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Pool, spa and hot tub safety for children

Above ground pools and hot tubs can be a popular feature in many gardens during the summer. While these are designed for fun and relaxation, strict safely rules are needed to keep children safe near water.

'House rules’ are needed to cover supervision, behaviour, dangers, maintenance, use of electrical appliances, and handling of chemicals.

A child can drown in a relatively shallow amount of water.

The homeowner has the responsibility for safety while entertaining. Use good judgement to help protect yourself, your family and your guests.

Here are some simple precautions to ensure everyone’s safety.

Pool safety for children

  • Always supervise children. Never leave a child out of eye contact - not even for a second. Never assume a child is water-safe, regardless of swimming lessons or experience
  • Talk to children about dangers. Make sure children get swimming and water safety lessons. Never allow a child to play in a way that would permit hair to come near a drain cover. They should not stick fingers, toes or any other body parts into drains. They should not play the "hold your breath underwater" game
  • Require good behaviour from children. This means:
    • No playful screaming for help (false alarms) that might mask a real emergency
    • No running or pushing near the pool
    • No toys like tricycles near the pool - they can lead to accidental falls into water
  • Establish rules on diving. That means:
    • Do not allow any diving if your pool is less than 5 feet (150cm) deep
    • Teach children to dive with their hands in front of their faces
    • Teach them to swim immediately toward the surface after diving
  • Respect storms. Never swim before, during or after a thunderstorm
  • Limit alcohol. No under-age drinking is allowed. Adults should limit drinking near the pool. Just two or three drinks can affect a person's judgement, even though they may not feel or appear to be drunk. Even a small amount of alcohol can slow reflexes - especially if you are tired or taking medication

Pool maintenance and child safety

  • Keep the pool child-safe. That means:
    • Fences or walls at least 4 feet (120cm) high completely around the pool
    • Gates that are self-closing and self-latching, with latches out of reach of children
    • Installing alarms on doors leading to the pool area, or alarms on the pool
    • Using pool covers appropriately when a pool is not in use. However, RoSPA stresses swimming pool covers are not safety devices - they are designed to help keep pools clean. It says soft pool covers can be a hazard if a person slips underneath them.
    • Making sure drains are covered to prevent hair from being sucked into the drain, which could lead to a person's head being held under water
  • Keep rescue equipment close by. This should include: a sturdy, lightweight pole at least 10-12 feet (3 metres) long; a ring buoy with line; and a portable or mobile telephone. Steps and ladders for above ground pools should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use
  • Get inspected. Have your pool inspected for electrical hazards, and upgrade all systems according to national safety standards. Also, any diving board, rock, platform, or slide should be inspected before they are used
  • Respect electricity. Use battery-operated appliances instead of cord-connected appliances in and around the pool
  • Prepare for emergency. Know where all electrical switches and circuit breakers for pool equipment and lights are located and how to turn them off in an emergency. Learn how to perform CPR. Keep a First Aid kit close by

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