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Water safety

Tips about how to keep children safe wherever they may be, including in the car, at the beach or pool, during hot weather and holidays, and at play..

Building water confidence

Each year too many children around the state die from drowning. Children should never be left unsupervised while playing in and around water, even if they know how to swim. This is especially true for children under the age of 5.

"Water awareness" is a term that covers a range of strategies that will help ensure your child stays safe. This includes water familiarisation, checking for and removing water hazards, setting rules around water and discussing water safety with your child. A water hazard could include a fish pond, kiddies pool or even a bucket left full of water.

Many public swimming pools and aquatic centres offer water familiarisation classes and water survival techniques. It's a good idea for all children to learn these techniques.

At home you can use bath time to develop water awareness by letting your baby or child feel, experience and play with water.

Swimming pools

Swimming pools provide hours of fun for the whole family so long as a few simple safety rules are followed:

  • children should never be left unsupervised and children under 5 should always have an adult swimming within arm’s reach of them
  • nominate a designated ‘child supervisor’ during parties or large gatherings to make sure children are supervised at all times
  • have some rules about locking gates, waiting for a grown up, no running or diving and no rough play
  • make sure the pool fencing and gate meet safety standards. This includes having a self closing gate
  • learn CPR or update CPR skills annually and make sure young children learn to swim. Water confidence prevents drownings
  • always make sure the pool gate is firmly shut.

Pool fencing

The Swimming Pools Act 1992 requires swimming pools to be surrounded on all sides by a fence and also to have a child-resistant gate, which should be kept closed at all times. The Act defines a swimming pool as any excavation, structure or vessel that is capable of being filled with water to a depth greater than 30 centimetres. This includes spa baths and portable/inflatable pools.

Pool owners are required by law to conduct a self-assessment of the safety of their pool and to register their pool with the NSW Swimming Pool Register. In addition, a pool compliance certificate must be obtained from the local council. This is valid for 3 years.

Water safety at home

Young children can drown in very small amounts of water so don’t leave water in eskies, buckets, baths or toddler pools.

Know where your child is and keep doors and gates locked if there are water tanks, drains, fish ponds or fountains where you live.

Never leave children under 5 years of age or children of any age that have a disability alone in the bath or in the supervision of older children.

Stay safe at the beach

If you live near the beach, or are visiting the beach on holidays, make sure you follow these safety tips from Surf Life Saving Australia:

  • Find the flags and swim between them – they mark the safest place to swim at the beach
  • Look at the safety signs – they help you identify potential dangers and daily conditions at the beach
  • Ask a lifesaver for advice – surf conditions can change quickly, so always check before you or your children enter the water
  • Get a friend to swim with you – you should never swim alone and you should always supervise your children whenever they are in or near the water
  • Stick your hand up for help – if you get into trouble in the water, stay calm and raise your arm to signal for assistance. Don’t try to swim against a current or rip, but float with it.

Farm safety

Did you know 5 to 6 children drown each year in farm dams and other bodies of water? Most of these children are aged below 5, and one third are visitors to the farm.

Having a securely fenced house yard or a designated safe play area with child resistant gates and latches is the best way to prevent farm tragedies. This will help stop unsupervised access to farm hazards, such as dams and other dangers.

If children are going to swim in dams, creeks, rivers or lakes, make sure an adult is always supervising them, just like with a pool.

It's important to familiarise yourself with any of these waterways because, unlike the pool, conditions are very changeable.

The murkiness of natural waterways also means that once submerged, a child can be out of sight immediately. Always supervise children from within an ‘arms length’ of where they are swimming or playing in the water.

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019