A backyard pool can be beneficial for kids. Swimming is not only fun, but it is also terrific exercise. In addition, a pool can set the scene for hours of quality family time, as well as playtime with friends. However, having a pool is also a huge responsibility and pool safety is paramount.
If you have a pool, you have a responsibility to safeguard it. In addition, there is no substitute for vigilant supervision. But there are additional steps you can and should take.
Pool safety tips
Always have an adult nearby. Even if you’re a great swimmer, you never know when you might need help.
Set a good example for younger children on how to behave. The pool is only safe when EVERYONE follows the pool safety rules.
Tell an adult if there’s a problem. You don’t want to get hurt, so let an adult take care of it.
Check the water depth. You don’t want to get hurt diving into water that’s too shallow.
Always wear sunscreen. Without it, you could end up with a painful sunburn, which can lead to other health problems.
No running! You could slip or trip — hurting not just yourself, but someone else as well.
Put toys away. People might trip over them and hurt themselves.
Barricade the pool completely. Experts recommend a fence of at least 1.2 m high, with vertical posts, not more than 100mm apart so that kids can’t squeeze between them.
Secure the gate with a lock. The best gates are self-closing and self-latching. Furthermore, position the latches well out of reach of children.
Get an in-the-water pool alarm, one that will alert you if anyone jumps or falls in the pool
In your home, secure doors and windows leading to the pool, so children don’t have access from inside the house.
Keep potential “step stools” away from the fence. That means storing patio chairs, planters, and other climbable items away from your outside perimeter.
Make sure your child learns how to swim. Many parents overestimate their children’s swimming competencies. Always supervise.
Never leave the pool cover partially on when kids are swimming, because they might become trapped under it.
Remove pool steps and ladders when you’re not using them.
Keep a house phone or cell phone nearby when supervising children in the pool. Post emergency numbers close at hand.
Learn CPR. Moreover, if anyone else will be supervising kids in the pool, make sure they learn it as well.
Keep rescue equipment by the pool.
Adhere to strict diving rules. Diving accidents can result in life-long injuries. Furthermore, never allow diving in above-ground pools. If you do have an in-ground pool, allow diving only from the diving board, not the sides of the pool.
Statistics prove that not enough care is taken to implement pool safety in South Africa. The Medical Research Council of South Africa reported a total of 3000 deaths by drowning over the past five years.
Netcare 911 Operations reports 75% of all drownings in South Africa are children under the age of five. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation backs this up in a special report.
Pool safety must be taken seriously!
Pool Safety Tips
Fit a safety cover from a reputable supplier. This should include ponds and water fountains. Be sure to check the cover fasteners regularly and replace worn fasteners. Urge family and friends with pools, ponds and water features to do the same. (Your child may visit there.)
Check the weight tolerance of the safety cover. As an example, the Power Plastics Pool Cover’s Solid Safety Cover bears the weight of two adults and a child.
In the event of a drowning start CPR until emergency services arrive. You will be saving a life; waiting can be fatal. Ensure that every adult in the home knows CPR, including domestic workers. Never hire a babysitter or au pair who can’t swim.
Thermal pool covers and leaf nets are not safe barriers for children!
Toys left in or near a pool are temptations to children. Remove them!
Teach your child
Teach your child what to do if they see another child in trouble.
They should call for help.
They should not try to help themselves – it puts them at risk.
Never leave a child unattended near a pool. If your child has suddenly gone quiet or wandered off, check the pool first. Even a minute can make the difference between survival, irreversible brain damage or death.
If you are pregnant, get your safety pool cover now. Prepare well in advance.
Teach your child to swim fully clothed and with shoes on.
Choose swimming coaches wisely. Trust your gut instinct if you are not comfortable.
If your child develops a fear of water, do not ignore. A child that panics is at greater risk.
If your child is ill or on sedative medication, do not allow it to swim.
Never allow swimming after dark.
Be a role model. Children tend to copy adults. Do not clown about in the pool or undertake risky behaviour.
Forbid walking or playing on the pool cover. Fit a sensor beam if this rule is broken.
Do not let pool levels drop. Keeping the pool topped up allows for small arms to easily grab the edge if needed.
Never underestimate the scope of peer pressure when it comes to risk-taking. If you see other children being excessively foolish in the pool, chat with the parent about pool safety.
Discourage your dogs from swimming. Children and pets in a pool are not a good mix.
Teach your child how to retrieve objects from the bottom of the pool. This will build water confidence and teach breathing techniques.
Even if you don’t have children, it is still necessary to consider pool safety for visitors. In addition, families living in residential complexes with a communal pool should insist that their body corporate install a pool cover.
Safety devices include
A mesh barrier fence,
Self-closing and self-latching gate.
Alarms systems for doors, windows and for in and around the pool are available.
Certified safety covers, life rings and shepherd’s hooks.
The legal implications of owning a swimming pool
New South African legislation places more responsibility on swimming pool owners for pool safety, in line with international law.
Homeowner’s insurance policies have two types of cover:
Damage to structure
Legal liability for damage or injury to guests or trespassers
South African Law of Delict makes the owner liable for a drowning. Therefore, in terms of civil liability laws, a claim can be charged against an owner for damages resulting from drowning.
National and Municipal Regulations exist regarding private and sectional title pool safety. Only the owners and invited guests may use them. Check your homeowner’s insurance to ensure that you have personnel liability cover legal liability for damage or injury to guests or trespassers. Ensure that the insurer’s requirements for property and pool safety are met!