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Experts call for greater parental supervision of children at public pools this summer

Experts call for greater parental supervision of children at public pools this summer
December 14, 2018

The 2018/19 summer launch of the Watch Around Water program has seen the Royal Life Saving Society Western Australia issue a reminder that parents and carers cannot be complacent when it comes to the supervision of children at public swimming pools, even with lifeguards on duty.

Royal Life Saving Society WA highlight research from the Royal Life Saving Society - Australia that  revealed 293 drowning incidents recorded at public swimming pools over the past 10 years in Australia, with 60% of these involving young children under the age of 10 years.

With the start of summer and school holidays just around the corner, more families will be spending time around their local pool and other waterways and it’s important that parents don’t become complacent about their supervision responsibilities.

Royal Life Saving Society WA, Senior Manager, Health Promotion and Research, Lauren Nimmo explains “Western Australians are very comfortable around the water and have access to some of the best public swimming pool facilities in Australia.

“While our public swimming pools are one of the safest places for families with young children to go for a swim (and) even though lifeguards are on duty at public pools, parents still have a crucial role to play in the supervision of children when visiting these facilities.

“Lifeguards certainly play an important safety role - however, last year there were 11.4 million visitations to public pools around WA and lifeguards can’t have eyes everywhere. It’s not about shifting responsibility, it’s about having both parents and lifeguards working together to keep children safe - Parents supervise, lifeguards save lives.”

In more than two thirds of drowning cases involving children, supervision was absent for five to 10 minutes, with many people saying it was only absent for a few minutes. Yet a child can drown in less than 20 seconds.

Nimmo advises “drowning happens quickly and silently often in the short time when supervision is absent as a result of parents being distracted. Supervision needs to be active and uninterrupted. You can’t be sitting on your phone or talking with other parents.

“There are many additional distractions at public pools that don’t exist at other waterways – large crowds and busy pools increase the likelihood that a parent may become distracted and lose sight of their child which can have tragic consequences.”

Running from today (14th December) to 21st December, Watch Around Water Week coincides with the start of the school holidays to highlight issues surrounding parental supervision at public pools during the peak summer season.

The Watch Around Water program was introduced in 2004 by the Leisure Institute of WA and Royal Life Saving WA. Since then, there has been no drowning deaths involving young children at public swimming pools in Western Australia. 

Nimmo concludes “while it’s pleasing that there have been no drowning deaths involving young children at our public swimming pools over the past 14 years, the reality is that the risk remains high. 

“Not only did we see a spike in toddler drowning last year with five deaths in WA, each year around 120 children are either admitted to hospital or present to the emergency department following a non-fatal drowning and a further 1,500 are injured while visiting a public swimming pool.”

When visiting your local pool this summer, remember to always Watch Around Water by following these safety tips:

• If your child is under five years of age, supervision must be within arm’s reach, meaning you need to be in the water with your child
• Be aware of distractions and take steps to minimise these to avoid lapses in supervision
• Be prepared - make sure you have everything you need for the pool with you
• Ask a lifeguard if you have any concerns - they are there to help keep you and your family safe.

Images: Royal Life Saving Society WA's Lauren Nimmo amd LIWA Aquatics President Jeff Fondacro launch Watch Around Water Week (top) and the Watch Around Water campaign is reminds parents to focus on the safety of their children by remaining alert and not being distracted by smartphones and social interaction (below).

Related Articles

7th December 2018 - Australian Water Safety council addresses drowning among multicultural communities

26th October 2018 - Keep Watch research shows alarming scale of toddler drowning

3rd October 2018 - Royal Life Saving Western Australia presents 2018 Bravery Awards

25th September 2018 - Adventure Park Geelong becomes Watch Around Water first

7th September 2018 - German lifeguards warn that child drownings linked to parents’ smartphone ‘fixation’

16th August 2018 - Royal Life Saving WA provides Swim and Survive program for CaLD children 

19th March 2018 - Colin Hassell named President of Royal Life Saving WA

16th December 2016 - Watch Around Water gets season launch

9th March 2016 - LIWA Aquatics to present new Watch Around Water ‘Facility of the Year’ Award

30th July 2013 - Aims to link Watch Around Water program with other anti-drowning initiatives

30th January 2013 - LIWA uses customised waterborne inflatable to promote Watch Around Water

8th January 2013 - Aquatic facilities benefit from nine seasons of Watch Around Water

29th August 2011 - Lifeguards are not babysitters!: Watch Around Water launches new website


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