Pool safety saves lives

Pool safety

When my oldest boy was 3yrs old, he took a plastic chair and a brick, wedged the bottom half of the pool fence gate open with the brick, then climbed on a chair to unlock the top latch and slipped in.  The gate closed behind him and the pool was uncovered. Fortunately I was watching and acted immediately. I was lucky but not all parents are.

Drowning remains one of the top causes of unnatural childhood death in South Africa. According to recent statistics, nearly 72% of near-drownings occur around the home and only 1.22% at the beach. Three-year-old children seem particularly vulnerable and constitute almost half the total. Furthermore, for every child that dies from drowning, five are left with permanent brain damage from the lack of oxygen that occurs in a near-drowning.

Drowning is commonly a silent event. The child makes no noise to alert their parent or carer. Babies can drown in just a few centimetres of water in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee.

Overseas, pool safety is a legislative issue and pool builders are obliged by law to advise on and fit adequate safety measures to any pool they

Credit: mcrpools.com
Credit: mcrpools.com

install. South Africa has at last tabled similar municipal by-laws but this has merely resulted in heated debates and petitions about the proposed legislation, not in any decisive action. Yet.

“There are massive discrepancies when one compares safety legislation in other industries. The motor industry is not allowed to manufacture vehicles without seatbelts and neither can the chemical industry be negligent with hazardous substances. Open pools are equally dangerous A solid safety pool cover is the most effective physical layer of safety, as long as it has drainage holes to avoid rain or sprinkler-water forming a small puddle on top of the cover. Just a few millimetres of water can be fatal to a curious child.

But a cover only saves lives if it is actually on the pool. Being lazy about re-securing a pool after use is surprisingly common. The new safety covers on the market are hassle-free and without hooks and eyelets – no brute force required which is great news for Moms! Next time you ‘can’t be bothered’, consider the alternative – retrieving a lifeless child from your pool due to your negligence?

Even if one doesn’t have children, it is still crucial to consider safety for visitors. Often toddlers unaccustomed to being near pools are most at risk. Families living in residential complexes with a communal pool should insist that their body corporate install a safety cover.

It might be more socially acceptable to label child drowning as ‘accidental’ but strip the sugar-coating and what you’re left with is actually involuntary manslaughter. And that is not a label anyone wants to wear.

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Author

Stephen Doyle

Stephen Doyle

Stephen Doyle, father of 2 boys,  loves surfing, fishing, canoeing and mountain biking.  An avid rugby fan and general manager of PowerPlastics Pool Covers

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6 Responses

  1. We live in a complex with a communal pool. It has no safety net or fence, and the gate to the clubhouse is rarely closed. I have a 1-year-old boy and think about pool safety everytime I see the pool.

    But if we insist on a pool cover being put on, how do you ensure that whoever used the pool last puts the cover back on?

    1. Bella & Vicky

      You have both identified one of the very real issues – adults must be responsible for safety around the pool. A safety cover is only effective when on the pool and properly installed. We have for some time encouraged the use of a “Safety Hat” – bright red and yellow – which is worn by the responsible person around the pool. If that person leaves, the hat is given to another who then assumes responsibility. Perhaps a variation of this can be used at a complex – I would suggest a sign near the pool plus a message from the body corporate?

  2. My son drowned at our townhouse complex’ communal pool when he was 2 years old. I’m yet to come up with a way that these kinds of deaths could be stopped except for adults to do their part and be 100% responsible and start doing things like covering the pool, not leaving kids unattended in a bath or near a bucket of water. My query is the same as Bella49- “But if we insist on a pool cover being put on, how do you ensure that whoever used the pool last puts the cover back on?”

  3. Great suggestion(“Safety Hat”) Stephen!I’ll definitely mention it to people I know. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a lot of comments on this article as a good measure of parents(when I tell them that my son drowned) have admitted on having “near drowning” incidents around water and that a good measure of those incidents could’ve been prevented if they acted 100% responsible at all times.

  4. My 3 year old son was visiting his father when he was left unsupervised with free access to the open swimming pool (no fence, no net, no cover, no alarm) at his father’s house. Yes, he drowned. My child is dead.

    It is now 18 months later and I cannot stop thinking about how easily his death could have been prevented. And I refuse to put the label “accidental” to my son’s death. I am sorry.

    1. Alison – a great sad tragedy that could have been avoided. Your story and experience is shared by many others in this country yet so little is done to act and prevent such incidents. The pool industry (shops, builders etc..) need to step up and offer safety when selling/building pools – if the industry becomes more responsible then we will have moved a long way.
      My condolences.

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