Displaying items by tag: John Leech
The Chief Executive of the State agency responsible for promoting water safety has been telling me about an interesting piece of research which his organisation carried out over the past two months.
The purpose of this research on water safety was, he said, to help the organisation “learn more about the public’s understanding and knowledge of the importance of water safety and to gain an indication of swimming ability at large amongst the public and attitudes towards and involvement in watersports.
John Leech is a former Lt.Cdr. with the Naval Service and was one of the leaders in the development of the Navy’s Diving Unit. He is also an experienced sailor and Race Officer for yachting events, so he has a lot of experience and a vast knowledge of the importance of safety on the water.
On the new edition of my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, he details the results of the survey which showed that the majority of respondents appreciated the “necessity of swimming as a life skill.”
Swimming stands out as the watersport activity in which most adults participate, the survey found.
As CEO of Irish Water Safety, John can take satisfaction in the public recognition of IWS as the primary body engaged in developing knowledge of water safety in Ireland, but he does strike an important note about teaching children swimming. There is a lack of awareness of this, it seems, in the national schools, to judge from the survey findings.
Listen to John Leech below on THIS ISLAND NATION podcast for the full details of the research findings.
Not all of our politicians have the necessary awareness and training to understand the daily risks of working and living on an island nation with the coastline, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and canals that have the potential for drowning tragedies – unless care is taken and safety on the water observed.
That became clear to John Leech, Chief Executive of Irish Water Safety, the State body responsible for promoting safety on the water, during the recent flooding. I have known him for many years, a man dedicated to making people aware of being safe around water.
He is not a man who merely talks about this concept. A former Lt.Commander in the Naval Service, where he served for 21 years, he is a qualified Naval diver. He has been in charge of the Naval Diving Section, commanded Naval Service vessels and been involved in search-and-rescue operations. So he knows all about tragedy, its effects and the aftermath of such tragedies.
I have the highest admiration for him.
John Leech speaking at a conference
In his pursuit of creating a mindset about safety he has spoken out strongly against disregard for the wearing of lifejackets by yachtsmen and women and there has been a noticeable change in attitudes in this regard, including by myself. I now never allow anyone aboard my boat for racing without a lifejacket. I carry extra lifejackets aboard in case people arrive without them. This is not to make sailing unpleasant or to stress danger instead of enjoyment. It is to value life and enjoyment and to ensure that everyone who sails on our family boat, cruising, racing or just out for a day, returns safely.
John would not have endeared himself to everyone in the fishing industry either when he campaigned for the wearing of ‘personal flotation devices,’ a generic term used to describe lifejackets and buoyancy aids. However, he persevered and there too a change has been noticed, with less of the old adage in fishing that if a man fell into the sea it was better to drown than to fight for life.
“It is vital to wear a buoyancy aid or a lifejacket when afloat or if your activity takes you near the water,” he has often told me.
John is also a sailor himself and a Race Official, so he knows the water from many aspects. His dedication has led to the introduction of safety regulations for different type of craft and so, when he makes a point it is for a good reason and should be listened to. On this week’s edition of my radio programme THIS ISLAND NATION he discusses the winter flooding and the effects in County Galway where he lives himself:
“For those of us who have to live and operate in a flooded area like myself who lives in South East Galway or my mother’s house on the banks of the Shannon in Athlone, there are some very simple measures that we should all take,” he says on the programme, recommending the wearing of lifejackets “in all aquatic environments.”
He speaks favourably of those seen wearing lifejackets, “however quite a few people still don’t wear them, perhaps they think it will never happen to them and this culture is what prevents many people from wearing them.”
He refers to the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, filmed on television in flooded areas wearing lifejackets “and in the case of Minister, a dry suit, which demonstrates his awareness of the risks surrounding flood waters. Being a keen sailor he is aware and understands the risks of drowning in these situations.”
Then he makes a point about Tanaiste Joan Burton seen falling out of a canoe in County Kilkenny. For many people it became an incident occasioning some hilarity, the water depth seeming to be only about a foot and there were many comments as to why she had not walked the area rather than going into a boat.
John – and I credit to his courage for saying so and pointing the incident out – takes a view about water safety in this regard and I support what he said on my programme:
“What was very disappointing to me was to see our Tánaiste and Minister of State Ann Phelan fall out of a canoe with no lifejackets on. They were demonstrating very poor example to our Island Nation. Then, not all of our politicians have the necessary awareness and training to understand the daily risks of working and living on an island nation with thousands of floods, streams, rivers lakes, ponds and canals to drown in.”
What John has said may not go down well in some political circles. That would be regrettable. The incident may have originated from a publicity photo opportunity stunt conjured up by some public relations or media official which was ill thought-out and rebounded on them. John Leech as Chief Executive of Irish Water Safety is correct to point it out. The Tanaiste and the Minister of State should not have been in the boat without lifejackets. It was a bad example. It was disregard for water safety.
Well done John Leech for your courage in highlighting it.
I hope that the two Ministers concerned, senior and junior and their advisor or advisors responsible for the publicity stunt, will admit their mistake and never again go afloat without a lifejacket.
It is the lesson, as John has often told me, to always wear a lifejacket.
• Listen to John on the programme above
Should a bather step on a weever fish then the pain is excruciating as the spines embed into the human flesh and discharge their poison. (SEE RELATED VIDEO BELOW)
The pain is at its most intense for the first two hours when the foot normally goes red and swells up, and then it may feel numb until the following day with irritation and pain that may last for up to two weeks. Sometimes, the spine breaks off in the foot and it will cause discomfort until it is removed. You won't see a Weever fish easily but you will know it's there if you are unfortunate enough to stand on one since its back has a defensive sting mechanism. The sting can be very painful but will not cause permanent damage.
The poison is a type of protein and is heat labile. Most reports of stings occur during the month of August. This does not mean that this fish are particularly prevalent inshore during this month but merely reflects the greater numbers of bathers as the sea temperature reaches the highest of the year. The only death on record after someone being stung by a Weever occurred as long ago as 1927, when an angler suffered multiple stings whilst fishing off Dungeness in the UK.
The mouth itself is in an unusual position on its head, oblique and almost vertical and contains some of the most sharp and vicious looking teeth in the undersea world. Luckily it only reaches about 15 cm long.
The Weever has to be quick to catch is prey though, and for half a metre it has a fair turn of speed, before sinking to the sea floor. This fish does not have a swim bladder, the device used by most bony fish to keep buoyant.
The species found in shallow waters is called the Lesser Weever with the scientific name of Echiichthys vipera. There is a larger species called the Greater Weever, Trachinus draco, found in deeper water and occasionally seen on the fishmongers slab. The word 'weever' was first found used in the English language during the 17th century and comes from the Old northern French word 'wivre'.
One danger is that it can cause anaphylactic shock or allergic reaction and people have been known to die.
People who have been stung should take painkillers and if they develop an allergic reaction to the sting, a course of antihistamines is recommended
Seek assistance from a lifeguard who are all qualified first aiders.
Aspivenin syringes can painlessly draw out poison from the wound.
If you are away from a beach with lifeguard support, as soon as possible get the area which has been stung, invariably the foot, into hot water, this increases the blood flow which assists natural cleaning and healing, the heat also helps to breakdown the poison. The water needs to be over 40 degrees Celsius to be of any benefit in breaking down the poison.