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Water Safety Week 2021

Published on 03 December 2021
  • Alerts
  • Children and young people
  • Community
  • Community safety
young girl at pool gate

As we head into the warmer months, ask yourself: Is my pool or spa ready to be used safely?

Simply having a barrier around your pool or spa does not automatically mean it is safe. Like many things around the home that require regular maintenance, such as heaters and smoke alarms, your pool or spa is no different.

This week is Water Safety Week (19 November to 5 December) and Council is getting behind Kidsafe Victoria’s ‘Safe Barriers Save Lives’ campaign, which calls on pool and spa owners to check the safety of their barriers to help keep children safe in and around water.

Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Maroondah Liveability, Safety and Amenity Committee, Councillor Rob Steane, said that with drowning in backyard swimming pools a leading cause of accidental death in children under the age of 5, pool and water safety was a vital issue that affected the entire community.

“While pool and spa barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of drowning incidents, evidence suggests that a large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty or non-compliant with Australian standards,” Cr Steane said.

“Over time, weather and general wear and tear can affect the functionality of pool and spa barriers. If you haven’t already done so, it’s imperative to check pool and spa fencing and barriers to ensure they are in proper working order,” he said.

According to recent figures from Royal Life Saving Australia, 25 Australian children aged 0-4 years died as a result of drowning in 2020-21. The majority of these incidents occurred in backyard swimming pools.

“While these figures represent an 8 per cent decrease on the previous year, and a 32 per cent drop on the 10-year average, one drowning death is one too many,” Cr Steane said.

In addition to mandatory registration of all pools and spas in Victoria, it is a legal requirement that all swimming pools and spas have fence barriers to prevent unsupervised children gaining access. This includes above-ground and wading pools capable of holding more than 300mm of water.

Property owners must also provide a certificate of barrier compliance to Council every four years from a registered building surveyor or building inspector, certifying that their pool or spa safety barriers comply with the standard applicable at the time of their installation.

Anyone who fails to comply with the legislative requirements may be liable to penalties.

“Safety barriers and fences are no substitute for adult supervision. You should never leave small children unsupervised around water, and never rely on older children to supervise younger children in and around pools and spas,” Cr Steane said.

“Toddlers can drown in as little as a few centimetres of water – this means that objects including buckets, inflatable/toddler wading pools, backyard ponds, eskies with melted ice and even pets’ drinking bowls can all pose a potential drowning hazard.

“Children require active adult supervision around water at all times, especially toddlers. This means being within arm’s reach, such as being with them in the pool or beside them in the bath,” he said.

Council proactively inspects pools and spas each year to ensure safety barriers are compliant.

Top-10 water safety tips:

  1. Always watch your children in and around water. If multiple adults are present, designate one of them to watch the children for a designated amount of time and then rotate. This technique will help prevent lapses in supervision.
  2. Don’t rely on water toys such as noodles or floating beds to keep children safe. If your child cannot swim, fit them with an appropriate personal flotation device (PFD), making sure to never take your eyes off them.
  3. Safety barriers must not be installed near trees, barbecues or other climbable structures that could allow children to gain access to the pool/or spa (this may include pot plants and outdoor furniture).
  4. Check your pool/spa barrier using the Victorian Building Authority’s self-assessment checklist.
  5. Never prop open any gate providing access to the swimming pool or spa.
  6. Ensure there is no excess space under fence barriers where children can crawl under to gain access to a pool and/or spa.
  7. All gates must have a self-closing, self-latching device.
  8. All outdoor pools and/or spas built after 1 May 2010 must not have direct access to the pool area via a door from a building (i.e. house or garage).
  9. Teach children basic water safety tips and enrol them in swimming lessons. Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbours.
  10. Learn to perform CPR on children and adults and update those skills regularly

Further information

If you have not yet registered your pool or spa with Council, you can do so using Council’s online portal, or phone us on 1300 88 22 33.

For more on swimming pool and spa compliance, see our Swimming pool and spa registration and fencing webpage.

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