Supervision: key to swimming pool safety
Supervision is the key to swimming pool safety for children.
- staying in constant visual contact, not just glancing towards the water occasionally
- staying within arm’s reach of toddlers and beginner swimmers at all times when they’re in or around the water
- staying close to the water when you’re supervising children who can swim, and being ready to get in if there’s an emergency
- taking children with you if you leave the pool area, even for a moment.
Always make sure there’s an adult supervising when toddlers and children are playing in or around swimming pools, spas or other bodies of water. Supervision, not safety barriers, prevents accidents.
Swimming pool safety fences: requirements
By law, in most states and territories, all private swimming pools or spas that are 30 cm deep or deeper must have a safety fence around them.
All pool safety fences must meet Australian Standard 1926 (AS 1926) safety requirements.
You can check with your local council for details on specific requirements in your state or territory, including inspection and certification requirements.
You’ll need a building permit before you start putting a pool or safety fence in place.
Fences are required for:
- in-ground swimming pools
- above-ground swimming pools
- portable pools
- indoor swimming pools
- bathing and wading pools
- hot tubs
A safe pool fence:
- is at least 1.2 m high
- is strong, secure and well maintained
- has a self-closing, self-latching, child-resistant gate – the latch must be more than 1.5 m high from the ground
- has no vertical gaps more than 100 mm apart
- has horizontal bars at least 900 mm apart.
Safety fences work only when you use them correctly. To ensure your safety barrier remains effective, follow these guidelines:
- Fit and maintain correct safety devices to any gates, doors and windows that can be used to access the pool. These devices include self-closing or self-latching devices.
- Keep the gate shut so children can’t get through without you, and never prop it open.
- Maintain, repair or replace the safety latch if it isn’t working properly – for example, if it no longer self-latches.
- Clear the area of any items that children could use to climb the pool fence – for example, pot plants, boxes, chairs, BBQs and so on.
- Attend a first aid course every three years and update CPR skills every year. First aid is an essential skill for all parents and anyone that cares for children.
In many states and territories, you’re legally required to put up a resuscitation CPR chart in your swimming pool area. Even if it isn’t a legal requirement in your state or territory, it’s a good idea because the chart will remind you of what to do in an emergency. You can also check out our illustrated guides to CPR for babies under 12 months and CPR for children and teenagers.
How to keep your child safe around swimming pools
Here are some extra precautions to keep your child safe around water:
- Get your child familiar with water and water safety by taking them to lessons at the local pool from a young age. Many children can learn to swim by the time they’re four or five years old.
- Always watch small children around paddling pools. Take the water out of your paddling pool immediately after your child has finished playing and store the pool away.
- Make sure any water mats, lifesaver rings, inflatable vests and water wings meet the relevant Australian Standard. Always watch your child when they’re wearing a flotation device. Flotation devices aren’t designed to prevent drowning.
Neighbours’ pools can also be a danger to your child. If your neighbour’s pool isn’t properly fenced, it might be worth letting them know about relevant safety regulations. Keep an eye on your child to make sure they don’t make unsupervised visits, and tell them about the dangers of swimming without an adult.
Public swimming pool safety
Even in a supervised public pool, never take your eyes off your child. Lifeguards provide supervision for all pool users, but you provide the personal supervision your young child needs. Keep your child within reach at all times while in the water.
When you’re at a public pool, the following pointers can help keep your child safe:
- Explain to your child that everyone has to obey the lifeguards’ directions.
- Explain that your child should follow the pool rules, even if other children don’t.
- Be aware of other people in the water, particularly when it’s crowded.
- Watch out for young children.