Fourteen children aged 5 to 14 drowned in Australia in 2020-2021, 3 of those drownings occurring in swimming pools. Furthermore, drowning is the most common cause of preventable death for children under the age of 5 in WA, with most of those occurring in and around the home.
The tragic drowning of a 6-year-old autistic boy in a neighbour’s pool at Booragoon last Sunday just an hour and a half after he wandered away from his parent’s home is a stark reminder for all pool owners to check the safety of their fencing.
This is also an important reminder for anyone with young children, whether or not they have a pool, to check their boundaries and ensure there is nothing that a child could use to climb the fence, such as a chair, play equipment, BBQ or a large pot plant.
Don’t let complacency set in over winter
While the subject of pool safety is expected on approach to the warmer months of the year rather than as we prepare for winter, the tragic loss of this local young child prompts us all to think that now is a particularly dangerous time because people can become complacent about pool safety when their pool is not in use. The point is pool safety is everybody’s business and is paramount every single day of the year, not just during the times we use them.
We urge everyone with a pool or about to instal one, including a spa or an above ground pool, to refresh your knowledge on pool safety legislation and guidelines, as outlined below.
Since 1991, strict regulations have been in place to restrict unsupervised access by young children to private swimming pools and spas.
It is the responsibility of every property owner and occupant to ensure their pool fencing or restrictive barriers to the pool area are maintained and in sound working order.
Here are some guidelines:
- When is a barrier required? Any body of water over 300mm deep must be fenced or have a restrictive barrier between the house and the body of water. This includes spas, jacuzzis, hot tubs and above ground pools. It does not include a spa bath that is emptied after use.
- Beware of climbable objects! Children are highly adept climbers. So ensure any object that could be used to climb on is well away (at least 1.2m) from the pool fence or barrier. Climbable objects include trees, BBQ’s, pool filters, garden retaining walls or furniture, water features and even shrubs.
- How high does the fence or barrier need to be? The side closest to the house must be a minimum of 1200mm high with a clear distance of 900mm between horizontal surfaces.
- How about the gate? Children can use their weight to push a gate forward. Therefore, ensure your pool gate is hung so they swing away from the pool or spa NOT towards it.
You can find all the current rules for pools and spas in WA here.