Swimming pools in residential homes are a great place for fun, family and enjoyment. What most families fail to realize is that pools can also pose a potentially life threatening risk, especially for children under the age 5.
What you'll find in this post are best practices on how to improve safety in and around your pool area, basic fence regulations, and overall guidelines to keep the pool safe and fun for everyone.
Supervision is the key to swimming pool safety for children.
There is no substitute for active supervision from an adult.
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!
Below are a few points you should keep in mind when supervising children swimming.
- Stay in constant visual contact. Do not just glance towards the water occasionally.
- Stay within arms’ reach of toddlers and beginner swimmers at all times when they’re in or around the water.
- Stay close to the water when you’re supervising children who can swim. And be ready to get in if there’s an emergency.
- Take children with you if you leave the pool area, even if it is just for a moment.
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.
Education and prevention.
Educating your child to swim and teaching them about the possible dangers of drowning and hazards around the pool is proven to decrease the risk of drowning.
Enrolling your child into an approved swimming lesson facility to adapt to the water, understand how to float and what to do when they find themselves in water is the best personal development for them.
Below are a few ways you can educate your children.
Teach your children useful swimming practices.
Teach children to swim from a young age.
You can start introducing your babies to water when they are about 6 months old.
Teach children how to tread water, float and familiarise themselves with water.
You can show this video to your children so they can learn how to tread water.
Teach children that they should always swim with a supervisor.
Whether you’re swimming in a pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult.
Teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.
Keep children safe with the right swimming aids.
Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of approved floatation devices
Pool Safety Guide
All pools have water reservoirs that pose a hazard to young kids, these are commonly known as skimmers, suction points or water returns. These are areas of the pool that should be avoided and children taught that they are not to play around these dangerous points.
- Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
- Regularly check to make sure drain covers are secure and have no cracks, and replace flat drain covers with dome-shaped ones.
Best practice swimming rules
- Always swim with a friend or adult
- Follow all swimming rules posted at the swimming area.
- Obey the lifeguard’s instructions
- Do not swim if you cannot see the bottom
- Avoid swimming at night
- Do not push, shove, or run near the water
- Swim a safe distance away from diving boards and slides
- Avoid swimming in river currents
- Always go down feet first in a sitting position on a slide
Swimming pool safety barriers: requirements and guidelines
It is now law in all Australian states that all private swimming pools or spas that can hold a depth of 300 mm or more must have safety barriers around them.
Barriers are required for:
- in-ground swimming pools
- above-ground swimming pools
- indoor swimming pools
- bathing and wading pools
*Check with your local council for more details.
Basic Pool Fence Requirements:
- Barriers are a minimum 1.2 m high
- Barriers are secure and well maintained
- Gates within the barrier never propped open, swings away from the pool, shuts automatically from any open position, without having to forcibly close it and self-latches when it closes.
- Barriers have no gaps more than 100 mm apart
- Barriers have horizontal bars at least 900 mm apart
- Barriers have a “non-climb zone” to prevent children climbing over fencing into the pool area. This zone is measured in an arc shape from the top of the pool fence arching towards the ground
- Doors within the barrier must self closes without the application of manual force, self latches and requires manual release. The latching device is at least 150cm off the ground and it does not open towards the pool
- Windows that form part of a pool barrier must have a locking device or a security screen fixed to the building that prevents them from opening more than 10cm.
- Signage around the pool must have the applicable DR ABC requirements and be in good condition and able to be read easily from 3 metres.
*Please note that this is a guide only, and that further requirements or legislation may be applicable to different pools
For more information, we have a number of other helpful checklists down below
- NSW Swimming Pool Register
- Pool Inspection Self Assessment Checklists
- Information from NSW Fair Trading about Pool Safety
- Information Factsheet for Sellers
- Information Factsheet for Buyers
- Information Factsheet for Landlords and Tenants
- Information Factsheet for Real Estate Agents
- Royal Life Saving Australia Pool Safety Checklist