Water Safety

Water Safety for Children

6 September 2023
Posted by: Chelsea

Water Safety: When one thinks of the dangers of water for children, it’s very easy to automatically think of rivers, lakes, ponds and of course, the sea. However, water can be dangerous even in the home and water safety for children needs to start there. It’s a terrifying fact that death by drowning is the top cause of death for children under 5 in Australia.

Water Safety at the home

Children can and do drown around the home. There are some obvious dangers:

  • swimming and paddling pools;
  • water troughs for animals;
  • baths;
  • old sink units (or anything else) where water can accumulate during heavy rainfalls;
  • water tanks.

By law (in most states and territories) swimming pools must be fenced off. In addition, anything containing significant amounts of water should be protected or regularly drained. Children can drown in just a few centimetres of water and even if they’re slightly older and stronger, a fall into the water might knock them out etc.

Baths are a special category because they’re designed to be filled with water and it’s not always practical to try and shower very young children. There is no obvious answer to this other than to ensure that a young child is never left alone in a bathroom with a full or filling bath – even if the child is not in the bath at the time. The duty of care here should always reside with an adult and never another child.

Similarly, never allow a younger child to play alone in a swimming or paddling pool, even if they can swim.

Water Safety Outside the home

The big dangers here are natural waters. There are many potential dangers and scenarios but they can all be summarised under a few basic tips:

  • never let your child swim or play in ponds, lakes, rivers or the sea, unless they are under full-time adult supervision and preferably, closely accompanied;
  • A child cannot be protected by such safe supervision unless they are fully visible and constantly watched. That cannot happen if the responsible adult is trying to read, scan their phone, text or doze at the same time. Equally, children must not be allowed to swim or move out of sight in the course of their play;
  • be certain that you or the responsible adult can swim well enough (and are sufficiently healthy/fit) to ensure that the child could be quickly rescued if they got into difficulties;
  • obey local safety notices;
  • be exceptionally cautious about toys in water, such as inflatables and dinghies etc. They can be highly dangerous for younger children. An adult must also be directly involved in using them;
  • in general terms, recognising that sometimes a balance needs to be struck, it’s best if an adult is always closely alongside a younger child in this type of water;
  • Where appropriate, anti-drowning safety equipment must be worn. The exact form may vary a little depending on location and environment, so take expert advice in advance.

Accidents will happen

Inevitably, despite all best-practice steps, accidents will sometimes happen. It’s therefore critically important that whether speaking of the home or outside, parents and care providers have good emergency resuscitation training and understand how to deal with potential drownings.

Such water safety training is usually quick and easy to undertake and it might often be free. Having those skills might one day save a life, including that of a younger child.

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