Top tips for summer safety

Summer is a great time for children to enjoy the warm weather and an Australian summer brings with it plenty of outdoor play.

With the sun, sand and blue skies comes the timely reminder to stay alert and help keep kids safe in the great outdoors and around devices that can cause harm and injuries.

Pool safety

Pools are a great way for kids to cool off and enjoy outdoor play during summer. However, if children aren’t supervised closely in, on or around water, they can drown quickly and in as little as a few centimetres of water.

Any pool that can be filled with 30cm of water or more, including inflatable and portable pools, must have fencing that complies with the law. Portable and inflatable pools carry the same drowning risk as permanent pools – in fact, one in five child drowning incidents occurs in a portable pool.

Swimming pool checklists are available from the NSW Swimming Pool Register website and you can also organise an inspection of your swimming pool with your local council or an accredited pool inspector.

To prevent children from accessing the pool unsupervised, make sure to never keep the pool gate open on purpose, and check that there are no objects such as bikes, furniture or pot plants that a child can climb on to access the pool.

Restricting access to water, compliant pool barriers, supervision, water familiarisation and swimming skills can help to prevent accidents from happening, and in the worst case scenario, learning the skills of CPR can save children’s lives. Remember that any attempt at CPR is better than none at all. Free online CPR Training is available for parents and carers to learn the basic skills needed to perform CPR on a baby or child.

Designating a Water Watcher

Children in, on or around pools should be supervised by a responsible adult with no distractions at all times. Ensure that you are within arm’s reach of children under the age of five and don’t rely on floaties, pool noodles or any other aids to keep your child safe in the pool.

Appoint a responsible adult as the "Water Watcher" to supervise children when they are in, on and around any body of water. Parents and carers are encouraged to have a conversation with each other on who has this responsibility. Don’t let your guard down this summer, or assume someone else is watching the kids. Make sure there is a designated Water Watcher to supervise at all times, giving their full attention with no distractions.

Visit Kids Health for more information.

Riding bikes and scooters

Riding a bike or scooter is a fun and healthy way for kids to stay active.

To keep children safe while bike riding or scootering, always make sure that they wear a helmet that fits properly and has a sticker certifying that it meets Australian and New Zealand standards.

A bike helmet that fits properly reduces the chance of head and brain injury by up to 88%.

Children should also wear helmets, wrist, elbow and knee guards when using skateboards, scooters, roller blades and roller skates. You can help to set a good example by wearing a helmet too.

Teach children about traffic rules and road signs, and always supervise those under 10 years of age when they are riding their bike or scooter around roads. In NSW, children under the age of 16 and the adult who is supervising them are allowed to ride their bikes on the footpath, unless a sign specifies otherwise. The best place for children to ride bikes and scooters is at a park with foot or bike paths. 

Before setting off on a bike ride, make sure there is a bell, horn or other warning device on your child’s bike, and check that the brakes are working properly.

More safe riding tips can be found here.

Driveway safety

Following a few important safety tips can help to prevent children from getting run over in a driveway. Driveways are where most low speed vehicle run overs occur.

Remember the following three S’ for driveway safety: Supervise, Separate and See.

Children should always be supervised by an adult who is holding their hand when they are around driveways or near vehicles. Children can also be put in their child restraint in the vehicle before it is moved around your property.

Driveways should never be used as play areas. Create a fenced safe play area for your child which is away from driveways, and separate driveways and garages from play areas with fences and self-closing and locking doors and gates.

All vehicles have blind spots, and children move quickly and are not always seen, even with reversing sensors and cameras in vehicles. Always check to see where children are before moving a vehicle.

Playground falls and play equipment

Playgrounds provide wonderful inspiration for imaginative play for children, with a healthy dose of the outdoors for the whole family.

As the most common playground injuries are falls, often from climbing equipment, swings and trampolines, and falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalisation among children, it is important to help keep kids safe while on or around the play equipment.

You can help make your child’s outdoor play safer by supervising them around play equipment and choosing age-appropriate play equipment. This means ensuring that children under five years of age don’t play on equipment over 1.5 metres high.

