STAFF from pubs, clubs and restaurants along the River Ouse in York are being offered water safety training to help save lives.

The RNLI is joining forces with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and York Rescue Boat for the Waterside Community Responder scheme.

The York Water Safety Forum has adopted RNLI’s initiative following a summer which has seen five people lose their lives in York’s two rivers and three more rescued by emergency services in just six months.

Staff from pubs, clubs and restaurants in the area are being offered training on the dangers that cold water poses to their customers.

They will also be provided with the knowledge and equipment to help rescue people safely.

They will learn how to use a throw bag and what to do when people get into distress in or near the water.

The potentially lifesaving throw bags, a 20 metre floating line used to pull a casualty to safety, can be supplied to venues at key locations along the River Ouse.

In recent months, the RNLI has been running ‘train the trainer’ sessions with members of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and York Rescue Boat as part of its Waterside Community Responder scheme.

Nick Ayers, RNLI community safety partner, said: ‘‘Research shows that a significant proportion of drownings involve people visiting pubs and bars near water and then getting into distress.

“It could be someone taking a seemingly innocent swim and suffering cold water shock, or it could be through an accident where someone never intended to be in the water.

“Staff at these venues will be our advocates on the waterside. They are are the ones most likely to be there at times where risk is most prevalent.

“The idea behind training staff or volunteers at pubs, bars and restaurants is they will be able to encourage good behaviours in that environment by giving the public knowledge and advice, and they will ultimately know what to do if someone did enter the water.”

Station manager Bob Hoskins, from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, added: “This scheme will allow a swift response from local establishments on the riverside to try and assist and rescue people who end up in the water until the emergency services can arrive.

“The issue is not limited to the warm summer months with incidents occurring all year around which highlights the need for a scheme such as this.

"The York Water Safety Forum will continue to work in partnership to reduce incidents on the Ouse and Foss.”