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Drowning Sparks Call for National Water Safety program

Drowning Sparks Call for National Water Safety program
November 11, 2009

The death of a five-year-old girl who had been found floating face down in water at the Goodna Aquatic Centre, Queensland on Monday has led to a call for the Royal Life Saving Society Western Australian branch's Watch Around Water program to be introduced nationally.

The little girl had been at the Goodna Aquatic Centre when she wandered away from her father in a change room. Shortly thereafter a staff member pulled the unconscious girl from the centre's 1.2 metre deep pool and performed CPR and gave her oxygen until Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) paramedics arrived.

A QAS spokesman said paramedics performed CPR on the way to South Brisbane's Mater Children’s Hospital because the girl was not breathing and her heart had stopped beating. The girl died late on Tuesday with her father at her bedside.

The incident came just a day after a five-year-old boy was found unconscious on the bottom of the Newmarket Pool in Brisbane.

The boy was transported to the city's Royal Children’s Hospital and remains in a serious but stable condition.

The tragedy at the Ipswich City Council owned facility came as Brisbane City Council announced plans to make CPR training free in public libraries.

Brisbane City Council's families and communities chairwoman Geraldine Knapp said residents would receive CPR training at 16 public libraries as part of a 12 month pilot program beginning next month, stating "knowledge of CPR can be the difference between life or death."

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said the Goodna Aquatic Centre was leased to Australian Crawl Goodna, which managed the pool.

Mayor Pisasale said the council would work with the company to “review and implement any recommendations that come from the investigation.

“Council will allow police and Workplace Health and Safety officers to thoroughly investigate (the) incident,” adding that "council also conducts monthly safety audits at all swim centres within the city.”

Following the incidents, the Leisure Institute of Western Australia [Aquatics] (LIWA Aquatics) has stated that the two incidents "appear to present a systemic failure in the delivery of effective supervision in the aquatic environment.

"As pool operators we feel for anyone that is in the position of being required to undertake CPR on the pool deck but there comes a time where the industry must start to have a good hard look at itself and the manner in which water bodies are supervised."

LIWA Aquatics went on to say that its Watch Around Water program "should be introduced nationally", adding that "the message we can take from these incidents is to ensure you have highly trained staff on the pool deck, the Watch Around Water program is being administered by all staff from the cashier to the Lifeguards and that water clarity and lines of site are maintained at all times."

Watch Around Water, a joint initiative between Royal Life Saving Australia's Western Australian branch (RLSSWA) and LIWA Aquatics, is an education and awareness raising campaign run throughout public aquatic facilities in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. The campaign was developed to address growing industry concern regarding the supervision of children while visiting aquatic facilities. Watch Around Water takes a comprehensive approach to promoting and encouraging adequate supervision of children by parents and appropriate centre policies and practices.

The aims of the Watch Around Water campaign are to:

• Provide state-wide supervision standards and practices;
• Increase lifeguard skills;
• Raise awareness of and provide knowledge to parents of what constitutes appropriate levels of supervision of children;
• Increase the proportion of parents who effectively supervise their children while in the water;
• Reduce incidents of drowning, near drowning and associated injury.

The Royal Life Saving Australia operates its Keep Watch initiative in Queensland.

Speaking of the incidents, Australian Leisure Facilities Association (ALFA) Chair Gary Penfold explains that “ALFA is committed to reducing the number of drownings by supporting and implementing awareness campaigns such as 'Keep Watch' and 'Watch Around Water’ in as many facilities as possible. Both of these campaigns are Royal Life Saving Society initiatives which are aimed at increasing awareness amongst parents and those caring for children in an aquatic environment.

"One of ALFA objectives is to raise standards in the industry and as a consequence ALFA urges all managers with an aquatic facility to actively embrace and apply the principles outlined in the Royal Life Saving Society publication 'Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations' which detail the preventative measures required to reduce the potential for drownings."

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