Kidsafe Victoria urges pool and spa owners to take action as summer approaches

With the warmer weather upon us, Kidsafe Victoria has called on pool and spa owners, including those in Sunbury and Macedon Ranges, to check their barriers and prioritise pool safety, in a bid to reduce the number of toddler drowning incidents.

The call comes as statistics from the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia’s national drowning report show that 16 children aged 0-4 years drowned in 2022-23. Swimming pools were one of the most common locations where these drowning incidents occurred, accounting for 25 per cent of all toddler drowning deaths.

Kidsafe Victoria general manager Jason Chambers said while rates had reduced from previous years, drowning remained one of the leading causes of death for Australian toddlers.

“Children are attracted to water, however they don’t yet understand the dangers that it can pose. Toddlers can drown quickly and silently – a split second is all it takes for them to gain unsupervised access to the water area and find themselves in trouble,” he said.

While safety barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of drowning incidents, evidence suggests that many drowning deaths in backyard pools involve barriers that are faulty, have not been maintained, or are non-compliant with Australian standards.

“Pool barriers are constantly exposed to the extremes of weather, so it’s important to regularly check for any rust, loose or missing bolts, and general wear and tear. By taking the time to check that your pool barrier and gate are in good working order, you could save a life”, said Mr Chambers.

With Victorians’ likelihood of drowning increasing by 68 per cent on a public holiday, Dr Hannah Calverley, Manager – Research and Evaluation, Life Saving Victoria, highlighted the importance of active adult supervision across summer, to help keep children safe.

“Active supervision is key. With the potential for any water hazard in the vicinity, keep children under the age of five in arm’s reach and those under the age of 10 in your constant and direct eyeline.”

As well as regularly checking and maintaining your pool or spa barrier, Kidsafe recommends a number of other actions to help keep kids safe in and around water:

– Active adult supervision: Always have an adult within arm’s reach of toddlers when in and around water, with no distractions.

– Water awareness: Introduce your child to water from an early age. This helps to familiarise them with water, teach them about water safety, and impart life-saving skills. Swimming lessons also promote essential physical, mental, and social development.

– CPR and First Aid knowledge: Knowing what to do in an emergency can save a life. Kidsafe encourages all parents and carers to enrol in a CPR and first aid course and update their skills regularly. Displaying a CPR chart near your pool or spa area is also a good idea for quick reference in emergencies.

Top 5 issues with pool and spa barriers

– Gates or doors that are no longer self-closing

– Gates or doors that are no longer self-latching

– Gates that are propped open for convenience – allowing children unsupervised access

– Gaps, holes or spaces in and under the barrier which a child can get through

– Climbable objects near the pool barrier e.g. BBQ’s, outdoor furniture, eskies, trees.