Beach safety

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


Conditions at the coast and beach can change rapidly and can be very dangerous for a number of reasons.

People want to feel safe when they are using the beach or on the coast. We provide a range of safety services on beaches in Cornwall and along the coastline.

There is always a need for those using the coastline to do safely and considerately.

Tides

If you are going to the beach always make sure you are aware of the tides. The sea can move quickly and if not careful you could get cut off by the tide. You can view tide times on the BBC website.

Beach Safety Signs

Beach safety signs are used to inform beach users about:

  • hazards on the beach
  • prohibited activities
  • beach lifeguard services
  • other appropriate local information such as bathing water quality

Please always read and take note of any signs on the beach you are visiting.

Public Rescue Equipment

Public Rescue Equipment is positioned on many of the beaches in Cornwall and along some stretches of the coastline. This equipment includes life rings and torpedo tubes. These are attached to a length of rope and housed in units that provide information about dangers in the area.  If you have concerns about a piece of public rescue equipment being damaged or missing, please report this to us using the details on this page.

Beach Lifeguarding

The RNLI now patrol over 200 beaches around the UK and provide a beach lifeguarding service. This is not only on Council owned beaches in Cornwall but also on a number of beaches in the County that are privately owned.

The main lifeguard season runs from May to September. However, this does vary from beach to beach. For more information on the lifeguard service on specific beaches please see RNLI Lifeguarded Beaches.

For more detailed information on beach safety please view the Beach Safety Tips below.

If you’re heading to the beach this summer, spare a thought for safety. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging anyone planning a trip to the beach and, particularly, anyone thinking of going into the water, to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim in the area between the red and yellow flags.

Around two-thirds of people in the UK go to the seaside at least once a year – perhaps for summer holidays or day trips. The RNLI lifeguards now patrol over 200 beaches around the UK and in 2012 responded to 14,519 incidents and assisted 16,414 people.  

To help the beach-going public stay safe, the lifesaving charity is offering some essential beach safety tips to make sure people remember their summer holidays for the right reason.

  • Always swim at a lifeguarded beach
  • Swim between the red and yellow flags
  • Never swim alone
  • Know your beach safety flags
  • Never use inflatables in strong winds or rough seas
  • If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help
  • If you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard
  • Find out about the beach you’re going to before you visit
  • Check tide times before you go
  • Read and obey local hazard signs

RNLI Beach Safety Manager, Steve Wills, says: ‘You’re 500 times less likely to drown on a lifeguarded beach so we always recommend that people choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, where the lifeguards can see them.

‘We want people to enjoy their time at the beach, but it’s important to put safety first. By following the advice the RNLI is offering, we hope people will stay safe at the beach so they remember their summer for the right reasons.

‘RNLI lifeguards are specially-trained and a great deal of their work is preventative – they give advice and warn people of potential dangers, to prevent incidents happening in the first place.

‘Those who can’t make it to a lifeguarded beach should find out about their chosen beach before they go, read the safety signs to make themselves aware of the local hazards. Most importantly, if they see someone in trouble, they should call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard – but should not enter the water themselves.’

You can find out about RNLI lifeguard cover on the Visit Cornwall website and the RNLI website.

A copy of the RNLI's guide to beach safety, On The Beach, is packed full of advice on how to stay safe at the beach. It is available free of charge by emailing beachsafety@rnli.org.uk or calling 0800 328 0600. Further practical advice and tips on how to stay safe can be found at the RNLI’s website.

You can find weever fish all around the British coast but only in sandy areas. They are usually near the low water mark where the water is warmer and shallower. The weever fish encountered on the beach is known as the Lesser Weever fish. Although its sting can pack a considerable punch it is relatively small, measuring up to 14cm long. The weever fish is an ambush predator. they bury themselves in the sand leaving only their head and back exposed. It does this to keep as inconspicuous as possible. This is in order to surprise and eat any small fish or shrimp that venture too close.

It is unlikely that when visiting the beach that you will spot a weever fish. However, you will know you have found one if you are unfortunate enough to tread on one as it has poisonous spines. These spines are a defence mechanism as the fish is vulnerable to predators when it is partially buried. The poisonous spines keep these predators at bay.

What to do if you are stung by a weever fish

The sting of a weever fish can be very painful. At first it feels like a sharp stab but this pain can increase quickly. The pain can last for up to 24 hours. It is therefore important to treat a sting quickly with hot water. You should immerse the affected area in hot water (as hot as can be tolerated) for 30-90 minutes. However, be careful not to burn your skin. Hot water helps breakdown the poison. It also increases blood flow to the sting causing natural cleansing and healing. You should seek medical advice if you have any concerns following a weever fish sting.

Is it possible to protect yourself from being stung?

To avoid the chance of being stung it is advisable to wear beach shoes or wetsuit boots when in the sea at low water. This will provide a barrier between the poisonous spines and your foot.

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