Beware of accidents when playing with a float in the sea!
During summer vacation, many people go swimming in the sea. There are several types of swimming floating tools for children: swimming rings, floats and others. Of these, floats are most strongly affected by wind.
According to the Japan Coast Guard, water accidents reported in 2018 include some cases where a child riding on a float was drifted offshore by wind from land. One of the victims was a four-year old child who drowned and suffered from a moderate disease.
Once a child riding on a float is drifted away, it is difficult for the child alone to return to the original place. It's very dangerous and fatal if the child is not found soon.
Illustration. examples of floats (left: marine animal shaped, right: bird shaped)
Results of testing wind effects on floats
Product tests were conducted to examine wind effects on floats, using 3-4 years old child dummy (height: about 100 cm, weight: about 15 kg) and three types of water floats for children aged 3 years or more: a surfing board float, a marine animal shaped float, and a bird shaped float.
- Each float with the dummy was floated in the test pool (pulsating wind tunnel with water tank) and was blown with artificial wind (wind speed: 3 m/s, 6 m/s or 10 m/s) to measure the force applied to each float. The force applied to the bird-shaped float was the highest under any of the three conditions. The maximum force was 5.94 kgf when the wind speed was 10 m/s.
- Each float with the dummy was floated in the test pool (pulsating wind tunnel with water tank) and was blown with artificial wind (wind speed: 3 m/s, 6 m/s or 10 m/s) to measure the drift speed. The bird-shaped float showed the fastest drift speed (0.64 - 1.37 m/s) under any of the three conditions and the drift speed was more than two times faster than that of the other two types of floats.
- The bird shaped float, which is most affected by wind, was tested in the sea. The bird shaped float with the dummy was floated about 5 m away from the beach and was observed to see how the float would be drifted in the wind. When 2 - 4 m/s wind was blowing intermittently, the bird shaped float was drifted at the speed around 0.6 m/s (2.2 km/h). The deeper the water depth, the faster the drift speed, and sometimes a saver did not reach the float during the test.
Advice for consumers
When a child plays with a float in the sea, caregivers should remember the following.
- Confirm the target age range for floats.
- Keep an eye on a child riding on a float, or keep a hold on his/her hand.
- Make sure a child has worn a life jacket properly.
- Use of a float should be limited to the areas where swimming is allowed.
- Do not use it on a windy day.
- Care is required when standing or sitting on a float. When using a handled float, instruct a child to hold on to the handle tight.