Drowning prevention

Please see the following pages for specific information and resources on:


Drowning is the leading external cause of death for children under five years of age.

Each year an average of 13 drowning deaths and 84 non-fatal drowning incidents occurred in NSW children aged 0 to 17 years between 2002 to 20151. Children under five years of age have the highest mortality rate out of any age group, with approximately 60% of drowning occurring in swimming pools.2

Children can drown in seconds in as little as 5cm of water, when left unsupervised. It can happen in any place with water including pools (permanent, portable and inflatable), baths, spas, dams, rivers, creeks, garden ponds and buckets.

To help prevent child drowning:

  • Have a compliant pool barrier that is used correctly and maintained regularly
  • Supervision of children within arm’s reach by a responsible adult in and around water is essential 
  • Teach children water familiarisation and swimming skills
  • Learn CPR. Remember that any attempt is better than none at all.

NSW Study of Drowning and Near Drowning in Children (0-16)

#NSWChildDrowningStudy

Watch our water safety video where new data from the study is detailed, a family talk about their experience with near drowning in their backyard pool, and drowning prevention strategies are discussed by professionals at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The study will continue for an additional three years at which time a second report will be produced.

Access the full report and the infographics poster from the downloads section below.

What Can You Do to Prevent Child Drowning?

 

Pool Fencing

  • Go to the Swimming pool fencing section of this website to learn more, watch the ‘Protect Your Pool, Protect Your Kids’ video and access the checklist.

  • Regularly check pool fences and gates or arrange an inspection of your swimming pool with your local council or  an accredited pool inspector.

  • Ensure the pool gate is always closed and never propped or left open.

  • Keep pot plants, furniture  and any objects away from the swimming pool fence so that they cannot be used to climb over the pool fence.

  • Inflatable and portable pools also require a fence and an approved CPR chart in the pool area. See the Inflatable and Portable Pools section of the website for more information.

Supervision

  • Always supervise children in and around water and stay within arm's reach of children aged 0 to 5 years.

  • Never leave another child responsible for a young child in a swimming pool, bath or spa, no matter how confident you are about the ability of the older child to watch the young child. Children are not capable of such responsibility. It is the responsibility of an adult to watch the child.

  • At outdoor gatherings, designate an adult to be responsible for supervising the kids at the pool. You may wish to have the adult in charge of supervising the children wear a hat or armband so they are easily identified.

Water Familiarisation

  • Familiarise your child with water but do not assume that they cannot drown.

  • Swimming lessons and flotation devices are not substitutes for adult supervision.

  • Information on approved swim courses can be obtained from:

CPR

  • Learn infant and child Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and take annual refresher courses.

  • CPR for Parents is a free online CPR learning program for parents available through Kids Health.

  • Any attempt at CPR is better than no attempt at all.

  • For more information on how to perform CPR, please see the basic life support fact sheets for children less than 12 months and for children over 12 months.

  • Ensure that an approved CPR chart is displayed in the pool area. CPR charts can be obtained from your local council, pool shop or community organisations such as St John Ambulance, the Australian Red Cross or The Royal Life Saving Society.

  • Information on CPR courses can be obtained from:

For further information on swimming pool safety and legistlation, visit the Fair Trading NSW website.

For more detailed information on water safety, please visit our safety factsheets.


References

  1. Royal Life Saving (2017) A 13 year national study of non-fatal drowning in Australia: data challenges, hidden impacts and social costs

  2. NSW Ministry of Health (2015) Injury related hospitalisations (unpublished data). Sydney: Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence