A question we are often asked! The short answer is “it depends!”. Not very helpful we know.
Waders full of water will not make the wearer sink, but they will make it slightly harder to swim. The real issue is when you come to climb out of the water. Now, all the water trapped inside the waders becomes cumbersome and heavy as you climb out. Clearly chest waders have more potential to hold water than leg waders, but both will impact upon the casualty’s agility and ability to climb out.
Risks in Moving Water
Another potential issue, more so for chest waders, is if you get entrapped in moving water – stuck on a fence or vegetation, trash screen etc. In this scenario the waders can fill with water flowing from behind you and balloon out. Now at best you have big “sea anchors” on your legs and at worst it can be impossible to escape.
The answer is to risk assess your work site and then develop your safe system of work. Shallow water or deep is not as significant as difficulty of egress – is it easy to get out? Is there flow or is it still? What is the water temperature? This last one has a big effect on swimmer survivability.
Clearly waders bring their own unique set of benefits and risks. As do dry suits, wet suits and mankinis! What you need is experience and knowledge to make the right assessment and design the right safety system. We have a proven track record of understanding the issues and providing knowledgeable, sound advice. We are here to help if you need support.
Tell us your experiences us using waders in flowing water? We’d love to hear from you.