2Water safety

Drowning is the third-leading cause of accidental death in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Babies and toddlers are top-heavy, which makes them susceptible to drowning.If babies fall into even shallow water, they cannot always lift themselves out. Drowning can occur quickly and quietly, without any warning noises.

Swimming is a part of life in many cultures and swim lessons are strongly encouraged for young children. Many schools even incorporate swimming lessons as part of their yearly curriculum.

Whether at a pool, beach, lake, river, or bathtub, precautions against drowning must be taken.

Children, especially those under the age of five can drown in: swimming pools, baths, rivers, creeks and oceans, dams or lakes.

How long does it take for a child to drown in a swimming pool?


Video courtesy of Water Safety Victoria



Children also drown in less obvious locations, such as nappy buckets, water tanks, water features and fish ponds – even pets’ water bowls.

For every drowning, approximately three other children are hospitalised from a near-drowning incident, some of which result in severe brain damage.


So what does drowning look like?



Video courtesy of The Royal Life Saving Society of Australia


How to supervise around water

Friends Swimming Underwater in Backyard Pool

  • Supervision means constant visual contact, not the occasional glance.
  • Even in a supervised public pool, never take your eyes off children swimming and if they are under 5 you must be within arms reach.
  • If you leave the pool or water area, even for a moment, take the children with you. A swimming pool fence is not a substitute for supervision.
  • Be confident in your knowledge of resuscitation and encourage the parents to have a chart near the pool
  • Become familiar with the level of swimming confidence of the kids you are looking after
  • Empty paddling pools when they are not in use.
  • Empty baths, basins, sinks, buckets and troughs, immediately after use.


Active supervision at public pools consists of four key elements:

Be prepared: Ensure you have everything you need before getting into the water, such as towels and dry clothes.

Be close: Always be within arms’ reach of the child.

All of your attention: Focus all of your attention on your child and get into the pool and talk and play with them.

All of the time: You should never leave your child alone in the water, nor should they be left in the care of an older child.   Do not assume that the presence of lifeguards means that accidents can’t happen.

Pool safety

Young Girl Swimming with Water Wings ca. 2002

If you are responsible for looking after children at a swimming pool, you must be extremely alert and aware of the location and swimming ability of each child.

It is not recommended to look after more than one young child at a pool at a time – especially at a crowded, public pool.

Flotation aids like swim vests, foam “noodles,” floating rings, and “floatie wings” are not a substitute for supervision. You cannot leave a child alone in a flotation device.

Older children who can swim also still need supervision.

Do not allow children to dive head first into a pool unless you are sure of the depth of the pool and the ability of the child to dive and swim.

Do not allow children to run or play rough games near or in the water.

The beach

Almost nothing is as fun as a warm day on the beach. However, strong riptides and undercurrents cause accidental drownings each year.

The safest way to enjoy the beach is to swim at a patrolled beach with lifeguards on duty.

  • Swim between the Flags! Lifeguards will post flags indicating safe areas in which to swim.
  • Look for beaches with shallow water and low tides for safer swimming.
  • Be aware of low and high tides changing.
  • Be aware of warnings for the presence of sharks, bluebottles, or other dangers in or out of the water.


So basically, whether at the beach, pool or just splashing at home, great care must be taken when children are near a body of water.MP900227615

  • Always stay within arms’ reach of younger children or those who aren’t strong swimmers.
  • Don’t allow your eyes to wander – be aware of the children you are responsible for at all times.
  • Empty splash pools, buckets and bathtubs immediately after use.
  • Be sure pools are gated and off limits when children are unsupervised.
  • Only swim at guarded, suitable beaches; avoid riptides, deep water and large waves.
  • Be aware of flood waters in certain conditions.