Water Safety: Keeping children safe around water

Boy in pool
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Brisbanites are incredibly lucky to live so close to fabulous beaches, secluded water holes, and many fun community pools and lagoons, so water safety is a must. As the weather warms up, splashing around with family and friends is a great way to cool off, have fun, and exercise.

Children are naturally drawn to water; it sparkles in sunlight, it tickles toes at the beach, it moves and dances and feels cool on the skin. Water is an adventure, but children are not always aware that water can also be dangerous. Here are some water safety tips to help your child stay safe around water.

Competent adult supervision

Competent adult supervision is required whenever children are near water. A toddler can drown in as little as 5cm of water, and even kids who know how to swim can be at risk of drowning.

Competent adult supervision means:

  • An adult within arms’ reach of young children and weak swimmers at all times in the water
  • A nominated adult supervising, who passes the responsibility to someone else when taking a break
  • An adult not under the influence of drink or drugs

It is best if the supervising adult can swim confidently, too, especially if children are playing in water deeper than they can stand in, or where waves and currents are present.

Water safety at home

To minimise the risk of water-related accidents at home:

  • Never leave your child unattended in the bath, even for a short while to answer the phone or door. Don’t leave small children under the supervision of bigger children
  • Empty the bath immediately after use
  • Use a nappy bucket with a tight-fitting lid
  • Keep toilet doors closed (consider reversing the handle to push up to open)
  • Cover ponds, bird baths and other outside water containers with mesh
  • Keep pet water bowls and fish tanks out of reach
  • Don’t leave floating toys in the pool – your child might be tempted to try to reach them
  • Empty wading pools immediately after use
  • Consider taking a First Aid course in resuscitation

Creating barriers

If you have a pool or dam on your property, it is important to follow safety guidelines and procedures to prevent children gaining unsupervised access to the water. Swimming pools and outdoor spas (hot tubs) in QLD must be fenced according to government guidelines. You can find the guidelines here on the QBCC website.

Dams on rural properties or in public parks do not require fencing under current laws, and neither do storm water or natural water channels. Be alert to any possible dangers when taking children into these areas.

Beach awareness

children at the beach

Surf Lifesavers are trained to spot the safest places to swim at the beach, and that’s where they place their flags. Always swim between the flags so that lifesavers can spot if you or your child are in difficulty.

There is information readily available on the Surf Lifesaving website to help you learn how to spot rips and other water dangers. Children aged 5-13 years can also join the Nippers, which is amazing for growing a child’s confidence and knowledge in a beach environment. Find out more ab out Surf Life Saving here.

Swimming lessons

Outdoor swimming lesson

Swimming lessons are an important part of water safety. Learning to swim is essential for gaining water confidence and maximising safety and enjoyment. Children can begin learning water confidence from a few months old, as well as survival tactics such as rolling onto their backs and floating.

Swimming lessons focus on water enjoyment in the early years, with formal swimming lessons beginning around 4 years old.

The best way to help your child to stay safe in water is to join them in the pool, or when swimming in water holes and at the beach. It’s great exercise and a fun way to interact with your child. If you feel your own swimming skills are in need of a refresher – or if you never learned to swim – you will find most swimming schools offer lessons specifically tailored to adults and parents.

If you are considering swimming lessons for yourself or your child, find a pool near you here.

*This editorial appeared in our print issue 41, August/September 2020

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