Every country has varying rules and regulations relating to pool safety but we at <span class=”notranslate”>Worldwide Kids</span> believe that, in many cases, these do not go far enough to minimise risk.
Firstly, a few thought-provoking stats and facts:
- #1 cause of death for children between ages 1 and 4 years old is drowning.
- 1:4 – For every child who drowns it is estimated that another 4 have been hospitalised due to near drowning.
- 20% of those suffer severe permanent neurological disability.
- 20 – 60 seconds – the time it takes to drown (before submersion). Drowning can occur in any depth of water resulting in the mouth and nose being covered.
- 87 seconds – the time a drowning person can hold their breathe – before they are overcome by the instinct to take a breathe.
- 90% of drowning occurs in freshwater (rather than salt water). The reason being that freshwater is more similar in composition to our own blood than salt water. When inhaled into the lungs, osmosis causes our blood to dilute, and cells burst resulting in organ failure. With fresh water this process takes just 2-3 minutes. With salt water it takes around 8 minutes.
- Most spinal injuries result from diving into shallow water.
- When someone is on the cusp of drowning, they do not shout and flail for help. The Instinctive Drowning Response is a state whereby a person is no longer able to move, they bob in the water with their head back and mouth level with the water. Their eyes glass over or close. Their arms and legs are still held against their body. They cannot shout or reach for rescue equipment.
The dangers of pools are crystal clear. Here are just a few examples of poor swimming pool safety that I see regularly in well known internationally branded luxury hotels and resorts around the world:
- No depth markings around the pool – so guests are unaware of the depth prior to jumping in.
- No lifeguard at the poolside. In some countries it is sufficient to have a qualified lifeguard, but there is no regulation stating that they must be at the poolside. A qualified lifeguard working at reception is not quite what regulators had in mind!
- A lifeguard who also doubles as a sun bed and towel attendant, or pool bar waiter. In these instances there is very little chance of them spotting a drowning person. Lifeguards should be well trained and be concentrating 100% on surveying the pool area with regular breaks to ensure that they remain attentive. Lifeguards should be rotated at least every 30 minutes, and have a break of at least 10 minutes every hour.
- Insufficient lifeguards for the size, orientation or number of swimmers in the pool. Several countries have regulations stating that there should be 1 lifeguard for every 300 bathers, or up to 500m2 in other regions. In our opinion this is woefully inadequate. It also does not account for swimmers’ abilities or the shape of a pool. There should be additional lifeguards if a pool has many poor or non swimmers, or if a pool’s shape results in hidden areas, or if the pool is particularly big meaning a lifeguard cannot reach a drowning bather in adequate time. As a basic rule in a typical rectangular pool we believe that there should be one lifeguard for the initial 50 bathers and a additional lifeguard for every additional 25 bathers.
- Lifeguards with no training or unable to swim.
- Lifeguards on their mobile telephones.
- Lagoon pools – a gradually sloping lagoon pool may be easy to enter but it is also very easy for children to take one step too far and then be out of their depth.
- Water slides – poorly controlled, overcrowded and the pool not being deep enough at the drop in.
- Complicated shaped pools – meaning lots of hidden areas that cannot be easily monitored by lifeguards.
- Pools with a gradual slope from shallow to deep – easy for guests, particularly children, to walk in just that one step too far. Any variations in depth should be clearly marked and obvious to bathers.
- Pools with dark coloured bottoms meaning that bathers cannot clearly see the bottom of the pool.
- Shallow kids pools next to deep adult pools with no barrier to prevent a child from jumping from one to the other.
- Poorly maintained pools with broken tiles causing cut injuries, or cracked filter covers causing trip hazards or injury.
- Pools with poor water circulation and filtration.
- No obvious lifesaving devices or first aid equipment near the pool.
- Inflatables in the pool that obscure a lifeguard’s view.
- Inflatables left in a pool after closing – very tempting to a passing child.
- Family rooms, suites or villas with private pools that have no means of fencing to prevent access.
- Loose wiring and poor electrical work around the pool.
- Flat pool drain covers can cause potential suction that can hold a child under the water causing drowning. These should be replaced with large rounded covers that prevent total coverage.
- Pool chemicals left around the pool and pool pump house unlocked or left open.
- Pools with bridges or platforms where a bather can become trapped underneath or with sharp corners, bolts, screws, etc.
- Pool surroundings with abrasive wall surfacing that can graze skin.
How do your pools measure up in terms of safety?
Some excellent risk minimising options:
- A splash pad – with no standing water.
- Pool for children at a flat 40cm depth with shade.
- Pool for adults that is a flat 1 metre depth.
- Water slides that run into a flat catch unit and the user just stands up at the end.
Richard Liddle, Managing Director, <span class=”notranslate”>Worldwide Kids</span>