Safety in public aquatic centres: Lifeguards are not babysitters!

TitleSafety in public aquatic centres: Lifeguards are not babysitters!
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsScarr, JP, Chellew, C, Associate Professor Franklin, RC
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other NumbersPO-23

­Context: In the past decade, 80 people have drowned at public swimming pools around Australia, of these 25% were under five years of age. A lack of adult supervision was the main factor in 70% of toddler drowning deaths. Children aged four years and under are especially at risk because of their natural curiosity about their environment.

To prevent drowning deaths in aquatic centres and educate pool patrons the Keep Watch @ Public Pools has been developed. The program aims to eliminate all drowning deaths and reduce the number of near-drowning incidences that occur in aquatic leisure centres, public swimming centres and pools. The program is targeted at parents and carers of children to help them understand the dangers of leaving children at the pool unattended. Parents have the responsibility of looking after their own child. Lifeguards do a great job of keeping our pools safe, but they are not babysitters!

Project: Keep Watch @ Public Pools was developed to include a range of strategies to prevent drowning deaths and incidents from occurring at public aquatic centres. This includes a public education program that has a range of key supervision messages within the facility such as pool signage, safety messages on pool announcement systems and information cards for lifeguards to use to help educate parents. Centres that participate in the program have strict policies for parental supervision which are supported by the Royal Life Saving Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations.

Professional development is conducted with management and staff and involves training on the philosophy and implementation of the campaign in their facility. Additionally, centre staff receive training to equip them with conflict resolution skills to manage centre patrons. The program also involves environmental assessment where environmental modifications are recommended to create an environment that facilitates safer levels of parental supervision.

Results: The outcomes of the Keep Watch @ Public Pools are:

  1. State-wide supervision standards and practices
  2. Increased lifeguard skills
  3. Increased awareness by parents of what constitutes appropriate levels of supervision of children
  4. Increased proportion of parents who effectively supervise their children while in the water

Discussion: By RLSSA, parents and aquatic centres working together and following the Keep Watch @ Public Pools program, drowning deaths and near-drowning incidents can be prevented in public swimming pools.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Risk identification and prevention factors for children drowning at public swimming pools.
  2. Development and implementation of a public education program.
  3. Pros and cons of running a public education campaign in partnership with swimming pools.