A Guide to Being Swim and Water Safe

Oct 30, 2020

As we head into the warmer months, we’ll all want to swim more to escape the heat. If your family is one of many Australian families set to spend more time in the pool as the temperature rises, remember to be vigilant when it comes to safety in and around the pool.

A pool is a welcoming and fun backyard addition, but it’s really important appropriate measures are taken to keep your family safe in and around your pool.

Carrying out active supervision when anyone is in the pool is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure water safety. Even if everyone in the house knows how to swim – accidents and injuries can happen very quickly and put even the most confident swimmers in danger.

Active supervision means an adult who is sitting near the pool, closely observes those swimming in the pool. You must have no distractions when you are the active supervisor – that means you can’t be looking at your phone, or get up to go inside to get something.

Another essential step to take for water safety is teaching your kids the importance of being safe in and around water. This is an ongoing but essential task, to ensure they grow up with awareness of the risks and the skills needed to keep safe, whether they are in a backyard pool or at the beach.

So how can you be sure your children are learning swimming and water safety at the rate they should be for their age?

Royal Life Saving Australia’s three National Benchmarks for Swimming and Water Safety showcase a range of competency standards. They highlight what should be achieved by people at different ages. In this blog, we’ll go into the benchmarks to help you have a better understanding of where your children are currently at, swim skill-wise, and where improvements are needed, if necessary.

Remember: it’s never too late to teach or learn swim safety and water safety.

6-year-old Australians

A great place to start for very young children is swimming lessons with a qualified instructor. Many children commence swimming lessons when they begin kindergarten, but there are even programs in place for babies and toddlers.

With a pool at your property, you have the perfect opportunity to continue your child’s lessons at home.

Children learn in the classroom at completely different paces, and the same can be said for learning to swim as well. It’s important to acknowledge your child’s limitations in the water, as well as what they are comfortable doing.

At age six, Australian children should be able to achieve several competencies in the relevant National Benchmark for Swimming and Water Safety, including entering and exiting shallow water without assistance, moving continuously for five metres in water, and identifying people and actions needed to help in the event of an aquatic emergency, among other competencies.

Make sure you swim alongside your six-year-old to support them if they require it, and to assess how effectively they achieve the benchmark competencies. If you notice that they are struggling with something, guide them on how they can improve, but be patient. Some skills just take a bit longer to grasp.

Congratulate them when they achieve a benchmark competency and point out what they did well. Positive reinforcement will help them to feel more confident about learning new skills in the water.

12-year-old Australians

By the time your child is 12, they hopefully have had the opportunity to learn a huge variety of swim and water safety skills. Whether they furthered their learning through private swimming lessons or participating in swim programs through their primary school, any avenue that allows children to continue learning how to swim and stay safe in water, is incredibly useful.

As they get closer to their teenage years, kids should find themselves feeling confident and comfortable in water of varying depths.

According to the relevant National Swimming and Water Safety Benchmark, every 12-year-old in Australia should be able swim continuously for 50 metres, surface dive then swim underwater to look for an object and recover it from deep water, and respond to an emergency and conduct a primary assessment, among other competencies.

At this age, children should be capable of performing a number of tasks to keep themselves safe and to help others needing assistance in and around the water.

Of course, no matter how confident your child appears to be in the water, your active supervision of them is still essential. Accidents can happen in seconds – even to the most confident swimmers.

17-year-old Australians

As your children get older and become more confident swimmers, the lessons they will receive around swimming and water safety will focus more on survival techniques and responding to emergency situations in the water.

If you have a child around this age, think about their skills. Do you know if they know how to provide first aid? Do you know how long they can swim continuously for?

The relevant National Swimming and Water Safety Benchmark indicates that 50% of all 17-year-old Australians should be able to respond to an emergency situation and deliver first aid, swim continuously for 400 metres, and perform a survival sequence whilst wearing heavy clothing, among other competencies.

It can be too easy for a child at this age to put their water safety education on the backburner. Life tends to get more hectic – your 17-year-old may have a part-time job or spend a lot of their time at home studying.

Have them allocate time for regular swim sessions at home and at the beach, as continually swimming will not only develop their strength and confidence in the water, but also highlight to them how new risks can arise in different swimming environments.

Teaching them about rips, for instance, and how to get out of them, will ensure they approach the beach with care every time they visit.

Water Safety at Home

If you’re at the point of planning a pool for your backyard, consider the safety features of the pool you’re interested in. Narellan Pools has taken safety into account when designing its pools – that’s why every one of our pools features a child-safety ledge around their perimeter. This ledge provides a safe exit point from anywhere within the pool, allowing them to easily pull themselves up and out of the water.

Aside from the safety of the pool itself, there are other external safety considerations that must always be taken into account.

Adequate fencing around your pool is essential, to prevent drownings. You should continually check your pool fencing and pool gate, to make sure they’re in proper working condition and do not require repairs.

You can further enhance the safety of your poolside area by installing a pool gate alarm. This alarm will be particularly useful if you have young children in your household, as it will alert you to the pool gate being opened.

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) signage requirements are state-specific. Compliant CPR signage should be displayed very close to the pool and kept in good, clear condition so that all the steps are easily viewed.

Taking plenty of caution and being vigilant when it comes to safety in and around your pool is critical to protecting your family.

Before you hop into the pool next, think about what steps you could take to enhance the safety of your pool space, and to ensure your kids are safe when swimming.

Keep the National Benchmarks for Swimming and Water Safety in mind and encourage your children to continue developing their skills in the water.

We want you to have a wonderful time in your pool and stay safe!

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