But swimming can also be dangerous. Accidental drowning is the third highest cause of accidental deaths for children in the UK and takes on average four hundred lives each year. While drowning deaths in back garden swimming pools are significantly lower than those in large bodies of water, they are also much more avoidable – so why aren’t families doing more to protect their children?
When you build a pool in your back garden, there are a number of additional adjustments you will need to make to ensure the environment is safe for your own children and pets as well as any that may find their way into your garden. Firstly and most importantly is to install a swimming pool safety cover to lay across your pool at all times when it isn’t in use. Although it isn’t a good idea to walk on these, a genuine safety cover will be able to take the weight of a child if they happened to get out there. Safety covers are often fitted into runners along the inside of the pool and have the added benefit of lowering the amount of chemicals you will need, making the pool water safer all round.
Secondly, build a fence around the pool. Many states in the US have this as a mandatory requirement for back garden swimming pools, but don’t let the lack of law in this country deter you from implementing this safety device. It should be at least 1.5 metres high and have a child safety gate through which you can access the pool, and you will want to check it once a month or so to ensure its integrity. Don’t keep anything solid enough for kids to climb on near the edge of the fence or they could find their way over! If the fence is installed on non-stick flooring, you reduce massively the chance of someone running and slipping into the pool.
Two different types of pool alarm are available; one which will go off when someone opens the gate of your fence and one when something gets into the water. While both are useful, the gate alarm gives you a better chance of stopping whatever is going through you fence from getting hurt in the pool. The water pressure alarm may be useful if you have pets that are able to cross the fence; animals shouldn’t be allowed near the swimming pool at all, partly due to a risk of drowning and partly to keep them away from potentially dangerous chemicals (which should be kept securely away from them).
But perhaps one of the most important things to consider is implementing strict rules in the poolside area. Some of these may seem obvious – no running, no diving, keep life jackets and pool floats around – but you also need to consider factors such as keeping the area tidy of pool toys which could present a tripping hazard. Ideally you should install a pool toy box and teach children that everything goes away when they leave the pool. Children should never swim unsupervised anyway so as the responsible adult you can ensure they are following the rules. Explain the consequences of being unsafe so they understand why they need to be so careful.
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