Any body of water – from the sea and rivers or lakes to your own backyard swimming pool – can pose a danger to your child. Never assume that if your child falls into a swimming pool that he or she will be able to call for help. It takes just three minutes for a child to drown. The actual size of the body of water doesn’t even have to very deep, just a few centimetres of water can lead to tragedy. Toilets, baths and buckets of water inside your home can also pose a downing risk.
It’s up to parents to ensure that children are protecting in the home by keeping toilet lids shut, baths emptied and buckets stored away. But outside the home with larger bodies of water, it’s important to equip your children with skills to ensure their personal safety.
Who Is At Risk Of Drowning?
Anyone – even strong swimmers – can drown. Water should always be taken very seriously. Babies and toddlers who are mobile, and young children who can’t swim, are at the highest risk, and must be supervised around water at all times.
- Never assume that someone else is watching your child if you are near a body of water. It is your responsibility.
- Don’t ask a group of people to watch your child if you need to step away. Give the responsibility to one specific person that you trust implicitly. If no one is nearby to help, take your child with you.
Remember that children can fall into a pool without making a splash or a sound. Once they are underwater, it’s difficult to see them unless you are very close by.
Water Safety Rules For Parents
- Never let your child play around water without a reliable adult present.
- Set rules at home that nobody may swim alone – even adults. A bump to the head can render a person unconscious and result in drowning.
- If you have ponds or pools at home, they must be covered.
- At parties, ensure that at least one adult sits and watches the children around the pool at all times. Take it in turns if need be and ensure the responsible adult is right next to the pool.
- Empty water from blow-up pools, buckets, baths, or any vessel immediately after use.
- Use pool toys as toys and not floatation devices.
- Armbands are swimming aids to be used with supervision and caution. A life jacket is a life-saving device.
- Use safety latches on toilet seats.
- If you use and wash cloth nappies, ensure that the lid fits securely to the nappy bucket.
- Supervise your child in the bath and empty the water immediately after bath time. If you are saving grey water for later use, lock the bathroom door until the bath is emptied.
- If you have an aquarium, ensure that the top is securely closed and that your toddler cannot climb up or pull down the unit.
- Take a basic first aid course, which includes CPR training.
- Teach your child to swim from an early age.
Good water awareness from a young age can prevent a child developing a fear of water in later years. It’s essential for safely around water and good for gross motor and reflex development.
Reputable swimming schools offer toddler swimming classes for babies from 12-months to 48-months of age. Some schools also offer baby classes from six months of age, where the parent gets into the water with the baby. Always remember that no child (even a capable swimmer) is 100% safe around water.
Learn-to-swim classes teach swimming and water safety to children from the age of four years, and must be presented by a qualified swimming instructor, with a qualification from a reputable institution like Swimming South Africa. Winter is a good time to get your child into swimming classes. Many facilities are indoors and pools are heated, so they won’t get cold. By the time Summer comes around, your little one will be well on the way towards water safety.
When selecting a school and instructor, ask to see qualifications and accreditation where necessary. Some children learn quicker than others. Be patient and encouraging, as learning to swim should be a positive experience for your child.
Pool Fences And Nets
In terms of the National Building Regulations (SANS 1400-D), published by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), home owners are required to prevent public access to a swimming pool by means of a fence. The fence must include a self-closing or self-locking gate and be at least 1.2m high. Gaps should not be greater than 100mm. Safety nets can be used in addition to a fence and must be installed by a professional company and able to take the weight of an adult and child. Owners who fail to comply may be prosecuted for negligence.