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Portable pools – Make It Safe

Portable swimming pool
Portable pools pose a serious drowning risk to children. The ACCC and state and territory consumer affairs regulators have partnered with Royal Life Saving Society – Australia to educate consumers about the drowning dangers associated with portable pools and provide tips and resources to help keep kids safe.

Child drowning is silent and can happen quickly. Young children can easily topple and fall by accident. This summer, before you buy or use a portable pool, consider how you can “Make it Safe”.

On this page:

Video

Check out the video to help avoid drowning hazards:

Hazards

Children are naturally curious and attracted to water. They are unaware of the dangers and can easily fall in or into portable pools, especially when the pools are placed in and around the home environment.

Drowning

Children drown in portable pools every year in Australia. Many more children are hospitalised as a result of a drowning incident in a portable swimming pool. Those most at risk are children under three years of age and almost two thirds of those who have drowned are males.

Non-fatal drowning

Many more children are hospitalised as a result of a drowning incident in a portable swimming pool. Some children are left with persisting neurological impairment as a result of a near-drowning.

Injury cases

Between July 2013 and June 2014, 20 children between the ages of 0-4 drowned in Australia, according to the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2014. Swimming pools (in-ground, above-ground and portable) accounted for 70% of these drowning deaths, posing more than 4.5 times the drowning risk than that of any other aquatic location among this age group.

Safety Tips

If you own or are considering purchasing a portable pool, you need to be aware of these simple safety steps:

  1. Check with your local council regarding fencing requirements.
  2. Ensure you always actively supervise children within arms’ reach whenever they are in, or around the water.
  3. Never rely on older children to supervise younger children, no matter how confident you are about their ability to supervise the younger child.
  4. For smaller pools – ensure you empty them and put them away when you are finished with them.
  5. Always store portable pools safely away from young children. Ensure the pool cannot fill with rain water or water from sprinklers.

Child in portable pool splashing water

What is a portable swimming pool?

This information is also available as a downloadable fact sheet.

What are portable swimming pools?

Portable swimming pools take several forms and include inflatable pools, pools incorporating a canvas or flexible plastic liner attached to a frame, and hard plastic pools such as wading pools. Depths vary from less than 150mm to over one metre.

What are the different names they go by?

Portable pools may also be advertised as wading pools, paddling pools, inflatable pools and kiddie pools.

What should I look for when purchasing a portable pool?

The Australian Consumer Law requires portable pools and their retail packaging to be labelled with warnings drawing attention to drowning hazards and local fencing laws. This is enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and State and Territory regulators.

Why are they dangerous?

Portable pools pose a serious drowning risk to small children. Even with very little water, it only takes seconds for a child to drown in a portable pool. They also present a risk because owners are generally not aware of the need in most States and Territories to fence a portable pool that is 300mm deep or more. Children have also drowned in portable pools that have not been emptied and put away after use.

Why do young children drown in portable swimming pools?

Young children are at risk of drowning in portable pools for a number of reasons. Young children are naturally fascinated by water and are top heavy so when they lean over to look into water or reach for an object they can easily topple over and drown in just a few centimetres of water. Young children are unable to understand the concept of danger and may have difficulty in understanding that water could cause them harm. Childhood drowning is a silent event as children generally do not cry out for help.

Portable pool with toys and water

Portable swimming pool safety considerations

This information is also available as a downloadable fact sheet in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Traditional Chinese and Vietnamese.

What are some of the safety issues associated with portable swimming pools?

Drowning of young children under five years of age in portable pools is the greatest risk. Parents often do not actively supervise their children when they are in portable swimming pools or leave them alone for a second to retrieve something from the house, believing that because there is only a small amount of water their child cannot drown. Children can drown in just seconds.

How many children have drowned in portable swimming pools?

Children drown in portable swimming pools every year. In 2013/14, 20 children between the ages of 0-4 drowned in Australia. Swimming pools (in-ground, above-ground and portable) accounted for 70% of these drowning deaths, posing more than 4.5 times the drowning risk than that of any other aquatic location among this age group. Many more children are hospitalised as a result of a drowning incident in a portable swimming pool. Some children are left with persisting neurological impairment as a result of a near-drowning.

Why do young children drown in portable swimming pools?

Young children are at risk of drowning in portable pools for a number of reasons. Young children are naturally fascinated by water and are top heavy so when they lean over to look into water or reach for an object they can easily topple over and drown in just a few centimetres of water. Young children are unable to understand the concept of danger and may have difficulty in understanding that water could cause them harm. Childhood drowning is a silent event as children generally do not cry out for help.

Do I need to supervise my child or children when they are in a portable pool?

You should always actively supervise children when they are in or around the water (including portable swimming pools). You should be within arms’ reach of your child at all times and actively supervising, by having constant visual contact with your child and be in a position to respond quickly. Parents should not leave young children in the care of older siblings.

Do I need to fence my portable swimming pool?

By law, in most States and Territories, bodies of water over 300mm in depth, must be fenced – check with your local council for specific requirements. Fencing involves isolating the pool from the home with a well-constructed and well-maintained barrier and a gate that self-closes and self-latches. Most States and Territories have programs in place where pool owners can be fined for non-compliance.

Videos

Portable pools pose a serious drowning risk to children. This summer, before you buy or use a portable pool, consider how you can “Make it Safe” – watch this video to find out more.

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