In October 2018, a father and his son who were on holidays from overseas drowned at Airlie Beach lagoon. It appears they got into difficulty in deeper water. Both were pulled from the water but could not be resuscitated. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Public swimming pools and beach lagoons present a number of health and safety hazards, including those which increase the risk of drowning, such as:
- large bodies of water with a large number of people using it at the same time
- the presence of children and adults with varying levels of swimming experience
- pool depths that change suddenly without signage
- the presence of personal buoyancy devices (floaties, tubes) or large water-borne inflatable devices permanently or semi-permanently located in pools for common use (slides, bouncing castles, line ropes) which may impair the vision of adults or those supervising pool activities
- the design or construction of the pool obstructing the line of sight of supervisors.
A pool or beach lagoon operator must manage health and safety risks by:
- providing adequately trained lifesavers, supervisors and first aid officers
- ensuring young people or people with limited swimming competency such as children, are accompanied by adults who provide supervision
- prohibiting and monitoring activities such as diving and running
- providing information or signage about pool safety (e.g. accompanying adults to supervise their children, prohibited activities, pool depth)
- removing or prohibiting the use of permanent or semi-permanent flotation devices when there is no supervision of their use.
First aid and emergency situations should be covered by ensuring:
- an effective emergency plan is in place, which is tested regularly
- resuscitation signage is clearly visible
- appropriate access to first aid equipment and trained first aid officers
- first aid officers are properly trained and can administer and advanced level of first aid and resuscitation (such as administering oxygen or using an automated external defibrillator)
- first aid facilities and equipment are appropriate to the size of the pool facility.
Since July 2013, there have been 60 notified events involving people drowning or being immersed in a pool or lagoon. Ten of these were fatal and 42 involved a serious injury.
In the same period we have issued five statutory notices for managing the risk of drowning or being immersed in a pool or lagoon. These included a lack of aquatic rescue plans for PCBUs where the workplace has a pool or lagoon.
- Managing risks at publicly accessible pools – information guide (PDF, 0.21 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Royal Life Saving Society – Australia
- Royal Life Saving Australia fact sheets