Local Hazards

Know, Understand and Respect Hazards

Each open water environment has different hazards to be aware of. Check, read and follow any safety signage. Active adult supervision is essential in, on and around all water environments.

Beach / Waves

  • It is recommended to swim at a beach patrolled by surf lifeguards.
  • Stay between the flags at a patrolled beach.
  • Identify rips and currents by any calm, murky or choppy patches in the surf zone.
  • Rips current create deeper water or ‘holes’.
  • Check whether the tide is going out or coming in. It is generally safer to swim on an incoming tide.
  • Check the wind direction. Off-shore winds can be particularly hazardous, and more likely to take you beyond your limits.
  • Know the type, size, intensity and frequency of the waves. Dumping and sweeping waves can be particularly hazardous.


  • Obstacles such as rocks and trees creating eddies and affecting the flow of the current.
  • Check weather and river conditions, the water flow increases after rainfall, often causing flooding.
  • Submerged hazards may not be visible (submerged branches, rocks).
  • Rivers, especially when deeper, are generally cold.

Waterfalls / Swimming holes / Lakes

  • Check water depth, often murky water disguises obstacles and sudden depth changes.
  • Fresh water swimming holes and lakes can be especially cold.
  • Obstacles, such as trees, may be visible or submerged.
  • It may be more difficult to float in fresh water, especially when aerated near waterfalls.
  • Rocks and banks are often slippery, and often result in accidental immersion.

More Information

You might like to check out the additional information in the Local Hazards and Risks lesson for more information on this topic.

Teaching Tips and Class Management