Public beaches must be safe and compliant with the legal requirements.
Which beaches does the Consumer Safety Act apply to?
A public beach refers to a beach or swimming area, which is
- Presented as an exercise or recreational area on the municipal website
- A part of another consumer service, such as a camping area, a spa or a public event
- Clearly open for public use, such as based on signs or markers.
The party maintaining public beaches, i.e. the service provider, is responsible for ensuring that the service is safe. The service provider may be, for example, a municipality, a parish, an association or a company.
The Consumer Safety Act does not apply to shore areas owned by private or public parties that are not intended for use as public beaches, even if they were used as swimming areas based on everyman’s right. Such areas include forest ponds near outdoor recreation routes or city parks located on shores.
Documents in order
The service provider must draw up a safety document on the beach. The information on several different beaches can be collected in one safety document, as long as the special characteristics and risks of each beach are taken sufficiently into account in the safety document.
Identify the risks
You can use Tukes’ instructions and tools to identify risks.
You should take especially the following into account in identifying the risks of a beach:
- The number of users and special groups, such as small children, swimming school students, enthusiasts of different water sports.
- The special characteristics of the beach, such as a long shoreline, shadow areas, a steep beach, slippery rocks, scree
- Strong currents or waves
- Ship or boat traffic
- Structures, such as a place for diving, pier, water slide
- Vandalism and public disturbances
- Activities available at the beach, such as a playground, a sauna, ball game areas, a restaurant.
Lifeguarding at the beach
Determine the need for lifeguarding at the beach and the number of lifeguards based on the identified risks. Features such as a diving tower, a steep shore, many users at the same time or toys at the beach increase the need for monitoring.
The lifeguards at the beach must be of age. They must be qualified for water rescue and able to rescue people at the shore where they work. The lifeguards at the beach must not have any other tasks that would hinder their ability to maintain safety. The lifeguards at the beach must be dressed in clearly visible work clothes that the customers can identify easily.
The working hours of the lifeguards at the beach must be determined based on how many users and at which time there are on the beach. The lifeguards’ breaks must be arranged so that they do not disrupt the monitoring. The users should be notified about the lifeguarding at the beach and the lifeguarding times on the notice board at the beach and the website of the party maintaining the beach, for example.
In addition to lifeguarding, you can improve the safety of the beach by limiting the swimming area with buoys or ropes, for example.
The minimum equipment required for the beach is an appropriate lifebuoy with a line attached for throwing. There must be enough lifebuoys at sufficiently frequent intervals at the beach in relation to the risks identified. Place the lifebuoy in a visible location close to the water.
Beaches with lifeguarding must also have a rescue boat or board. They are recommended for unmonitored beaches, too. The rescue boat or board must not be locked down. A first aid kit is included in the basic lifeguarding equipment at a beach.
Safety of the structures
The structures at the beach must not cause a hazard. The party maintaining the beach must monitor the condition and use of the structures and keep a maintenance and inspection record on them. Any defects must be repaired, and structures that have become dangerous must be removed.
Make sure that the water is deep enough at the piers and places for diving. If the water is not deep enough, issue a warning and prohibit diving from the pier. The warning must be clearly visible at the place for diving. Based on the risks identified at the beach, diving must be prevented by other means, if necessary, such as by barring access to the diving towers during evening and night.
If using a certain structure is not safe at a specific time such as outside the lifeguarding hours or due to repairs, prevent its use effectively. A simple notice posted on the signboard prohibiting the use of a pier, place for diving, slide or other structure is not sufficient. Prepare for vandalism, too. Monitor places such as the ends of the piers and the diving zones under the diving towers in case of objects under water that may cause a hazard.
Providing information to consumers
Make sure that the beach has a clearly visible notice board or a signboard, showing
- The name of the beach
- The street address and other necessary location information
- Instructions on how to call for help
- Information about lifeguarding at the beach
- Information about the depth of the water
- Information about specific hazards, such as a steep shore or strong currents
- Contact information of the party maintaining the beach
- Instructions on how to report any defects discovered.