WA: Pool safety a hot topic this summer


The latest annual Royal Life Saving Society drowning report found swimming pool drowning deaths have increased in Western Australia. Consumer Protection joins the campaign to highlight strong summer safety messages that NEED to be heard by the community.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard says while the words ‘sun’ and ‘swimming’ go hand in hand, ‘supervision’ and ‘safety’ are also a must, especially around home pools.

“Tragically children under five account for the largest number of swimming pool drowning deaths in Australia – 14 children from that age group lost their lives through swimming pool drowning in 2013/14. It means that we adults need to constantly supervise young children in, and around, water,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Any pool with water deeper than 30 centimetres (or the length of an average ruler) must be fenced and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. All too often we hear of gates that have been propped open or objects that can be climbed on left near the fence but this needs to stop. It is also important for home owners or occupiers to regularly check that the fence, gate and posts haven’t been compromised by sun exposure over time.”

Mr Hillyard warns that portable pools with a water depth less than 30 centimetres pose a serious drowning risk even though they do not need to be fenced off.

“A small child can drown in as little as five centimetres of water, within two minutes in total silence. That’s shocking to think about but we need to have it at the forefront of our minds this summer to keep kids safe.

“Where there’s water and young children together, don’t get distracted. Even checking your mobile phone or hanging washing on the line can leave enough time for a tragedy to occur. At family gatherings nominate an adult to supervise the children. That adult needs to accept responsibility to remain vigilant, remain sober and ideally be trained and ready to provide first aid.

“You should also be absolutely sure to completely empty portable pools after use and store them away securely. Leaving them out where they can fill up with rain or sprinkler water could prove to be a fatal mistake. Last year a national standard was introduced requiring mandatory warnings to be included with all portable pools sold in Australia. Any pool that is deeper than 30 centimetres must include advice about pool fencing laws. If we do not read and follow those warnings they will have little effect.”

Mr Hillyard added that flotation devices should not be seen as a replacement for adult supervision and that a child’s swimming ability should be assessed when selecting aquatic toys.

“Armbands, rubber rings or floating mattresses are made of materials that can perish in the sun or be burst by a sharp object, meaning they can deflate unexpectedly. You also need to read warning labels for information about age or weight restrictions.

“Consumer Protection has particular concerns this year about new water play products targeted at children, including ‘mermaid tails’. The ‘mermaid tail’ binds a child’s legs and acts as a ‘flipper’ so that the child can swim like a fish. These products usually come with an age recommendation of six years plus, advice that the child needs to be a good swimmer, must be supervised and may require a lesson in how to use the tail, along with a warning that the tails are for use in swimming pools of a certain depth and not shallow water.

“Our worry is that in the excitement of Christmas, a child who may be too young or incapable of using a ‘mermaid tail’ might end up trying one. A video from the United States that went viral on social media showed a little girl getting stuck upside down in her family’s backyard pool when using her ‘mermaid tail’ for the first time, before being rescued by her mother. This could have ended very differently if an adult had not been present.”

Consumers who have any safety concerns about portable pools or pool toys for sale in WA can contact Consumer Protection by email consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au or by phone 1300 30 40 54.

Information on portable pool safety is available on the Product Safety Australia website: www.productsafety.gov.au along with information about flotation devices and aquatic toys.

More information about pool fencing laws in WA can be found on the Building Commission website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-commission/swimmingpools.

Further advice on how to prevent drowning is available on the Royal Life Saving Society websites www.royallifesaving.com.au and www.lifesavingwa.com.au.

Contact details

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Alan Hynd
Phone: (08) 6552 9248
Mobile: 0429 078 791
Email: alan.hynd@commerce.wa.gov.au

Alina Cavanagh
Phone: (08) 6552 9366
Mobile: 0423 846 397
Email: alina.cavanagh@commerce.wa.gov.au

Responsible regulator