Published: 17 March 2022

RLSS UK and its partners are leading the way in a drive to make the UK’s aqua parks among the safest in the world.

Aqua parks are increasingly popping up in lakes and reservoirs across the UK and Ireland, and for good reasons. These floating assault courses offer maximum fun for adults and children alike with various obstacles ranging from climbing walls and trampolines to water slides and runways. With the UK and Ireland still enjoying a staycation boom and as more people have discovered the joys of outdoor activity during the pandemic, the popularity of aqua parks is all set to continue.

Safety is paramount to the success of this young and innovative water sports activity - aqua parks have only been operating in the UK and Ireland for the last decade. As the charity that enhances communities, so everyone can enjoy being in, on or near water safely; because every life is worth saving, RLSS UK and its partners are at the forefront of the drive to ensure high levels of safety in aqua parks and a sustainable future for this exciting sector.

How do we make aqua parks safe?

The first UK aqua park opened in 2014. Today there are more than sixty operators running these family-friendly attractions and with more opening all the time. The Aqua Parks Association UK & Ireland - formerly the Aqua Parks Steering Group - was formed by a group of forward-thinking operators to promote safety and excellent standards in the industry to maintain public confidence in UK aqua parks.

RLSS UK has worked closely with the Aqua Park Association UK and Ireland since October 2017. The voluntary body aims to improve health and safety within the sector. It has developed a set of minimum industry standards and launched the UK’s first accreditation scheme for aqua parks. The accreditation scheme introduced a recognised and consistent safety standard, making accredited UK aqua parks some of the safest in the world. RLSS UK is the appointed auditor for the Aqua Parks Association UK and Ireland (auditing parks that have signed up to the scheme against the standards set out by the Aqua Park Association UK & Ireland).

The Industry Approved Aqua Park status is awarded to aqua parks that can demonstrate that they meet the operational and equipment standards set out within the guidance. There are two accreditations: ‘Silver’ shows that an aqua park has the correct documents, procedures, staff, and training in place for all the sessions they run, while the ‘Gold’ accreditation indicates that the aqua park not only meets all the operational standards demanded by ‘Silver’ accreditation but also that all its equipment has been third-party tested to meet ISO 25649. (The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organisations).

The safety standards are approved by RLSS UK and Aqua Park Association UK and made available to all sites that have signed up to the Aqua Park accreditation programme. They are reviewed annually by the group and are discussed with the participants of the accreditation programme to ensure the ongoing safety of the UK’s aqua parks. Any urgent changes brought about by new legislation are implemented as necessary outside of the annual review.

“It is an exciting time for the aqua park industry - the development of the Aqua Park Association UK and Ireland in 2021 is a huge step forward. The industry now has a voice. It also has an elected board of individuals with the safety and success of the industry at their core. As the auditing partner for the Aqua Parks Association UK and Ireland, RLSS UK is committed to supporting all Aqua Parks who sign up for the industry approved process,” says Helen Bowker-Steer, Head of Commercial Services.

Ben Jury, Manager, New Forest Aqua Park, says: “Once the aqua park industry took off, we realised a need for regulating the safety of each site. We helped develop the Aqua Park Steering Group to share knowledge, write guidance in order to protect not only our businesses but every customer coming through our doors, and, ultimately, ensure the UK aqua park scene is the safest industry (of its type) worldwide.”

How safe are aqua park inflatables?

Founded in 1996 by friends Robert Cirjak and Romann Rademacher, the German company Wibit Sports has revolutionised the market and is responsible for some of the most exciting and innovative aqua park creations. Water Parks are available in over one hundred countries across the globe. Sites range from the world’s largest floating park at Pure Beach in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia, to the New Forest Water Park in the UK - expanded several times to add variety and encourage repeat business.

As one of the largest international aqua park suppliers, they have been committed to delivering the highest quality products to operators worldwide for more than 25 years and are working with RLSS UK as a water safety partner.

“We have partnered with RLSS UK for four years now, and we’ve seen the UK market for floating water parks grow significantly in that time. As the market leader, we have set standards worldwide for the lifeguarding and operation of aqua parks, and we continue to work on these standards in the UK and across the world,” says Romann Rademacher, CEO at Wibit and Vice Chairman of the European Community Committee on safety for inflatables.

“There has been a huge migration to outdoor activities like never before, but one of the biggest challenges is plagiarism, with some products on the water not as safe as we believe they should be. We want to make sure that every park operates safely.”

RLSS UK is also working with other leading manufacturers, including Aquaglide in the UK, to ensure the highest quality and product safety standards. For example, the accreditation programme aligns with the latest HSE guidance on sealed inflatables, which came into force in 2021.

Become a RLSS UK Industry Approved Aqua Park

If you are an aqua park operator in the UK or Ireland and would like to register to become a RLSS UK Industry Approved Aqua Park, please start the process by completing our Aqua Park Enrolment Form. A member of the RLSS UK team will be in touch to book your site visit, which needs to happen when your park is operational.

To enjoy a safe aqua park experience, view our list of Approved Aqua Parks here.