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Retrospective Pool Barrier Laws Not Enough to Reduce Home Pool and Spa Drowning Rates

Kidsafe Victoria has stressed the need for a mandatory pool and spa register and a mandatory pool and spa barrier inspection system in Victoria, in order for government reforms to have a significant impact on reducing rates of fatal and non-fatal child drowning.

The call is in response to the Victorian Government’s recently released Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) as part of the Building Regulations Sunset Review. The RIS outlines proposed changes to the states swimming pool and spa barrier laws, with the main focus being the introduction of uniform laws requiring all home pools and spas in Victoria to have four sided isolation barriers, irrespective of when they were installed.

While Kidsafe Victoria is supportive of the proposed changes outlined in the RIS, Jason Chambers, General Manager of Kidsafe Victoria, said that on their own, these changes won’t be effective in reducing the number of fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents in home pools and spas.

“Evidence suggests that a large number of child drowning deaths in home pools are as a result of barriers that are faulty or non-compliant with Australian Standards. The introduction of legislation requiring all pools and spas to have four sided isolation barriers on its own will not effectively address this situation – four sided barriers can and will experience faults and non-compliance due to wear and tear over time”, said Mr Chambers.

Kidsafe Victoria, together with a number of other industry stakeholders, believe it is vital that other measures, including a mandatory pool and spa register and mandatory pool and spa barrier inspection system, are also introduced to effectively reduce the rate of childhood drowning in home pools and spas.

“A mandatory pool and spa register is an important first step as part of any education or compliance program as it will provide details on how many pools and spas there are in Victoria and where these are located – information we don’t currently have”, said Mr Chambers.

“Mandatory barrier inspection programs have been shown to be effective – the introduction of mandatory inspections in Western Australia in 1992 has seen an 80% reduction in the rate of toddler drownings.”

Measures Kidsafe Victoria believes are vital to include in the update to the states pool and spa barriers laws:

  • The establishment of a mandatory pool and spa register
  • Mandatory inspections of all home pool and spa barriers once every 3 years. This will require the introduction of a Swimming Pool and Spa Safety Inspectors course to reduce the reliance of undertaking inspections which is currently limited to registered building surveyors and building inspectors
  • A mandatory certificate of compliance for home pools and spas prior to sale or lease of a property

Parents Urged to Maximise Child Restraint Protection

Research reveals 28% of respondents reported that they rarely or never checked that the ISOFIX attachments on their restraint were clicked in and that the straps were tight enough.

Kidsafe Victoria has urged parents to maximise the protection of children at the release of their new research report, by ensuring that child restraints are correctly fitted, regularly checked and maintained.

The research, funded by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) Community Road Safety Grants program, investigated attitudes towards and the use of ISOFIX compatible child restraints, a system which was first introduced in Australia as part of the 2013 Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1754:2013).

General Manager of Kidsafe Victoria, Jason Chambers, said that the research identified a number of important misuse and incorrect fitting issue with ISOFIX compatible child restraints.

While the large majority of parents reported that they found ISOFIX compatible restraints easy to use and install, 72% of professional child restraint fitters involved in the research reported that they had come across incorrect fitting and misuse issues with ISOFIX compatible child restraints.

Mr Chambers highlighted the importance of correctly fitting and using child restraints on every trip, saying that the incorrect use of child restraints triples the risk of injury in a crash.

“The correct fitting and use of child restraints can determine the difference between minor and serious injuries that could impact a child for life.  In some cases, the failure to correctly fit and use child restraints can mean the difference between life and death”, said Mr Chambers.              

While checking and maintaining the fit of child restraints is vital in ensuring children are travelling as safely as possible, Kidsafe Victoria’s research showed that this aspect can often be overlooked.

“One of the most concerning results was that 28% of respondents reported that they rarely or never checked that the ISOFIX attachments on their restraint were clicked in and that the straps were tight enough”, said Mr Chambers.

“This issue is not unique to ISOFIX compatible child restraints, with a lack of attention to checking and maintaining the fit also commonly occurring with traditional child restraints.”

“Kidsafe Victoria’s message is the same – irrespective of whether or not you choose to use an ISOFIX compatible or traditional child restraint, it is important that on every trip, the restraint children are travelling in meets the Australian Standards, is the right size for them, correctly fitted to the vehicle and properly adjusted and fastened”, said Mr Chambers. 

Key incorrect installation or misuse issues identified with ISOFIX compatible child restraints in the research included:

  • Restraints that had been installed using both the ISOFIX connections and seatbelt
  • Lower straps that have not been tightened enough
  • ISOFIX connections not attached to the anchor point properly
  • ISOFIX compatible child restraints where the top tether strap had not been connected (installed using the ISOFIX connections only)

child restraint

Button Batteries Can Be Deadly For Children If Swallowed

In Australia an estimated 20 children per week present to an emergency department with an injury related to a button battery.

Kidsafe Victoria has today issued a red alert about the dangers of button batteries, warning parents and carers that they can cause severe life-threatening injuries if swallowed by children.

Jason Chambers, Kidsafe Victoria General Manager speaks about the dangers of button batteries on YouTube.
The slice of ham shows the button battery burning the ham.

Jason Chambers, Kidsafe Victoria General Manager, said an estimated 20 children per week present to an emergency department with an injury related to a button battery.  Children under five years of age are at greatest risk.

“If swallowed, these coin sized batteries can get stuck in a child’s throat – the chemical reaction between saliva and the battery causes an electrical current which can burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours, causing severe and life threatening injuries”, said Mr. Chambers.

Button batteries are found in many common household items including remote controls, calculators, bathroom scales, car keys, toys, watches, talking books/cards and flameless candles.

Mr. Chambers said that button batteries are often ‘invisible’ to adults, as many of these devices come with the batteries already installed.

Button battery safety tips

  • Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure.
  • Keep coin-sized button batteries locked away out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Dispose of old button batteries immediately.
  • If you suspect a child may have swallowed a button battery, go to the hospital emergency department immediately.
  • Tell others about this threat and share these steps.

 Parents and carers can access more information about how to reduce the risk posed by button batteries via www.kidsafevic.com.au/home-safety/button-batteries

Media Enquiries:

Jason Chambers, General Manager, Kidsafe Victoria – Mobile:  0431 447 982
Ron Smith, Corporate Media Communications, Kidsafe Victoria – Mobile:  0417 329 201

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