How pool barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of drowning incidents

There are many aspects to consider when keeping children safe around the pool. A safe, secure pool barrier plays a critical role in keeping your loved ones away from the water.

But it’s not just a pool that needs to be made safe. Drownings can occur in a spa or a portable pool such as an inflatable pool. Any pool, portable pool, or spa with more than 30cm of water depth requires a pool barrier that adheres to Australian safety standards. We cover the most recent information in our earlier article on pool safety standards.

When it comes to pool safety, supervision is key. Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) Australia recommends supervising children under the age of 15 to varying degrees:

  • Age 0-4 – an adult needs to be in the pool within arm’s length.
  • Age 5-10 – an adult can sit at the edge of the pool, ready to act if needed.
  • Age 11-14 – an adult must conduct regular visual check-ins. Never rely on sound to check in with your child as drowning can happen quickly and quietly.

The RLSS also recommends four key elements to pool safety

  • Supervise – Actively supervise children without distractions
  • Restrict – Minimise access to the water and pool space with a pool barrier and gate
  • Teach – Educate children on water safety
  • Respond – Know how to deal with an emergency

Today we will focus on the area of restriction and how pool barriers can reduce the risk of drowning incidents.

Children can gain access to a pool through a gate or barrier that is damaged, does not meet safety standards or is poorly maintained. Being diligent in keeping up safety measures and maintaining a safe and functional pool barrier and pool gate will see you well on the path to keeping your family and guests protected around the water.

Key areas to ensure your pool barrier and gate are safe

#1 – The pool gate

The most important safety functions of a pool gate are that it is self-closing and self-latching. To test your pool gate, simply walk the gate open, then let it go to see if it closes on its own. The gate will need to swing closed firmly and latch without assistance.

Once the gate has closed itself and latched, test that the latch is secure by giving the gate a firm shake, additionally, replicate the experience of a child jumping up and down on the gate. If the gate does not self-close or unlatches at any point, then it will require repair, maintenance or replacement.

#2 – Correct measurements around the pool 

For your gate and barrier to pass a safety inspection, all measurements must adhere to the Australian safety standards. The gate and barrier need to be at least 1.2m (1200mm) high, and any gaps under or around the fence and gate cannot exceed 10cm (100mm). 

Grab a measuring tape and measure various points below your pool barrier and gate to ensure they are 10cm or less. Other gaps to measure include spaces between the bars in a pool fence, the gap between the gate and connecting fence, and any other gap that you can find. If you find an opening that exceeds 10cm, you must have it corrected before your pool barrier can be considered safety-complaint. Read our article on pool gate safety standards for a closer look at safety requirements.

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