Pool Supervision Essentials

 Everybody needs to remember not to be complacent about SUPERVISION as the primary layer of protection in the prevention of drowning. Vigilance is required, no matter how confident a young swimmer may be. Home pools are becoming more common every day. It is estimated now that more than 1 in 5 Australian homes have a swimming pool and, with QLD’s perfect weather, the water is the place to be!

But beware: this great Aussie Icon can be dangerous!

The RLSSA National Drowning Report for 2009 showed an alarming 302  deaths caused by drowning.
This is the highest figure in 6 years, and a wakeup call to parents especially when we consider that 32 deaths were in the under 5 years age group and, of these, over 60% were in backyard swimming pools. Combine this with the recent tragic drowning of 2 children at public pools, and we need to realise that supervision CAN, and DOES FAIL.

When Hampton Swim School conducted a Mother’s Morning Tea, at which a segment interviewing a parent of a young child who had drowned was aired, there was not a dry eye in the room, and the grief and guilt of the parent was felt by everyone in attendance.

It is obvious that parents need to be reminded not to be complacent about SUPERVISION as the primary layer of protection in the prevention of drowning. Vigilance is required, no matter how confident a young swimmer may be.  Children are not only drowning in unfamiliar pools, they are drowning in backyard pools that are familiar to them (i.e. family/relatives/neighbours/public pools).

To make things worse, incidents have occurred when 1 or both parents were responsible for supervision.

In these tragic situations, we cannot blame the parties involved. After all, they are only human. They are only examples of what happens when supervision fails.

So what constitutes supervision and what is the best way to ensure everybody enjoys swimming? Supervision has several components, including:

  • 100% undivided attention; supervision is not an activity that can be done whilst doing something else! i.e. chores or socialising;
  • Being prepared to get wet! The 0-5 year age bracket requires you to keep watch at a close distance (i.e. within arm’s length). So get in with them! This enables parents to spend quality time with their kids, splashing about and having FUN;
  • Ignoring distractions; never allow phones, doorbells, socialising or other siblings/children to let your attention waiver;
  • Never leaving a child/sibling in charge of supervising; Drowning also occurs where siblings are left in charge. Children are not suitable replacements for Adults – they are easily distracted and do not have the appropriate skills to deal with the situation;
  • When at BBQ’s & social events; delegate a Supervisor role to several available adults. Ensure they are aware of their duties and responsibilities and communicate effectively (i.e. if they are unable to continue or need to break). Perhaps they can be recognised by a bright hat or t-shirt? This reinforces the job of the supervisor; and
  • Remember… of the 60% of backyard pool drownings, 85% were a result of children falling in while playing around the pool area. This means that supervision extends not only to periods of swimming, but also to when children are out of the water too.

There is no compromise for diligent supervision. However, when supervision fails, it is our responsibility to provide our children with every available opportunity to call upon another layer of protection to assist them in the event that we are not there to help. These other layers include sufficient barriers/pool enclosures, teaching children how to swim and water safety skills, and learning CPR.

In the meantime, never underestimate the importance of supervision. After all, being in and around water and participating in all forms of aquatic activities is our Aussie culture, and something that the whole family should be able to enjoy!

© 2017 Julia Ham/Hampton Swim School Pty Ltd Julia Ham is a former Australian swimming representative. She operates Hampton Swim School, Morningside which specializes in aquatic classes for children from 3 months of age to adults. Contact 3399 2004 or www.hamptonswimschool.com.au