On Tuesday morning, thousands of revellers were waking up to the traditional New Year's Day hangover, shaking confetti from their hair and groaning inwardly at the copious amounts of alcohol consumed the night previously!
However - not everyone greeted the New Year in this way.
"The Looney Dook" in West Lothian, is a tradition dating back to 1986 when 3 locals joked that jumping into the freezing cold waters would be the best way to clear their hangovers and start the New year off fresh!
Now, hundreds of brave swimmers, or "dookers" take to the waters of West Lothian (as well as lakes and streams in other areas of Scotland, Derbyshire and more) and brave temperatures of just above freezing to join in the tradition.
However this year, there have been some complaints from bystanders, and passerby's, that the Looney Duke isn't a safe practice at all, and they are confused as to why the local councils are continuing to allow this practice to take place, when they can be so stringent about safety regulations in other areas.
There is some truth in the fact that the practice is dangerous - even the most cursory google shows a number of websites that state;
The shock of jumping into cold water can kill you, so please think twice
An article from the RNLI also reiterates that "the effect of entering water under 15 degrees Celsius and below is often underestimated, and shock can be a precursor to drowning"
So what happens when you hit cold water?
Cold water shock causes the blood vessels in the skin to close, which increases the resistance of blood flow. Heart rate is also increased. As a result the heart has to work harder and your blood pressure goes up. Cold water shock can therefore cause heart attacks, even in the relatively young and healthy.
The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water also causes an involuntary gasp for breath. Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs.
This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don't get medical care immediately.*
So with this in mind, what are the precautions that could be taken for all of these dookers? As safety professionals, is this an event that you would condone, or do you agree that there need to be more stringent safety measures in place?
References - *https://rnli.org/safety/know-the-risks/cold-water-shock