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Incident at Public Swimming Pool

In November, a young child drowned at a supervised public pool. Despite on-duty lifeguards and QAS officers administering CPR the child later passed away.

Preventing a similar incident

Public swimming pools and aquatic facilities present a number of health and safety hazards, including those which increase the risk of drowning, such as:

  • large bodies of water often with many people using them at the same time
  • users of all ages with varying levels of swimming experience
  • design or construction of the pool hindering line of sight of supervisors
  • pool depths that change suddenly
  • 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
  • slips, trips and falls from wet surfaces.

A pool operator should manage health and safety risks by:

  • preparing a supervision plan
  • conducting an aquatic supervision risk assessment
  • providing trained pool lifeguards, pool supervisors and first aid officers
  • ensuring young people or people with limited swimming competency such as children, are accompanied by adults who need to supervise them
  • ensuring children under five (5) years of age are constantly supervised by an appropriate parent/guardian who is prepared to swim (adequate supervision means the parent/guardian must accompany the child in the water and remain within arm's reach at all times)
  • ensuring children under ten (10) years of age are constantly accompanied by an adult while in the aquatic area of the facility
  • ensure unsupervised children under five (5) years of age are removed from the water and placed in a safe area until collected by the parent/guardian
  • ensuring an unsupervised child of poor swimming ability, regardless of age, is removed from the water by a staff member
  • 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
  • restricting entry to areas of increased risk or that require higher levels of swimming competency (e.g. slides, diving boards, deep water).

First aid and emergency situations should be covered by ensuring:

  • an effective emergency plan is in place and 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 an 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.

Pool operators are reminded that important information for the safe running of the pool facility can be found in the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations which is released by the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia.


Since 1 July 2014, WHSQ has been notified of 49 events involving people drowning or being immersed in a pool or lagoon. Of these, eight were fatal events and 35 related to a serious injury involving hospitalisation.

In the same period, WHSQ issued four statutory notices that involve the risk of people drowning or being immersed in a pool or lagoon.

More Information

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