Pool Safety: President’s Perspective

From Issue: 
Vol LII No. 3, July 2008

Every year, Canada Safety Council is called upon by media to comment on the fatal drowning of a toddler or young child. These sad and preventable tragedies inspire me to make a strong recommendation to parents: _ Do not install a pool or a spa in your yard until your children are five or older._

As parents, you play an instrumental role in preventing your children and others visiting, from drowning. Swimming pools come in many shapes and sizes and offer a healthy past time for families during hot summer days; but they can also be a very dangerous place for children. Remember, a child can drown in very little water in an irretrievable moment. Here are some fundamental rules to ensure pool safety.

*Never leave children unattended, in or near the pool…not for a moment. * Supervision with children should include an adult being within arm’s length of the child at all times. An adult or guardian familiar with CPR should actively supervise children. Remember that a tragedy can take place in a fleeting, momentary lapse of attention. Organize your pool activity time so that you need not leave the premises to answer doors, tend to cooking or have any other distraction. Keep a telephone and emergency numbers by the pool.

Install a fence that encloses the pool on all four sides, including access to the house. The fence should be at least 1.2 meters high (check with your municipality to ensure compliance with any bylaw) and have a self latching gate, out of children’s reach. Remember, most kids who drown in pools never intended on being in the water. They simply wandered out of the house and fell in.

Make sure you have rescue equipment that would include a life preserver and a long pole to extend to someone in trouble in the water. Avoid the use of air-filled water wings and tubes as an alternative to proper floatation devices. While they may be fun from an entertainment point of view they are not a replacement for proper rescue equipment. Your pool should also be equipped with an approved safety pool cover and an anti-entrapment drain cover to prevent children from being trapped underwater. For extra protection, consider the use of alarms for both the pool and all the entrances to the pool. Remember these devices are only mitigating devices and are not intended to replace proper safety measures or supervision.

At the end of the pool-time activity, take all toys out of the pool. This will ensure that children are not tempted to reach in for them later and fall into the pool. In fact, it is crucial that children not get back into the pool area after the swim. Close and lock the gate behind you.

Enroll your children in swimming lessons. This includes learning how to float and knowing how to climb out of a pool. It does not ensure that a child will be safe in water or drown-proof, but it might make a difference in self-rescue.

From my perspective nothing replaces the above rules…not covers, not alarms, nothing. The best results are obtained when the child is prevented from accidentally being in the pool in the first place. Adult supervision works as we have not seen any drowning incidents when it is available. Be vigilant and be present.

Safety, It’s an Attitude!