Don’t duck out – make portable pools SAFE
On average one child dies from a portable pool-related drowning every year in Australia, while others need hospital treatment and may be left with severe brain injuries. These statistics have prompted Australian consumer law and product safety regulators to join forces with Royal Life Saving Society - Australia to remind parents and carers to make portable pools SAFE.
Portable pools – ranging from small blow-up or plastic paddling or kiddie pools to bigger wading pools, inflatable spas or high-sided flexible plastic pools on a frame – can be popular in summer as a cheap alternative to below-ground pools BUT they’re just as dangerous.
“We’re partnering with Royal Life Saving Society in a campaign called ‘Don’t Duck Out’ to promote awareness about the dangers portable pools pose to young children. We’re asking parents and carers to make sure their portable pool is safe for youngsters, including by putting up safety barriers and always making sure the pool is drained after use,” said ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard.
“Anyone thinking about purchasing a portable pool should take a few minutes to check out www.productsafety.gov.au/makeitsafe for further safety tips and advice,” Ms Rickard said.
Royal Life Saving Society - Australia CEO, Justin Scarr, says their National Drowning Report highlights the issue of portable pool drowning and who is most at risk. “Our statistics show there is one child fatality as a result of a portable pool drowning each year. The child is almost always under five-years-old and more likely to be male.
“We don’t want any deaths or hospitalisations due to drowning this summer. Adults following the Don’t Duck Out, Make It SAFE tips, such as keeping constant watch of kids around portable pools, can reduce the risk and potentially save lives.”
- Supervise. Actively watch children within arm’s reach. Don’t leave older children in charge.
- Act. Learn emergency response including CPR. It’s important to start compressions and breaths as soon as possible when a child is pulled from the water and to call triple zero (000) for help. If there are two people, one should make the phone call while the other does CPR.
- Fence. In most parts of Australia, pools with more than 30cm of water in, are legally required to have a compliant safety barrier. Check with your local Council or Government agency.
- Empty. And store safely. After keeping watch all day, pour out water and put the pool away where children can’t reach. Never leave it where it can refill with rain or sprinkler water.
Phillipa Wirangi’s almost 2-year-old son, Eli, drowned in a portable pool in Perth in December 2015. He was revived but suffered severe brain damage and passed away two years later, in December 2017. Ms Wirangi supports the Don’t Duck Out, Make It Safe campaign and the supervision, first aid and fencing messages it promotes.
“Eli was staying with relatives; the person watching him had the back door open and went inside for a phone call. Eli managed to pull a plastic chair to the edge of a portable pool, climb up and fall in. It can happen that quickly. You have to watch kids all the time around water! And I think kids aren’t as scared of portable pools as they can look like a big bath tub.
“Thankfully Eli’s relatives knew CPR and were able to keep Eli alive until the ambulance arrived. But even after months in hospital, when he came home he needed constant care and would never recover from the brain trauma. Our lives were changed. I’d say just don’t get a portable pool, it’s not worth it. But if you do get one, you must fence it.”
Under the Australian Consumer Law, portable pools and their packaging are required to have labels drawing the buyer’s attention to drowning risk, the need for active supervision, proper storage and local fencing laws. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state and territory consumer protection regulators enforce product safety labelling laws by carrying out inspections of portable pools at retailers. Suppliers of portable pools failing to comply with the mandatory standard can face hefty penalties.
If you spot a portable pool without a warning label you should report that to your local consumer affairs agency. Find their contact details at www.consumerlaw.gov.au
The Don’t Duck Out, Make It SAFE campaign has involved work with some major Australian retailers to display warning sign shelf wobblers or flyers in store and / or put stickers on portable pool boxes at the point of sale when the purchaser is paying for the product. Rubber duck children’s toys with the campaign slogan are also available along with fridge magnets for parents and carers.