Pool Safety: Steps to Ensure Your Home Is Not a Hazard
Pool safety is an emotive issue that must be addressed by every single pool owner and parent. Not only must swimming pools be properly fenced or protected so that they are not a potential hazard, but children need to be supervised and everyone should be taught what to do in an emergency.
Legally, it is the pool owner’s responsibility to ensure that the pool is safe and to make certain that people using it do so responsibly. Adult supervision is essential when young children swim – even if they are competent swimmers.
Nobody likes to imagine the possibility of death or injury; but as a pool owner you must be aware that in this eventuality, a civil action could be instituted against you and you may be held liable.
Sensible guidelines for safe swimming pool may be found in various regulations and safety standards, and it is up to you to find out what is relevant in your own country and area in which you live.
Generally it makes sense that the owner of any site should ensure that access is controlled, so that nobody should have access to any kind of swimming pool directly from the street, and adjoining green belt, or any other public space that might lead onto your property. However, international and regional authorities within countries differ in their approach. For instance in some parts it is mandatory for pools to be fenced irrespective of where they are sited; in other parts authorities allow unfenced pools, provided the property is securely enclosed.
Special pool fencing is manufactured to specifications and both national and international standards. An example is that it must be at least 1,2 m high and children should not be able to climb it. It should not have any openings which would allow a ball with a diameter of 100 mm to pass through it and gates must be ‘self-closing and self-locking.’
Irrespective of specifications, common criticism of pool fencing is its unimaginative appearance. Planting alongside it can make it less obtrusive, or you could choose fencing of another type, provided it complies with the specifications. Wooden picket fencing, for instance, must be erected so that the cross-pieces are inside and not outside the pool area where they provide a foothold. In any case, it is a good idea to check with your local authority before deciding on anything other than standard pool fencing. Alternatively you may opt to build a solid wall around the pool area.
Whatever type of walling or fencing you choose, it is important not to become complacent. Check the soil along the fence regularly; if it becomes eroded, small children may soon find they can crawl underneath. Also ensure that items like chairs, boxes, crates or wheelbarrows are never left near a pool area as they can easily be used to climb over fencing or to reach the opening mechanism of the gate.
Nets and Pool Covers
Although it may not be recognized as a formal pool safety option, pool nets are a viable option to fencing, and some pool owners use them in addition to fencing.
The problem is that because they are not permanent, there is no way the authorities can ensure they remain in place at all times the pool is not in use. The responsibility is yours!
Safety nets are usually made of ultra-strong polyethylene braid and are custom-made to fit the shape of any pool. The mesh is small enough to prevent a baby from falling through it and it is not affected by the sun or by pool acid.
Most types are secured with anchors set into paving or tiles, below the surrounding surface area to prevent stubbed toes and other injuries. They are removed prior to swimming and replaced afterwards.
Pool covers – including solar heating and thermal covers – are also available internationally. They are manufactured either to maintain the water temperature or prevent leaves and other debris from falling into the water.
While soft pool covers should not be used instead of safety nets, solid pool covers including those made from sturdy PVC slats will retain heat, keep out debris, and they help to keep the pool safe.
Pool alarms can be useful if you have very young children. Battery- powered, they float on the water and are usually triggered by an object (or child) falling in the water. Some pool alarms have remote receivers which also sound inside the house.
Alarms should be used in addition to nets and fencing and not instead of them.
Always keep a well-equipped first aid kit in a dry, accessible place near to the pool. Some basic lifesaving equipment like a floating ring on a rope, can also be useful.
Additionally, keep a list of emergency telephone numbers handy.
Advise from a non-profit organization that promotes the optimal health and development of children under the age of 18:
- Children should learn to swim as soon as possible.
- Children should be trained in survival skills such as floating and treading water.
- Constant supervision of children is essential.
- Children should never be allowed to swim alone.
- Buoyancy aids (inflatable wings, tubes and so on) are only aids. Do not rely on their protection.
- Children should be encouraged to practice coping in the water with their clothes on – just in case they fall into a swimming pool accidentally with their clothes on.
- Children should never dive or jump into water, particularly when people are in the way.
- Swimming pools MUST be properly fenced and have childproof locks on gates.
- Ensure your neighbour’s pool is also properly fenced – you’ll be doing yourself and them a favor.