Serious child injury highlights pool danger


A four year old Gosnells boy has suffered a serious injury highlighting the extreme dangers of some backyard swimming pools.

The boy suffered partial disembowelment after he sat on an older-style skimmer box in the pool at his home on December 5, the suction damaging a portion of his small and large intestine.  He spent a week in Princess Margaret Hospital where doctors successfully repaired the damaged sections of his intestinal system.

The boy is now recovering at home and is required to wear a colostomy bag for up to four months while his injuries heal. His long-term prospects are promising.
In response to this latest injury, Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll has issued an urgent warning to owners of swimming pools to check that the skimmer boxes cannot be accessed by children.

“In older style pools these skimmer boxes look like a seat or potty that a child can easily sit in unless there is a physical barrier or the lid is permanently secured down.  If children sit in a skimmer box it can cause horrific injuries and even death,” Ms Driscoll said.

Consumer Protection introduced a product safety order in August 1988 requiring safer skimmer boxes be installed in pools and spas in response to a number of injuries to children.  Pools and spas installed after this date are required to comply with this new safety standard but those installed previously may be dangerous unless converted.

“Pools installed prior to our ban in 1988 are highly likely to be unsafe unless the owner has installed a low-cost conversion kit which is available from pool supply shops,” Ms Driscoll said.

“It’s important that skimmer boxes have a safety skirt or lid installed which is a vertical barrier preventing children from sitting on the box and that the lid is securely fixed and can only be removed with tools and not by hand.”

Following two serious incidents in January 2000, Consumer Protection launched a program to highlight the danger to owners of pools with older-style skimmer boxes in cooperation with the Royal Life Saving Society and local councils.

“We are gravely concerned that, despite our efforts to inform the public, there are still some older pools in WA that are dangerous and we urge all owners, especially those with young children, to check that their pool complies with these very important safety standards,” the Commissioner said.

“There are laws preventing the sale of new or refurbished pools that do not comply with the standard and Consumer Protection will investigate any reported instances of unsafe pools.

It is important for anyone who has purchased a home with an existing pool to make sure it is completely safe and does not have an unsafe skimmer box fitted.  If owners or tenants are in any doubt they are urged to contact our product safety officers, SPASA or their local pool shop for expert advice.”

Consumers who require more information on pool safety can contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or – brochures on this topic are available.


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