All outdoor play equipment should be stable and well-anchored, and if play equipment is more than 60 centimetres off the ground, it should have soft material underneath it.

If you have a trampoline at home, it’s important to make sure it meets the Australian Standard. To prevent falls, safety nets should always be used properly and checked regularly for tears, worn areas or bends in the frame. Children under the age of six should not use a trampoline. Instead, consider using a mini trampoline with a handrail.

For further information on play equipment guidelines, visit The Kids Health Promotion Unit website.

Window and balcony falls

Although falls from windows and balconies occur less often, they result in very serious injuries and even death among children.

These falls often happen in the child's own home, over the warmer months when families leave windows and doors to balconies open both during the day and at night. Children aged from one to five years are most at risk, as they are naturally curious, but lack the ability to recognise danger.

To prevent falls, beds and other furniture should be kept away from windows, so that children cannot use them to climb up to the windows. Fly screens should also not be relied upon to prevent a child falling out of a window.

Children should be taught to play away from windows, and should always be supervised when playing near windows or on balconies.

Child-resistant window safety devices can help to protect children from falls. Make sure that all windows, especially bedroom windows:

  • Don’t open more than 12.5cm when above the ground floor; or
  • Have window latches/locks/guards fitted to stop windows opening more than 12.5cm
  • Open from the top
  • Install safety devices so that a 12.5cm sphere cannot pass through the window opening. The safety device must be able to resist an outward force of 250N (about 25kg)
  • Don’t change or remove safety devices without speaking to your builder

Button batteries

With new toys in the house after Christmas, or electronics and devices purchased in the Boxing Day sales, at this time of the year injuries are more likely to occur due to the consumption of batteries.

Button batteries can be found in many small electrical products, such as remote controls, toys, watches and torches. The coin-shaped batteries are easily caught in the oesophagus (food pipe), and when stuck can cause damage quickly, including internal burns and bleeding as well as poisoning.

To help prevent potential harm to children from button batteries, look for products that do not use button batteries when buying a toy, household device or novelty item.

Check devices that you already own, such as remotes, toys and other electrical products containing button batteries for a battery compartment that is secured by a screw, and keep all button batteries out of the reach of children, in a locked cupboard at least 1.5 metres above the floor.

Used or old button batteries are dangerous, so you should safely dispose of them as soon as you have finished using them. Put sticky tape around both sides of the battery before disposal.

Children are often unable to communicate that they have swallowed or inserted a button battery and might not show any symptoms. Even if you only think they may have, it's best to call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for expert advice.

Sun safety

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two in three Australians developing some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. This makes sun protection important for all Australians.

Ultraviolet (UV) damage accumulated during childhood and adolescence is strongly associated with an increased risk of cancer later in life, and sunburns can occur quickly in children and young people even when it is not a bright, sunny or hot day.

The skin of infants is thinner than the skin of older children and therefore more sensitive to the sun and susceptible to sunburn, especially when they are outdoors during the day.

To prevent sunburn, sunscreen should be applied to children over six months of age when outdoors, and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Children should wear sun protective gear, including lightweight clothing and broad brimmed sun hats. Umbrellas can be used for shade.

Kids should also take breaks from playing outside in hot temperatures by going into the shade, or into a cool indoor space every 20 to 30 minutes to relax, cool off and hydrate.

Children in hot cars

Children produce more body heat, sweat less and their body temperature rises at a faster rate. This puts them at greater risk of heat related illnesses. Heatstroke, dehydration, suffocation and death are the main risks of leaving children in cars.

Children should never be left in the car, even if they are sleeping in the back seat. If you need to leave your car for any reason, always take your child with you.

The temperature inside a parked car can reach over 70°C, even on a cool day. Never cover a baby capsule in the car with a blanket, towel or baby wrap as this will restrict air moving around.

As children can be forgotten in cars when parents or carers are tired, stressed, distracted or out of routine, it’s important to create a routine to always check the back seat of the car before getting out.

For more tips on child health and safety, visit the Kids Health Promotion Unit website or see our wide range of Factsheets.