On a warm Australian day, there is nothing more enjoyable than laying in the sun poolside and a refreshing dip in a swimming pool. However, if you do not have adequate poolside safety features in place, that inviting pool can quickly become a danger zone. Pool drowning is preventable, but it is unfortunately prevalent among toddlers and young children. In fact, drowning is a leading cause of death in Australia among children under the age of five.
To ensure an incident-free swim, here are our top 3 poolside safety tips:
1) Set up poolside barriers properly
Physical barriers are the first line of defence when it comes to poolside safety. These usually comprise of pool fencing, gates, walls or even pool covers. It is important to make sure that your pool barrier is in good working condition.
In Australia, pool safety is mandated by law. In Victoria, regulators introduced new registration, inspection and certification requirements on 1 December 2019. This new legislation requires property owners to register their pool and spa with their local council and have their safety barrier inspected once every four years.
When setting up a pool fence, make sure that a child cannot go through, under, or over, the fence by themselves. The exact design and specifications may depend on the type of pool and style of the barrier, but the following rules should be followed to ensure poolside safety:
- Pool fences should be at least 120cm or higher. Children are nimble climbers, and they can scale a low fence.
- The smallest toddler should not be able to squeeze through any gaps or spaces. Vertical bars should be less than 10cm apart. The gap between the ground and fence should be less than 10cm.
- Avoid fences or walls with holes, stones or cutouts that can provide hand or footholds.
- Don’t put structures like rock gardens or benches near the fence. A child could easily climb these and get over the fence.
- Pool gates should have self-closing latches. Automatic latches are highly recommended because you can forget to lock your gate – and there’s no point in having a pool fence if it’s not locked. And never leave the gate propped open.
Some property owners also choose to cover their pool with rigid folding covers which have locking straps to secure the pool. Rigid covers are better than soft floating covers because they block water access. Both automatic and manual covers are available.
2) Secure all doors and gates
Most drownings are caused by children sneaking out of the house and into the pool area, undetected by adults. Increasing security measures will make it difficult for children to go outside unsupervised. For example, you could consider the following measures:
- Installing sliding door locks, childproof doorknob covers, and lever locks to prevent children from accessing off-limit spaces. These locks are unobtrusive, simple to install and inexpensive.
- Pool gate alarms which sound a signal when the gate is opened – this will alert you to a child that is in the pool area.
Some parents also install an underwater swimming pool alarm system, which uses motion sensors to alert them to any wave activity in the pool. These systems are designed to be sensitive to the presence of a 1-year old child in the pool, while still being able to differentiate the child from say, a toy.
3) Set poolside safety rules and learn first aid
Even with older children, parents must be vigilant and monitor kids playing in or around a pool. It can help to set safety rules so that children learn what is safe, acceptable behaviour, and what isn’t. Teach your children to play responsibly, such as not running on the deck, or holding others underwater. Enforcing safety rules at home will also help children to learn how to swim and play safely at public pools.
Family swimming lessons are highly recommended. Swimming lessons drastically reduce the possibility of drowning, and they’re fun for the whole family. However, swimming skills do not guarantee a child’s safety.
Caretakers and parents should learn first aid, and learn the different signs of drowning. Make the most of the Covid-19 lockdown by doing a free online first aid course at home. A parent or guardian may wrongly think that drowning should be accompanied by flailing, splashing, and screaming for help. However, a child can drown silently in a minimal amount of water because they cannot call out for help.
Don’t underestimate how quickly a child can drown, or overestimate your child’s survival instincts. While drowning is typically associated with large pools, a small inflatable pool also has the potential for drowning. Young children can drown in as little as 5cm of water, and even inhaling a small amount of water can put kids at risk. It’s a good idea to display a CPR chart on the poolside for emergencies.
Implementing poolside safety measures is essential for keeping your family safe.
Stay safe and enjoy the pool!
Have a question or need some assistance with pool safety? Contact us here.