With our beautifully temperate climate and love of the great outdoors, it’s little wonder Australia is a nation of water babies. Around 2.7 million of us live in a home with a pool, and when you add on friends and relatives who inevitably come around for a swim, the number of us enjoying a regular dip rises dramatically.
Having your own pool to enjoy is great, but with pool ownership comes huge responsibility as drownings can, and sadly do, occur. Royal Lifesaving Australia recently delivered its annual Drowning Report and while the year’s findings showed an overall decrease in the total number of drowning deaths in Australia year on year, swimming pools remained the leading location for drowning (54%). Of these, private residential swimming pools were the most common (87% of all swimming pool drowning deaths in this study). And disturbingly, three-quarters of drowning deaths occurred in toddlers aged 1–2 years (67%).
These numbers are even more confronting when you consider that accidental pool drownings are preventable. Whether you’re a pool owner or an occasional swimmer, if we all prioritise pool safety we can help to prevent these tragedies. Here’s how.
Supervise children at all times.
Whether it’s your pool or someone else’s, public or private, if you have children in your care, they are your responsibility. Practise ‘active supervision’, which means focusing your full attention on them when they are in on or around the water. You must be within arms’ reach, interacting with the child and be ready to enter the water in case of an emergency.
Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by your phone, other things you might need to do or by other people, as children can drown in just minutes. It’s vital that children of any age are supervised, so even if you have older kids who are confident swimmers, their friends might not be and accidents can happen. That’s why it’s recommended that no kids should be allowed to swim unless an adult is at home to supervise.
Do your pool safety checklist
If it’s your pool, do a safety checklist and go through it with your family. Royal Life Saving has a downloadable checklist that allows you to do a self-assessment of your home pool and its surrounds to ensure it is safe for everyone to enjoy, while also minimising the risk of young children drowning.
The checklist covers off eight sections: the Swimming Pool Gate, Swimming Pool Fence, Around the Swimming Pool Fence, Supervision, Pump, Grates and Suction, Emergency Preparation, Chemicals, Electricity.
Ensure your pool fencing is compliant
The current Australian Standard applies in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the ACT. Queensland and the NT have different rules, so check your local codes to ensure your fencing is compliant. These standards are reviewed every three years as a rule, so if you’re in doubt, get in touch with your local council’s compliance department to check, as non-compliant fencing can attract hefty fines.
Lay down your pool rules
If it’s your pool, it’s your rules. So, just like a public pool, your pool rules should be clearly spelled out to everyone who uses it. Some basic safety rules are: Never prop the pool gate open. No bombing or rough play. No running around the sides. Don’t play with the pool equipment. No swimming without an adult’s permission.
Do a first aid course
If something did happen, would you know what to do? Parents and carers should do a first aid course to learn the basic skills and CPR in case of an emergency. St John Ambulance holds regular courses across Australia and has a number of downloadable resources on its website to help point you in the right direction.
When you make pool safety a priority, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re doing what you can to help protect your family and friends, and they’ll know they’re in safe hands. If everyone works together to make our pools the relaxing, enjoyable places they’re meant to be, everyone wins.