Safety Legislation: A pillar of Drowning Prevention

TitleSafety Legislation: A pillar of Drowning Prevention
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsAssociate Professor Franklin, RC, Pearn, JH, Nixon, JW
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers02-30

Four stratagems exist to reduce the drowning toll. Three are classified as primary prevention themes – education; design and ergonomics; and legislation. The fourth option, a form of secondary prevention, comprises improved rescue- resuscitation- retrieval interventions.

In this suite of approaches to improve water safety, legislation occupies a special and sometimes controversial place. On the one hand, legislation modifies individual freedom and liberty. However, Australian experience has shown that safety legislation – always last in the chronology of preventative interventions to combat new-recognised threats, is one of the most powerful stratagems to protect those vulnerable to drowning incidents.

The relative efficacy of safety legislation is site-specific bathtub drowning deaths, can not be reduced by legislation. By contrast, we have shown, in total population surveys via an audit of drowning deaths in Brisbane Australia, that child drowning rates can be halved if appropriate safety legislation is implemented and policed. Legislation incurs costs; but a cost-benefit analysis of Australian data indicates that effective legislation results in reduced cost-benefit ratios. In-particular, safety legislation to reduce drowning risks is particularly effective when combined with the other stratagems in coordinated approaches to protect the vulnerable.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Safety legislation is a powerful option in the prevention of accidents generally.
  2. Following the identification of specific drowning scenarios, legislation is usually the last stratagem introduced to prevent deaths.
  3. Australian data has measured the effects of safety legislation to reduce drowning deaths; and may reduce domestic pool and pond deaths by 50%.