Being around water is part of everyday life in Australia. Whether it be packing up the car and heading to the beach, camping by a river or spending an afternoon by the backyard pool, water provides families with hours of fun, relaxation and a way to keep cool during those long, hot summer days.
However, did you know that drowning is one of the major causes of unintentional death for Australian children under 5 years of age?
Figures from the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia’s National Drowning Report show that in 2019/20, 12 Australian children aged 0-4 years drowned. The majority of these drowning incidents (50%) occurred in swimming pools.
While safety barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of backyard pool drowning incidents, evidence suggests that a large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty, or non-compliant with Australian standards.
Checking your pool barrier for common faults and non-compliance issues
Pool barriers are exposed to the extremes of weather all year round - this can lead to rust, damage, missing parts and wear and tear over time.
Common faults or non-compliance issues include:
Gates and doors that don't self-close or self-latch – if your gate doesn’t self-close or self-latch, it means that the hinges or the latch will need some maintenance and repair.
Climbable objects near the barrier which could allow a child to climb over – this includes common backyard items such as pot plants, outdoor furniture, eskys, trees and BBQ’s.
Excess space under the barrier – ground movement can cause sections of the barrier to shift, resulting in excess space underneath or between parts of the barrier.
Misuse, including propping the gate open.
Olympic swimmer and Kidsafe campaign ambassador, Matt Welsh, knows the benefits that learning to swim and growing up around water can provide for children. As a father of six, he also understands the risks that swimming pools and spas can pose if strategies aren’t put in place to keep children safe.
Matt Welsh says that “There is no better use of 15-20 minutes of your time than setting your defence and checking the safety of your pool barrier. By doing so, you could save a child’s life.”
Setting your backyard pool defence
While pool and spa barriers play an important role in reducing the risk of childhood drowning, there are a number of other actions which should be included in your home pool defence to help keep kids safe, including:
Active adult supervision – for toddlers, this means having an adult within arm’s reach at all times when they are in or around water. When there are lots of people around, such as at a BBQ or pool party, it can be easy to assume that there are lots of adults actively supervising the kids, when in fact, nobody is. In these situations, it is a good idea to have ‘designated supervisors’ whose role it is to actively supervise children in and around water – this role can be shared throughout the day so that everyone gets a chance to relax and enjoy themselves.
Water awareness – water awareness and learn to swim classes can assist in helping children to become familiar with water, teaching them about water safety and learning how to swim.
First aid knowledge – Kidsafe recommends that all families enrol in a CPR/first aid course and update their knowledge regularly, to ensure they have the skills to respond in an emergency situation. It is also a good idea to have a CPR chart in your pool area for easy reference (this is required by law in some states and territories).
By taking the time to check the safety of your pool barrier and setting your home pool defence, you can help to ensure that your family has a safe, fun and happy summer around water.
For more information about keeping kids safe in and around water, including access to a home pool safety checklist, please visit www.kidsafe.com.au