September 28, 2015
Olympic Champion Closes the Gate on Backyard Pool Drowning

Pool Owners Urged to take Action to Reduce Drowning Deaths

Matt Welsh, one of Australia’s decorated swimming champions and a father of three young children, has urged the owners of over 1.2 million backyard swimming pools in Australia to ‘Close the Gate on Backyard Pool Drowning’ this summer. 

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Matt Welsh with his children Eve, Lola and Sam at the launch this morning.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for Australian children under 5 years of age. In 2014/15, 26 Australian children aged 0-4 years drowned, an increase of 30% from 2013/14. 

Backyard swimming pools are the most common location where toddler drowning incidents occur. In 2014/15, over half of all toddler drowning incidents in Australia occurred in a backyard pool (14 incidents – 54%). 

The ‘Closing the Gate’ campaign calls on pool owners to check the safety of their pool barriers and gates at the beginning of daylight saving on Sunday 4th October 2015, in the lead up to the warmer months.

Launching Kidsafe’s ‘Closing the Gate’ campaign in Melbourne today, Matt Welsh highlighted the importance of active adult supervision of children and having a compliant pool safety barrier, in helping to keep children safe in and around water.

“Today we are urging all swimming pool owners to take action over the next seven days to check the safety of their pool barriers, gates and surrounding areas and importantly to immediately repair any faults, to help ensure that their pool and spa areas are safe.” 

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

Kidsafe Victoria Vice President, Robert Caulfield, said, “Studies have shown pool fencing, particularly isolation fencing, to be effective in reducing the risk of drowning. However, evidence suggests that a large number of child drowning incidents occur as a result of pool fencing that is faulty or non-compliant with Australian Standards.” 

“All pool and spa barriers will experience exposure to extremes of weather and wear and tear over time including rust, missing bolts or screws and damage. Therefore it is important that they are regularly checked and maintained”, said Mr Caulfield.

Life Saving Online Kidsafe Resources for Pool Owners 
The campaign calls for all pool and spa owners to visit utilise the online resources, including the home pool safety assessment tool developed by Life Saving Victoria, to check the safety of their pool areas. This includes common pool barrier faults/non-compliance issues such as:

  • Gates that don’t self-latch or self-close.
  • Climbable objects in the ‘non climbable’ zone outlined in the Australian Standards (e.g. pot plants, chairs, pool pumps near the pool fencing which could allow a child to climb over the fence).
  • Excess space under the fence, and;
  • Misuse (e.g. propping the pool gate open). The campaign forms part of the Victorian State Government’s ‘Play it Safe by the Water Campaign’ and is supported by the following partners:
  • Kidsafe
  • Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA)
  • Lifesaving Victoria (LSV).
  • Victorian Building Authority (VBA)
  • Ambulance Victoria
  • AIBS
  • Department of Justice and Regulation
  • Aquatics and Recreation Victoria
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria