Safety checks for swimming pools help prevent drowning

10 Dec 2014 | Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee

Is the latch on the gate to your swimming pool working properly? Are there any parts of the fence small children might crawl under? Checking these and other aspects of a pool is one of the things New Zealanders can do to help children stay safe this summer.

‘Pool drownings are highly preventable,’ says Dr Felicity Dumble, chair of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee. ‘We encourage everyone to follow some routine fence checks and make sure anything that could allow inadvertent access is repaired.’

Checks and other advice include:

  • ensure the gate latch clicks shut automatically. Over time the spring can become less effective. Hold the gate open at varying distances from the lock and check it springs shut and fully latches
  • ensure there are no gaps under the gate when it is closed and there is no part of the fence small children could crawl under (maximum permissible gap between ground and fence/gate is 100mm)
  • never prop the gate open
  • check the condition of a metal fence. The joints can become weak due to rust and have been known to come apart with a firm tug
  • check the condition of a timber fence. As the structure ages, the screws and nails can loosen and allow the slats to be removed. Similarly, the wood can age and weaken, so any rotting sections should be replaced
  • always keep moveable objects (such as plastic chairs, bricks or pot plants) well away from the pool area. A child can drag them and then use them to climb over the fence
  • remove any tree branches that could allow a child to gain access to the pool area
  • clear toys from the pool area, so it is not tempting for children to go in.

Local councils throughout New Zealand can offer guidance on ensuring your pool meets all the safety regulations.

Further information is available at Water Safety New Zealand: www.watersafety.org.nz.

Pool access is just one part of ensuring children stay safe over summer, says Dr Dumble.

‘While we all like to relax at Christmas and during the holidays, we need to remain vigilant about the children around us – and in some cases be even more so,’ she says.

‘Babies and young children need sober caregivers and active supervision at all times, including during events such as summer barbecues and gatherings at the beach.

‘Even if away from home or at home with a house full of guests, babies need to sleep in a safe environment, which includes being smokefree, not too hot and in a cot or bassinet without pillows, loose blankets or any other bedding that might cover their faces. If you’re using a portable or unfamiliar cot, make sure it is up to standard and not faulty.’

With visitors arriving or departing, says Dr Dumble, extra care should be taken around vehicles in driveways, and drivers should not forget to check properly before reversing.

‘It’s all about remaining alert. That way we can keep our youngest New Zealanders out of harm’s way while we enjoy the holiday break.’

Last updated 10/12/2014