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Pool and Spa Owners Urged to Take Action to Reduce Toddler Drowning Deaths

Olympian Matt Welsh OAM, today joined Kidsafe Australia to help save lives over summer at the launch of Kidsafe’s ‘Safe Barriers Save Lives’ Pool Party Campaign.

This national, save-the-date campaign calls on all pool and spa owners to sign up to Kidsafe’s pool party event on Facebook and pledge to check the safety of their pool or spa barrier when they change their clocks at the beginning of daylight saving on Sunday October 1.

Figures released last week in the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia’s (RLSSA) National Drowning Report show that in 2016/17, toddler drowning incidents increased by 32%. During this period, 29 Australian children aged 0-4 years drowned. The majority of these drowning incidents (45%) occurred in backyard swimming pools.

While safety barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of drowning incidents, evidence suggests that a large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty, or non-compliant with Australian standards.

“Common faults or non-compliance issues include gates and doors that are no longer self-closing or latching, gates that are propped open and climbable objects near the barrier” said Kidsafe Ambassador Mr Welsh.

SPASA Victoria’s CEO Brendan Watkins reiterated the importance of pool and spa owners conducting an annual check to ensure that their barriers were in proper working order. “Pool and spa barriers tend to wear and tear over time. Rust and damage can prevent gates from self-locking, or ground movement can cause gaps underneath the fence” said Mr Watkins.

With four young children, Matt Welsh understands the risk that swimming pools can pose to kids – as a decorated Australian swimming champion, he also knows the benefits that learning to swim and growing up around water can provide for children.

“There is no better use of 15 minutes of your time than checking the safety of your pool barrier in preparation for the warm summer months ahead. By doing so, you could save a life”, said Mr Welsh.

While pool and spa barriers play an important role in reducing the risk of childhood drowning, Kidsafe is reminding the public that nothing can replace active adult supervision of children in and around water.

“Children drown quickly and silently. Together with a compliant pool barrier, it is important that children are always actively supervised by an adult when in and around water to help keep them safe. For toddlers, this means an adult being within arm’s reach at all times” said Mr Welsh.

“This October 1st, take 15 minutes to check the safety of your pool barrier – because Safe Barriers Save Lives.”

For further information on the campaign and to access resources including Life Saving Victoria’s (LSV) home pool safety checklist, please visit kidsafevic.com.au


Key messages:

  • Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children under 5 in Australia, with backyard pools being the most common location for drowning incidents to occur
  • 20 seconds is all it takes for a toddler to drown
  • Simply having a pool/spa barrier in place isn’t enough on its own to keep children safe. A large number of swimming pool drowning incidents are a result of faulty or non-compliant pool/spa barriers
  • Regular maintenance is necessary. It takes approximately 15 minutes to check your barrier thoroughly using LSV’s home pool safety checklist
  • Active adult supervision is the key to keeping children safe around water
  • Need help: Visit com.au

Common issues with pool barriers include:


  • Gates and doors that don’t self-latch or self-close
  • Climbable objects near the barrier e.g. pot plants, chairs, pool pumps near the pool barrier which could allow a child to climb over the fence
  • Excess space under the fence, and;
  • Misuse (e.g. propping the pool gate open)


Action: All you need to complete the audit is a copy of LSV’s home pool safety checklist and a tape measure.

Almost 500 Victorian Children Treated in Hospital Annually for Farm Injuries

Kidsafe Victoria has launched its 'Staying Safe on the Farm' creative competition aimed at preventing the number of serious injuries on farms, which are responsible for ten children a week being treated in hospital.

The competition is supported by WorkSafe Victoria.

Farm safety creative competition website banner

Kidsafe Victoria General Manager, Jason Chambers said statistics from the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit show that in 2015/16, 491 Victorian children aged 0-14 years were treated in hospital for an injury that occurred on a farm.

"Common injury hazards for children on farms include machinery, vehicles (e.g. tractors and motorbikes), animals, water hazards (e.g. dams, rivers, creeks and animal drinking troughs) and poisons (e.g. pesticides)", said Mr Chambers.

"Farms typically combine the family home and an industrial workplace, which means children are exposed to a wide range of hazards that aren't present in urban home environment."

Mr Chambers said that being aware of potential injury hazards and measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk is not only vital for families that live on farms, but also those who are visiting a farm.

Primary school children throughout the State will be asked to turn their creative minds to developing videos, illustrated stories, posters or infographics as part of the statewide community awareness campaign.    

A range of prizes will be awarded to the winners of the competition, with the winning entries also being utilised as part of a statewide farm safety social media awareness campaign.

WorkSafe Executive Director, Health and Safety Marnie Williams said farmers needed to reinforce that safety was a number one priority for people working, living and visiting farms.

"Eight out of a total 15 workplace fatalities in Victoria this year have occurred on farms. Farmers need make sure they manage the risks and set boundaries to protect everyone from harm."

For more information on the competition, including how to enter, please visit https://www.kidsafevic.com.au/home-safety/farm-safety-creative-competition.


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

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