As we enter 2024, Royal Life Saving Society UK’s CEO, Robert Gofton, looks back on 2023.

Celebrating the Impact of RLSS UK in 2023: A Year of Achievements and Collaborations

In 2023, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) made waves in the water safety landscape, leaving an indelible mark on drowning prevention and community engagement across the world.  

From significant partnerships to ground-breaking research, the year was filled with milestones that underscored our commitment to making water environments safer for everyone. This year also helped cement our position as world-leading experts in lifesaving and lifeguarding as we developed a number of initiatives that will make a global impact. 

In no particular order, let's dive into just a few of my highlights of RLSS UK's impactful year:

1. World Drowning Prevention Day Round Table at Number 10: A Privileged Moment

Thanks to the British Swimming Association (BSA), I had the honour of participating in a crucial round table at Number 10. The event focused on discussing World Drowning Prevention Day, highlighting the organisation's global impact in advocating for water safety.

2. Inaugural National Drowning Report: Shining a Light on Disparities

RLSS UK, in collaboration with the Water Safety All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), released the first-ever UK National Drowning Report. The report revealed a concerning disparity in drowning rates among young people from ethnic minorities, prompting a call to action. 

3. Tripartite Collaboration Revolutionising Pool Safety

We joined forces with GLL, the leading leisure trust, and Lynxight, an Assisted Lifeguard Technology (ALT) company, in a ground-breaking collaboration. The work has revolutionised pool safety using artificial intelligence, showcasing a commitment to innovation and technological advancements and how our collective exploration of technology will help keep more people safe. Technology in pools has progressed relatively slowly for a number of years but this new system brings together machine deep learning with our expertise in lifeguarding and lifesaving and takes ALT to a new level. 

4. National Lifesaving Academy (NLA) Sport Awards: Fostering Lifesaving Skills

The launch of the new NLA Sport Awards provided an exciting opportunity for lifesavers and swimmers to enhance their fitness and lifesaving skills. The award is structured to allow participants to progress from basic skills to specialised events, promoting a culture of continuous improvement. It places the ‘FUNdamentals’ of learning lifesaving at the heart of the award and should help build awareness and participation in this amazing sport. I can’t wait to see lots of our lifesaving clubs introduce this award over the next few months.

5. Environmental Responsibility: Striving for Carbon Neutrality

RLSS UK reaffirmed its commitment to environmental responsibility, aligning its activities with the aim to become carbon neutral. The adoption of ISO 14001 for environmental management underscored the organisation's dedication to sustainability.

6. National Surf Coach Lifesaving Award: Setting High Standards for Beach Safety

We are grateful to work in partnership with the Surf Life Saving Association Wales. Collectively, as the leading organisation in the UK for developing and improving national and international lifesaving, our work together goes from strength to strength. Together, and in collaboration with Surfing England and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RLNI), came the development of the National Surf Coach Lifesaving Award. This initiative aimed to ensure surf coaches adhere to the highest standards of beach safety and is a pre-requisite for anyone wanting to become a surf coach in the UK.

7. RLSS UK Conference 2023: A Resounding Success After Five Years

After a five-year hiatus, the RLSS UK Conference returned, captivating attendees at the Coventry Building Society Arena. The event brought together speakers, exhibitors, trustees, clubs, branches, and delegates, creating a memorable experience. We were blessed with some fabulous feedback and cannot wait for our next event.

8. Water Rescue Equipment Register: A world-leading lifesaving Innovation

In collaboration with GoodSAM, RLSS UK launched the first-ever world Water Rescue Equipment Database. This initiative, incorporated into the GoodSAM app, allowed the public to register and locate water rescue equipment swiftly, reducing response times in emergencies. Another world-first for RLSS UK!

9. Revolutionising Pool Lifeguard Qualification: Research and Innovation

The Society’s commitment to pool lifeguard qualification was evident again in its collaboration with the University of Chichester and in particular the work of expert, Dr Jenny Smith. The research focused on scanning and supervision methods, leading to critical changes in lifeguard protocols for enhanced safety that can be adopted around the world. Natural Scan:20 will lead the way with this.

10. Drowning Prevention Week 2023: A Decade of Impact

Marking its tenth consecutive year, Drowning Prevention Week in 2023 reached new heights. We, proudly, educated over 1.85 million children in water safety, with a substantial increase from the previous year. Social media engagement, school resources, and targeted ads all played a crucial role in creating awareness.

11. Water Smart Schools Accreditation: Empowering Students with Lifesaving Skills

Our expert team developed and introduced Water Smart Schools, an accreditation initiative designed to help students develop water safety skills within the classroom environment. This initiative recognised the importance of universal access to poolside safety education. We hope every school in the UK and Ireland will use this as a vital resource to teach children how to be safe in, on or near water.

12. Honours Ceremony: Recognising Commitment to Lifesaving

The 2023 Honours ceremony acknowledged and celebrated the commitment of volunteers, members, and supporters who contributed significantly to RLSS UK's mission. The event, held at Coombe Abbey Hotel, Warwickshire, was a testament to the collective efforts of our lifesaving community. I even managed to pick up an award for my voluntary work at my local pool!

13. National Lifesaving Championships: Showcasing Skills and Dedication

The National Lifesaving Championships in Leeds provided a platform for competitors to showcase their skills and dedication. This premier lifesaving competition played a crucial role in promoting technical skills, knowledge, and decision-making abilities.

14. Make a Splash Participants: Making a Difference in Water Education

A personal and heartfelt thank you to all the Make a Splash participants whose fundraising efforts made a significant impact. The collective contribution helped us continue in our mission to educate the nation and protect families from the devastating impact of drowning.

15. Looking Forward to 2024: A Collective Commitment

As I reflected on the achievements of 2023, I want to express our gratitude to volunteers, members, trustees, staff, and supporters alike. Without you, none of this would be possible.

In conclusion, RLSS UK's achievements in 2023 stand as a testament to its unwavering dedication to water safety. The impact of these initiatives will undoubtedly ripple through communities, fostering a culture of awareness, preparedness, and ultimately, saving lives.

With an optimistic outlook, we are eagerly anticipating an even better 2024, where the collective efforts of the community will continue to reduce the burden of drowning in the UK and Ireland, ensuring that everyone can enjoy water safely.