Be water safe

With summer temperatures hitting high 30s and 40s, children all over the country are heading to pools, beaches, rivers and lakes to cool down.

Sadly, every year there are water-related fatalities: Drowning is a leading cause of death in Australia among children under the age of five.

The greatest danger leading to drowning is lack of supervision from adults. Children are either left alone by water or children access swimming pools through non-compliant fencing.

Pools are an obvious risk, but children can also drown in baths, spas, dams, rivers, creeks, or ponds. Even a bucket or dog’s bowl contains enough water to drown a small child.

Fast facts

  • 5cm of water is all it takes for a child to drown
  • 10-20% of children who experience non-fatal drowning will suffer some form of brain damage
  • 10 children are hospitalized for non-fatal drowning for every child who dies from drowning

Keeping that in mind, here’s how to make your environment water safe:

Fence your pool properly

A standard pool fence should be at least 1.2m high with a self-closing, self-latching gate that opens outwards, away from the pool.

Vertical bars should be less than 10cm apart and climbable horizontal bars should be at least 90cm apart. Any gaps under the fence should be no more than 10cm. There should also be no climbable objects (such as planters, trees or furniture and BBQs) within 90cm of the pool barrier, to ensure children can’t climb over the fence. Display a CPR chart on the fence for emergency situations.

Children should be supervised at all times in and near water

This means you need to be within arm’s reach and continuously watching. Never leave another child in charge of others, no matter how confident you are in their abilities.

Teach your children to swim

Swimming is an essential skill, but don’t rely on this for a child's safety.

Learn CPR

Kids Health has developed a free online program called ‘CPR Training for Parents’. This award-winning course teaches the steps involved in Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for a baby (aged less than 12 months) or a child (aged over one year) in one and a half hours. These steps can also be used on an adult. The content is taken directly from the Australian Resuscitation Council Guidelines, and this knowledge may help you save a life.

Sue Wicks, Kids Health Child Health Promotion Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead