Water safety

The QFCC is committed to keeping kids more than safe. As custodians of the Child Death Register QFCC still sees too many drowning-related deaths each year. That's why in summer 2017, we launched the Seconds Count campaign to raise awareness about how you can be your own superhero and help prevent children from drowning. 

We have a range of videos, tips and factsheets about how to keep kids safe around water – from inside the house (baths and buckets) to outside (pools, spas, dams and creeks).

Seconds Count campaign

Swim sensation and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Mitch Larkin (pictured above) joined us to launch the Seconds Count campaign. 

Mitch knows just how important seconds are in the water. That’s why he donned the red cape to spread our important water safety message.

Every second counts when children are in or near the water. Even just a few seconds of inattention can have tragic consequences.

Watch the Seconds Count video for tips and handy hints on how to keep kids more than safe around water.

Facts and figures on water safety

Drowning can be quick and quiet – young children often don’t make a sound after they enter the water. 

Children under 5 years are most at risk. Tragically, in the past 12 years*, 60 children under 5 have drowned in swimming pools in Queensland.

Children in this age group make up 82% of child drownings. Children aged 1 or 2 years are the most vulnerable of all, making up 73% of children under 5 years who drowned. 

There are a number of steps you can take to keep kids safe around water. For more information check out our factsheets on:

Water safety tips (PDF, 210KB)

Child drowning facts and figures (PDF, 456KB)

Preventing the key causes of child death (PDF, 359KB)

*Figures provided are from the Queensland Child Death Register (2004-2016)

How safe is your pool?

Swimming pools can be fun but it’s also important to know the risks they pose for young children.

There are a number of steps you can take to keep kids safe around water. These include:

  1. Providing active supervision
  2. Installing and maintaining a compliant pool fence
  3. Teaching kids water safety awareness
  4. Having an emergency action plan

Watch our video How safe is your pool?

Providing active supervision

What is active supervision?

Active supervision is the key to preventing drowning. Children under 5 must be actively supervised at all times when around water. This means the child is in the direct line of sight of an appropriate adult at all times.

When in the water, kids under 5 must be within arm’s reach of the designated supervisor at all times, regardless of their swimming ability. Young children easily forget what they have learnt in swimming lessons.

If you leave the pool area, always take the child with you. Children under 5 can’t reliably follow an instruction to stay out of the water when not supervised.

Supervision at public pools is your responsibility - lifeguards cannot provide the close and constant supervision young children need.

Also remember, flotation devices are no substitute for active supervision.

Who should be a supervisor?

A child under 5 requires active supervision from a capable person who is at least 16 years old. Other children are not appropriate supervisors for young children.

Make sure the designated supervisor is aware of their responsibilities. Young children have drowned when adults aren’t clear who is responsible for watching them.

You can't provide active supervision if you are:

  • swimming in the pool
  • chatting with others
  • looking at your mobile phone
  • affected by alcohol.

What if my child isn't around water?

Kids who aren't around water can get access to a pool and drown before you realise they’re missing. Check on your child regularly even if they are not around water.

Back to How safe is your pool?

Installing and maintaining a compliant pool fence

Why do I need pool fencing?

All private swimming pools in Queensland must have compliant pool fencing that has been certified by a qualified pool safety inspector. This includes portable pools continually filled with water to a depth of more than 300mm. Your pool must also be registered and have a CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) sign nearby.

Compliant pool fencing helps prevent children from drowning. Non-compliant pool fencing was present in over three quarters of pool drownings of under 5s in Queensland.

What is compliant fencing?

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission provides information about the requirements for compliant pool fencing and registering your pool.

You can also download the Guidelines for pool owners and property agents from the Department of Housing and Public Works website.

Remember to keep your pool fence and gate in good condition:

  • Check the gate’s self-closing and self-latching mechanisms are always working, and that the gate has closed behind you when you leave the pool area.
  • Fix fences and/or gates immediately.
  • Never leave the gate propped open for any reason, even if you are only gone for a short time.
  • Make sure there is nothing nearby that the child could use to climb the fence or open the gate to gain entry to the pool.

Remember that even compliant pool fencing does not guarantee kids are safe. Children are resourceful, and can use objects to help them climb the fence or open the gate. Even shallow wading pools are a drowning hazard - make sure you empty these when not in use.

Back to How safe is your pool?

Teaching kids water safety awareness

Young children require active supervision, but teaching them to be safe around water provides another layer of protection. This can include:

  • survival swimming skills
  • ‘go’ and ‘no go’ zones around the home and yard
  • creating a secure, safe play area away from the swimming pool, and removing toys from the pool area so children aren’t tempted to gain access
  • educating children about the risks and reinforcing rules about entering the pool area.

More information about swimming skills for young children is available from:

  • Kids alive - information and resources for teaching water safety to young children
  • Swim and Survive - a water safety initiative of the Royal Life Saving Society Australia
  • Austswim - a national organisation for teaching swimming and water safety

Back to How safe is your pool?

Having an emergency action plan

It’s important to know what to do if the unexpected happens.

  • Have a plan to take kids out of the pool area if you cannot provide active supervision (for example, if you need to answer the phone).
  • If a child is missing, always check the pool or other water hazards first. Make sure you search the bottom of the pool and have your phone with you to alert emergency services if needed.
  • Teach children when and how they should contact emergency services.
  • Learn CPR.

A range of registered training organisations offer CPR courses, including:

Back to How safe is your pool?

Back to top

11 July 2018