Babies & ToddlersKids

Drowning prevention: Make sure your pool is child-proof

The biggest drowning threat facing families with toddlers is unexpected and the swimming pool is often the biggest cause of fatalities.

Despite child drownings occurring on a weekly basis in domestic pools across South Africa, parents need to be reminded to make drowning prevention a clear priority during the festive season, according to PowerPlastics Pool Covers, a leader in the pool safety industry.

“A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age four years and under. Furthermore, for every child that dies, five are left with brain damage. The sad reality is that many parents still see swimming as only a social skill, not a life skill. It requires a fundamental mind shift and consistent education if we are to lower these statistics,” says Carolyn Idas of PowerPlastics Pool Covers.

Pool safety regulations in SA

At present, pool owners are held accountable for pool safety and failure to do so and any negligence in this regard could result in legal prosecution. Interestingly, in 1977 there was a SA National Standard (SANS 10134) that dealt with safety around swimming pools and, at that stage, the legislation protected children. However, this Standard is now dated so the next step is to update it and incorporate it in a meaningful way within the National Building Act or SANS 10400.

These committees have important work to do and ultimately their task is to protect children from drowning. There can be no doubt that the longer it takes to update the Standard, the more children will drown.

While one would have thought that pool owners and the pool industry would have embraced safety around pools as part of their responsibility, this has not always been the case, hence the need to pass National Standards.

With the right safety devices drownings can be prevented

“Drownings are entirely preventable with the right combination of pool safety devices, adequate swimming skills, and responsible parenting in the form of vigilant adult supervision around pools. In most developed countries, pool safety has long been a legislative issue where the pool industry works together with homeowners to ensure that safety measures are present on pools they install. Until now, South Africa has lagged behind and, if a pool has in fact been secured, it is down to being a responsible pool owner, not because of a formal directive. France is a particularly good example of how pool safety legislation and education can be rolled out effectively,” says Idas.

There are different ways to secure a pool but long considered the best layer of safety is the PowerPlastics Solid Safety Cover, a solid PVC cover that conforms to international safety standards with its weight tolerance of 175kg. Whereas other devices such as nets and fences still leave the pool water exposed, the PowerPlastics Pool Covers Solid Safety Cover restricts all access and provides an impenetrable barrier over the water, with drainage holes to avoid rain or sprinkler water forming a small pool on top of the cover – something that poses a drowning risk. This cover is simple and quick to use as it is. Furthermore, because the water is entirely covered, savings can be made on water, power, and chemicals, making this an eco-friendly solution too.

Investing in pool safety equipment is a must

Local pool builder Horizon Pools admits that when selling a pool, many pool builders tend not to place pool safety high on the agenda. “Pool builders, in general, tend only to talk about pool safety when asked by the client – it is not something that is typically brought to their attention at the point of sale,” says John Jager of Horizon Pools. “I also notice that pool safety is often a ‘semi grudge’ buy. Customers see pool safety as;

  • An added cost
  • Something that detracts from the visual appeal of the pool area and
  • A hassle to put on and off.

No one is actually thinking that they would rather take a risk and have someone drown, but the seriousness of pool safety during the sales pitch is overpowered by the excitement of getting the pool built. I hope that through consistent education, pool builders too will take a more proactive stance on pool safety,” says Jager. PowerPlastics Pool Covers highlights the massive discrepancies when it comes to safety 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. Parents need to wake up to the fact that open pools are equally hazardous. It’s much like letting your toddler play near a bonfire! I’d also like to see mandatory health warnings on every pool product, much like those found on cigarettes,” says Idas.

Lower child mortality rates

When by-laws for pool safety regulations were first tabled some years back, the public outcry highlighted the need for a public platform from which to comment on pool safety and better understand the issue. As a safety advocate and industry thought leader, PowerPlastics Pool Covers launched, the home of pool safety, a non-commercial educational blog that aims to lower child mortality rates in domestic pools through education and domestic water safety awareness.

The blog, offers tips, medical advice, and industry insight. It also explores some common myths around drowning and how it is often misrepresented in media.

“Many tragedies occur because those nearby think they know what a drowning in progress looks like – shouts for help, thrashing in the water, waving for help, etc. In reality, drowning is quick and silent. The child shows no sign of violent struggle and remains upright in the water, often looking like they are just treading water or doing doggie paddle,” says ldas.

“Another myth is that only unsupervised children will drown, whereas most drownings occur within 25 metres of an adult. A few swimming lessons won’t make a child drown-proof either.”

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