlessly in unintentional water-related incidents. Data compiled by the Canadian Red Cross for the period of 1991-2010 show that water-related fatalities occurred across all provinces and territories. The territories however, were at a particularly high risk with a rate of drowning several times the national average. While the Canadian Red Cross is pleased to see a decrease in the number of incidents, we continue to be concerned about the high number of annual water-related injuries and fatalities and Canadians’ attitudes towards water safety.
The majority of incidents, 57 per cent, occurred May 1- August 31 while Canadians engaged in recreational activities (60 per cent), on inland bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers and streams (66 per cent). Among these incidents, almost 19 per cent were a result of unexpected falls meaning there was no intention of entering the water.
The data collected by the Canadian Red Cross also clearly point to the largest number of water-related fatalities for men between the ages 15-34, and men overall account for 83 per cent of all water-related fatalities. We always think to protect children around the water, ensure they are wearing lifejackets and are supervised. Adults, however, are responsible for their own safety.

Recent polling research by the Canadian Red Cross shows an alarming discrepancy between Canadians’ risk of water-related injuries and their attitudes and behaviour towards water safety. For example, even though 82 per cent of Canadians believe there is a legal requirement to wear a lifejacket only 50 per cent of boat owners always wear one. In addition, for 51 per cent of Canadians, ‘not allowing children under 10 to access the pool area’ was their only strategy to prevent injuries related to backyard pools. Further, alcohol continues to play a contributing factor in drowning incidents with at least 26.5 per cent of fatalities being attributed to a blood alcohol level of above 80 mg% (for those over 15 years of age).

Supervision is critical:

The article makes clear that most injuries and deaths can be prevented by adults effectively supervising children.

In-ground home pools should have self-closing and self-latching gates to prevent access by small children.

Toys should be cleared from pool decks so as not to entice small children to the pool area when adults are not present.

Proper fencing should be installed to keep children away when adults are not present.

Smaller portable pools should be emptied after every use.

These tips are common sense ways to prevent summer swimming injuries or fatalities from occurring.


The statistics for boating injuries and deaths are alarming as well.

The Red Cross reports in the same article that on average every year there are 166 water related boating fatalities with 90% of all the boaters who drown either not wearing or not properly wearing a lifejacket. Read that again: Almost 90% of boating fatalities are releated to not wearing a lifejacket!

Sadly 21% of the fatalities occur when a lifejacket is present on board but not worn.

Even worse, 39% of the boating fatalities involve alcohol consumption.

The common sense message is clear: when boating wear your lifejacket and don’t drink alcohol!


One of the partners here at McKiggan Hebert Lawyers, Brian Hebert is an avid cyclist. Brian bikes to and from work almost every day from Spring through to the fall. Children and adults alike enjoy cruising the streets of our communities in the summer months.

It has been reported that cycling injuries are the most common injury related to summer sport and recreational activity across Canada with half of all reported injuries occurring in June, July and August

CAA reports the following cautionary statistics:

  1. 7500 cyclists are seriously injured every year;
  2. Most bicycle injuries and crashes occur during the afternoon rush hour;
  3. 1 out of 3 cyclist deaths occur at night or in artificial lighting;
  4. Cyclists are more likely to be killed or injured at an intersection or at a location where there are traffic signals or other traffic control signs;
  5. 18% of cyclists killed in traffic crashes are under the age of 16;
  6. 34% of cyclists killed were struck by a vehicle in the dark;
  7. 64% of cyclist deaths occur on city roads

Clearly there is a problem with inattention on the part of both cyclists and drivers leading to these injury statistics.

The same article advises of the following safety tips for both drivers and cyclists to avoid collisions:

  1. Give cyclists plenty of room on wet roads, slow down and ensure windshield wipers are in good condition;
  2. Plan turns and lane changes well in advance and be aware of cyclist routes;
  3. Never use your horn unless necessary when passing a cyclist;
  4. Leave lots of room when passing a cyclist;
  5. Check for cyclists prior to left or right turns;
  6. Never follow too closely to a cyclist;
  7. Keep at least a 3-4 second following distance to a cyclist;
  8. Use extra caution when driving in parking lots, playground zones and school areas;
  9. Signal your intention well in advance so a cyclist can see what you are planning to do;
  10. Check your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds to keep aware of your surroundings;
  11. Be aware of bicycle paths.

By following these simple tips both vehicle drivers and cyclists alike can remain safe on our community streets this summer.


We all know as Maritimers that sometimes our weather doesn’t cooperate with our plans for outdoor activities. We are all well aware of the potential for weather in the summer months to become severe.

Heat waves, high winds, heavy rain, floods, thunderstorms, lightning and hail all are part of the summer weather menu in the Maritime provinces.

Summer injuries due to weather are not as common as those taking place while swimming, boating or cycling but they do occur.

Statistics Canada reports that every year lightning kills 10 Canadians and injures 100 to 150 others.

The article advises that “When thunder roars, GO INDOORS!”.

When thunder is heard cover should be taken immediately and once indoors stay away from electrical appliances and any other object that can conduct lightning.

If caught outside in a thunderstorm don’t stand near tall objects or anything made of metal and avoid open water and take shelter in a low lying area.

For many of the other weather hazards identified Statistics Canada suggests being vigilant for weather forecasts  – to plan ahead – and be aware of your weather surroundings if severe weather develops quickly.

When in doubt seek shelter and remain indoors. If caught outside in a heavy rain avoid underpasses, drainage ditches and low lying areas.

Never try to drive through or across a flooded road and stay away from power wires.

Again, common sense should prevail to prevent summer weather related injuries.


A common safety thread to preventing injuries from occurring during the summer activities spoken to above is to always remain aware of your surroundings.

Be vigilant of children and those around you. Plan ahead and identify the hazards that exist.

Through the exercise of common sense and paying attention we will all enjoy our summer activities to their full pleasurable extent.

When we plan ahead, are aware of our surroundings and take simple precautions the fun day spent in the sunshine won’t  have an unhappy ending.

Enjoy your summer!

Mark Raftus





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