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Spotlight on snorkelling during peak tourism season

In recent weeks, two snorkelling fatalities have been widely reported in the media. With peak tourism season upon us, summer weather calling to water lovers, wild weather forecasts, and overseas visitors returning in force, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is calling on tour operators to exercise maximum precaution.

Each year, approximately a million people go snorkelling in Queensland waters with people from all around the world visiting the natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef and other water destinations along the coastline.

Often snorkellers visit these areas for first time meaning they may have little to no experience and in some cases, might not be the strongest swimmers – this presents a range of unique challenges.

Queensland has some of the strongest laws in the world relating to snorkelling and recreational water activities and it’s WHSQ’s role to regulate those laws and provide technical advice to assist businesses in meeting their safety obligations.

There are several common factors linked to snorkelling fatalities including: people with pre-existing medical conditions (particularly cardiac issues); older people and predominantly men; inexperienced snorkellers and swimmers of all ages and gender, and international visitors with little or no understanding of English.

A vast range of snorkelling information can be found on the WHSQ website including briefing and medical advice available in 14 languages.

Immersion pulmonary oedema, alsocalled IPO, is a serious and complex condition where the lungs fill with fluid causing a person to struggle breathing and can lead to death if not corrected quickly.

IPO can occur suddenly and with immersion at any depth in water, including the surface, and can be exacerbated through strenuous exercise, and anxiety. It can look like a person suffering from breathlessness, experiencing a coughing episode, or their skin becoming blueish in colour.