PA 09-1-0718 The safety of public swimming pools in western australia and future prevention strategies

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Abstract

In Western Australia (WA) there are 131 public swimming pools that provide significant benefit in terms of community development, sport, recreation, health and fitness. In 2016, there were an estimated 10,339,275 individual entries into public aquatic centres, which this represents almost four visits per resident of WA.

Each year Royal Life Saving WA in partnership with the Leisure Institute of WA collects injury data from a sample of public swimming pools across WA. Injuries are classified, as major, moderate or minor and analysed to determine the most at-risk population groups and most prevalent injury types to guide aquatic industry training and standards to improve safety through reduced risk. Data is compared with previous years to determine injury trends and program effectiveness in reducing injury risk and improving safety.

The most recent research found an injury rate of 23 injuries per 1 00 000 patrons between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017, which equals 2378 injuries recorded at public swimming pools. This rate has decreased by 32% over the past 11 years. Regional pools had a higher incidence rate (28 injuries per 100, 000 patrons) compared to pools in the Perth metropolitan area (X injuries per 1 00 000 patrons). Of the injuries recorded the majority (91%) were minor, 5% moderate and 4% major. Most injuries were due to a low fall (31%) or unintentional collision (26%) resulting in superficial wounds (33%). Children aged 5–14 years were found to be at the highest risk of injury and supervision continued to be a contributing factor in incidences occurring in children aged 0–14 years.

This research highlights that public swimming pools in WA are safe recreation facilities for the community. However, despite decreases in the rate of injury over the past decade, injuries still occur. Education and prevention strategies need to target those most at risk – children aged 5–14 years and pools in regional WA. There is also a need to work with local government authorities that manage these pools and the aquatics industry to ensure consistency in injury data collected to inform best practice and staff training.

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