Parents urged to Watch Around Water these school holidays

11 December 2018

Royal Life Saving WA is urging parents and carers to closely supervise children while visiting public aquatic centres across WA this summer. Research shows that there were 293 drowning incidents recorded at public swimming pools over the past ten years in Australia, with 60% of these involving young children under the age of ten years. With the school holidays just around the corner, more families will be spending time around their local pool and other waterways and it’s important that parents don’t become complacent about their supervision responsibilities.

Sean L'Estrange - Member for Churchlands, LIWA President Jeff Fondacaro and Royal Life Saving's Lauren Nimmo looking at a Watch Around Water sign by the pool at Bold Park Aquatic CentreWestern Australians are very comfortable around the water and have access to some of the best public swimming pool facilities in Australia, and while our public swimming pools are one of the safest places for families with young children to go for a swim, there can be a tendency for parents to become complacent about supervision because lifeguards are on duty.

Lauren Nimmo says, “even though lifeguards are on duty at public pools, parents still have a crucial role to play in the supervision of children when visiting these facilities. Lifeguards certainly play an important safety role; however, last year there were 11.4 million visitations to public pools around WA and lifeguards can’t have eyes everywhere. It’s not about shifting responsibility, it’s about having both parents and lifeguards working together to keep children safe – Parents supervise, lifeguards save lives.”

In more than two thirds of drowning cases involving children, supervision was absent for 5-10 minutes, with many people saying it was only absent for a few minutes - yet a child can drown in less than 20 seconds. Lauren Nimmo says, “drowning happens quickly and silently often in the short time when supervision is absent as a result of parents being distracted. Supervision needs to be active and uninterrupted - you can’t be sitting on your phone or talking with other parents. There are many additional distractions at public pools that don’t exist at other waterways – large crowds and busy pools increase the likelihood that a parent may become distracted and lose sight of their child which can have tragic consequences.”A group of aquatic centre staff and managers with LIWA and Royal Life Saving representatives by the pool at Bold Park

The Watch Around Water program was introduced in 2004 by the Leisure Institute of WA and Royal Life Saving WA. Since then, there have been no drowning deaths involving young children at public swimming pools in Western Australia. Lauren Nimmo says “while this is a pleasing statistic, the reality is that the risk remains high. Not only did we see a spike in toddler drowning last year with five deaths in WA, each year around 120 children are either admitted to hospital or present to the emergency department following a non-fatal drowning and a further 1,500 are injured while visiting a public swimming pool.”

The Bold Park Aquatic Centre has been involved with Watch Around Water since its inception. Sean L’Estrange, Member for Churchlands and Royal Life Saving WA Vice Patron and Swim and Survive Ambassador, encourages the community to visit their local pool and reminds them of the importance of being safe around the water. “We must remain vigilant about water safety and keep a close watch when kids are near the water. We live in a beautiful part of the world and experience a wonderful climate, which can be enjoyed at our beaches, rivers, lakes and local pools. This is why it is so important to teach kids how to swim and to supervise them around water. I commend LIWA Aquatics, Royal Life Saving WA and the Bold Park Aquatic Centre for doing fantastic work in promoting vital water safety messages with their Watch Around Water program.”

Remember, if you are visiting any public aquatic centre this summer to follow these supervision policies:

  • Children under five years must be accompanied into the centre by a responsible adult and supervised within arm’s reach at all times
  • Children under ten years must be accompanied into the centre by a responsible adult and supervised within line of sight at all times
  • Unsupervised children may be removed from the water if lifeguards are concerned for their safety

The Watch Around Water program is supported by the WA Aquatics Industry and IXOM.

For more tips on staying safe at public pools visit the link below.

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