News & Media

Drowning Remains One of the Biggest Killers

Friday 14th Oct
Above grnd pool.jpg

The 2016 National Drowning Report was recently released. There were 32 drowning deaths of children aged 0-14 years in Australia between July 2015 and June 2016. The majority of deaths were unsurprisingly in the 0-4 year age group with 21 total deaths - 81% of these occurred from falls into water and over half were in swimming pools. 

Toddlers are naturally curious and drawn to the water; they are also top heavy and have the tendency to fall – these factors greatly increase their risk of drowning. A review of backyard pool drowning deaths in NSW over the past 14 years, found that supervision was completely absent in 59% of cases and in 6% of cases older children or siblings had been left to supervise. Active adult supervision is the number one preventative measure for toddler drowning. Supervision should be active and constant without other distractions such as mobiles phones or books. In relation to pool fencing, the case study revealed that 27% of pools had no fencing and a further 35% had faulty fencing. It is extremely important that pool fencing is regularly checked and maintained to ensure good working order. For a detailed checklist from Royal Lifesaving Australia, please click here.

The most common pool barrier faults/non-compliances include: 

  • Gates that don’t self-latch or self-close. 
  • Climbable objects in the ‘non climbable’ zone outlined in the Australian Standards (e.g. pot plants, chairs, pool pumps near the pool fencing which could allow a child to climb over the fence). 
  • Excess space under the fence (more than 100mm gap), and; 
  • Misuse (e.g. propping the pool gate open). 

Older children (aged 5-14 years) are still at risk of drowning. There were 11 deaths in this age group during 2015 with the swimming pool again the most common place. As compared to young children who are more likely to fall into water, older children were more likely to be swimming and recreating when they drowned. This shows how important water knowledge and swimming skills are for this age group. 

What if I have a portable pool?
If you purchase a portable/above ground pools that has a filter, you must contact your local council to obtain approval and there may be requirements for safety barriers. The filtration system enables them to be a more permanent feature in the backyard and up all summer. Many of these portable pools are affordable but can hold a large amount of water and do pose as a serious drowning risk. 

Key messages:
1.    Supervise children around water
2.    Eliminate any water hazards – empty buckets and wading pools after use
3.    Check the pool fence – is it in good working condition?
4.    Teach children to swim and learn CPR. 


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