Summer is just around the corner and as the weather heats up, so does our urge to uncover the pool and open its gates.
But when it comes time to pull your cossies on and dip your toes into the water, ask yourself if you’re prepared for safe summer fun in the sun– especially when splashing around in the pool.
Sadly, over the past 25 years, 965 Aussie children under the age of five have died from drowning in backyard pools. It can happen extremely quickly – in as little as 20 seconds. And tragically for kids aged one to 14, drowning is the third most common cause of death.
These statistics don’t mean you should stop spending time poolside with your family and friends. It just means there are precautions you should take to ensure everyone remains safe.
So, if you’re lucky enough to own a pool, or frequently visit a friend’s home who has, follow these safety tips to keep your loved ones safe. After all, these simple practices can help save a life.
Implement pool safety rules
Enforce pool safety rules for your family and ensure everyone thoroughly understands them. It might be handy to talk about the guidelines and what to do to stay safe around the water before allowing kids to jump in and play.
Provide constant adult supervision
When it comes to children playing in or around swimming pools, constant adult supervision is a must because anything can happen in a blink of an eye. Stay within arms’ reach of children at all times and be ready to react in case of an emergency.
Even if a child is a competent swimmer, you should always supervise them regardless of their swimming skills. This means avoiding all distractions like answering phone calls or the door. If you do need to answer calls, attend to guests, or leave the pool area – even for a moment – remove children from the pool and take them with you.
And if you’re entrusting someone else to watch over children in the pool, it’s best that it’s an adult, not a teenager under 16. Steer clear of placing such an important responsibility on a teen to mind younger children.
Restrict access to water
In Australia, it’s illegal for pools and spas not to be fenced off. Every swimming pool or spa with a water depth of more than 300 mm must have a childproof safety barrier. They’re also required for in-ground, above-ground and indoor swimming pools, inflatable or relocatable pools, as well as jacuzzies and hot tubs.
Fences must open outward away from the pool, include a self-closing and self-locking functionality, must be at least 1.2m high, and must have vertical bars no more than 100mm apart, and horizontal bars at least 900mm apart. You’ll need a building permit before installing a barrier and keep in mind the state regulations it must adhere to. If your pool fence doesn’t meet the current standards, replace it immediately.
Also think about objects that children can use to climb over the fence; like barbecues, chairs, trees, rocks and pot plants, and remove them from the area.
Select safe pool toys
From noodles, floaties and dive rings, to kickboards and beach balls – pool toys provide endless entertainment for kids. Although toys such as floaties and noodles can make children more competent in the water, it’s important to remember these flotation devices aren’t a safe substitute for adult supervision. Kids still need to be actively watched while playing in the water.
When you choose pool toys, check the age and weight ranges to make sure it’s suitable for your child. When the kids have had their fun and have finished playing with the toys, remove them from the pool and store them out of sight and reach of children so they aren’t tempted into the pool area.
Store chemicals safely
Pool chemicals are used to kill nasty bacteria and parasites in the water, but when used incorrectly they can lead to skin irritation, sickness and even explosions. These potent chemicals can be extremely hazardous so make sure they’re stored completely out of reach of children, preferably locked up.
Be prepared in case of an emergency
Always keep up to date with the latest first aid methods and learn resuscitation. It’s beneficial for parents and carers to do a first aid course to learn infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In case of an emergency, keep rescue equipment such as a life ring or rescue tube in an easy to access area near the pool.