Home swimming pools pose a significant safety risk to young children in Western Australia (WA). Perth has the highest proportion of home pools of any Australian capital (18%) with over 1 70 000 pools. With majority of drowning incidents involving young children aged 0–4 years occurring at locations in and around the home environment, it’s essential that pools are secured by appropriate barriers to limit access by children and prevent unintentional immersions. WA legislation mandates the maintenance of home pool barriers according to set regulations and the Royal Life Saving Society of WA (RLSSWA) is contracted by several Perth Local Government Authorities (LGAs) to undertake barrier inspections for pools in their area.
Recent research conducted by RLSSWA analysed home pool barrier inspection reports between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2016, which included 44 832 home pool inspections conducted at 28 143 pools from 12 LGAs. The study aimed to identify common areas for pool barrier assessment failures and overall compliance rates. Pass and fail rates at first, second and third inspections were calculated across the sample and for each individual LGA.
Average cumulative pass rate at inspections 1, 2 and 3 was 64.6, 84.5% and 92.3% respectively. Of the sample, 7.7% failed the third inspection and 12.5% were referred to the council with the most common faults reported being the presence of climbable structures, gates not self-closing or latching and inadequate window childproofing. During the same period, 19 drowning deaths were recorded among 0–4 year old’s in WA with 68.4% occurring in a home pool. In all cases children gained access through an inadequate or unsecure pool barrier.
These statistics highlight the need for sustained inspections combined with home pool owner education to ensure young children are adequately supervised and that well maintained barriers are in place to restrict entry to the home pool environment.