Take the Utmost Care with Pool Safety
There are few things in our lives which are likely to cause more sadness than the death of children, particularly when that death may have been preventable. Nothing causes more anguish than to lose a child.
Young children are the most vulnerable group when it comes to drowning in our backyard swimming pools, and many people are left wondering how such deaths can occur in the family home. It’s important to note, also, that for every death by drowning, five children are admitted to hospital with near-death injuries. Of these, one child will be left with severe or persisting brain damage.
Whilst adequate pool fencing is one solution to help prevent drowning, we note that it is – indeed – only a part of the solution. Queensland has the toughest pool fencing laws in the world, and yet children continue to drown in backyard swimming pools. Over the past 10 years, 148 children under five have drowned in backyard swimming pools in Australia. One quarter of those were in Queensland.
Councils in Australia continue to report that the vast majority of pools do not meet Australian Safety Standards, despite education and possible significant fines by local government inspectors. Many pools have no fencing, broken or damaged structures, or inadequate locking gates and devices. But even in cases where the pool fencing and closure mechanism is in perfect order, children continue to drown. This clip shows a child (still in nappies!) scaling a pool gate and opening it.
So, what can we do to prevent more children from drowning even when the pool fence and gate are compliant?
- Constant, uninterrupted adult supervision is the key factor in preventing a child from drowning in a backyard pool. Whilst it can be difficult for parents who have more than one child to monitor, this is the most important action in preventing childhood drowning.
- Never leave children to look after younger siblings. The responsibility is too great for any child to live with if the worst should happen.
- Make sure that your pool fence is compliant and in good order, that there are no shrubs or climbable trees nearby and that (most importantly) the gate and latching mechanism work perfectly. Don’t assume that a pool in a house you are visiting is safe. Chances are, it isn’t.
- NEVER leave the pool gate propped open. In 18% of drownings between 2002 and 2015 in NSW, access to the pool was through a gate that was propped open.
- Don’t leave toys or other desirable items in the pool area after you have left. These things can tempt young children to try to find a way back inside the pool enclosure to get them.
- Be vigilant with outdoor furniture or other climbable items. Children can drag these to the pool fence and use them climb over the fence or unlatch the gate. Indeed, the QLD laws were strengthened after the death of young Hannah Plint who did this very thing and died because of it.
- Remember water safety extends to other devices that can contain water. Buckets, troughs and, especially, inflatable water pools. Over 100,000 of these are sold annually and require no legislation or safety accountability by law. Please be exceedingly careful, and empty any temporary water storage devices immediately when you have finished using them.
- Finally, and we think most importantly, educate your children. Teach them to swim, and instruct them on the dangers of being near water, the possibility of falling in, and the importance of never venturing near water without a responsible adult.
Accidents happen, but never leave anything to chance when it comes to water safety. Most pool owners have a low regard for the safety of their own pool area, particularly if they don’t have children of their own, so never rely on someone else’s standards. Better to be hyper-vigilant that devastated.
Our hearts go out to any family touched by the tragedy of preventable drowning.