SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Around 3 children aged from birth to 4 years drown every year in Victoria.
- Parents can reduce the risks by actively supervising their child around water at all times, enrolling them in swimming lessons and taking precautions to reduce the risk of drowning around their home by restricting their access to water.
- All parents should ideally take a course in infant or child first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Drowning is a leading cause of death for toddlers. On average, 3 children aged from birth to 4 years drown every year in Victoria. Most drowning deaths occur in backyard swimming pools, bathtubs and spas.
Approximately two-thirds of toddler drowning deaths occur in regional Victoria, typically in dams, creeks, rivers, irrigation channels and water troughs, as well as home pools and baths.
Toddlers are most at risk near water
Toddlers aged between one and 4 years are most at risk, because they are mobile and curious, but don’t understand the danger of water. You can considerably by actively supervising your child around water at all times and teaching them to by enrolling them in swimming and water safety lessons.
Taking precautions to reduce the risk of drowning around your home is also very important. A toddler or child can drown in 5 centimetres of water. Every exposed water source, no matter how shallow, poses a significant danger.
It is important to install barriers, such as pool gates and fencing around dams, to restrict access to water sources. You should also learn and lifesaving techniques so that you know what to do if you are faced with an emergency.
Supervise your child around water
The most important preventive tactic is to actively supervise your child around water at all times.
Active supervision means focusing all of your attention on your children all of the time, when they are in, on or around the water. Supervision is not an occasional glance while you are busy with other activities, but being in constant visual contact with your child.
Learn to swim
Children can take formal swimming instruction from the age of 4 years. Water safety skills make up part of the tuition. Swimming programs are available for younger children and babies, but the emphasis is on building confidence and encouraging the child to enjoy water, rather than teaching them to swim.
Children under 5 years of age may not be able to use their swimming skills in an emergency, so never rely on this to keep them safe.
If you buy personal flotation devices like inflatable vests or ‘floaties’, make sure that they conform to Australian Standards – always check the label. You should think of these devices as something to help familiarise your child with water, not as a safety item.
A flotation device is not a replacement for supervision. Always supervise your child when they are wearing their personal flotation device, in case they tumble upside down or slip through the vest.
Water safety around the house
Suggestions for reducing the risks of your child drowning in and around the home include:
- Always actively supervise your child in the bath.
- Never leave an older child to supervise the younger child in the bath.
- Take your child with you if your telephone or doorbell rings while supervising your child in the bath.
- Empty baths and sinks immediately after use.
- Always keep the doors to the bathroom and laundry securely closed.
- Use a nappy bucket with a tight-fitting lid, and keep the bucket closed at all times and out of your child’s reach.
- Cover ponds, birdbaths and similar water sources with mesh.
- Keep pet water bowls, aquariums and fish bowls well out of little children’s reach.
Water safety around backyard pools and spas
To reduce the risk of your child drowning in the backyard pool:
- Install a fence – pool fencing is required by law for any swimming pool or spa in excess of 300 mm (30 cm) in depth – and it must be maintained for the life of the pool or spa. Pool fencing must comply with the Australian Standard AS1926. Your local council can provide information on pool fencing laws.
- Regularly check that the safety latch on the gate is in good working order.
- Clear surrounding area – don’t leave any items or equipment close to the pool fence that would allow your child to climb up and over the fence.
- Pack toys away – don’t leave floating toys in the pool or your child may try to reach for them.
- Tip out water – empty wading pools immediately after use.
- Check your surroundings – when visiting other people’s houses, ask whether or not the owners have a pool, spa, pond or other body of exposed water on their land.
Water safety at public pools
Suggestions for reducing the risk of your child drowning in a public swimming pool include:
- Actively supervise your child at all times.
- Children under 5 years must be within arm’s reach at all times and children under 10 years must always be in your sight.
- The supervision of children in aquatic facilities is not the sole responsibility of lifeguards.
- Lifeguards are employed on a 1:100 ratio. This is based on the expectation that parents will provide direct supervision of children.
- Parents are required to provide the constant and direct supervision needed for young children.
Water safety at the beach
Suggestions for reducing the risks of your child drowning at the beach include:
- Actively supervise your child at all times.
- Conditions can change quickly. Don’t assume that a beach that was safe in the past is safe now, since the action of waves, weather and wind can influence depth and rips.
- Only take your child to beaches with lifesaving patrols and make sure you and your child swim between the red and yellow flags.
- Learn how to spot and avoid rips and have knowledge and skills to get out of one, otherwise swim at a patrolled beach.
- Teach your child what to do if they get into trouble: remain calm, float and raise an arm to signal for help from a lifesaver or lifeguard.
- Understand and prepare for the conditions, and ensure your skills and activities are appropriate before deciding to enter the water.
- When supervising children and others around water, ensure activities and skills are appropriate for the conditions and their abilities.
- Read safety signs located at the beach and ensure you understand the local hazards and dangers.
Water safety at dams and waterways
Suggestions for reducing the risks of your child drowning in dams and other waterways include:
- Supervise your child around waterways.
- Warn your child of the dangers of swimming in dams and rivers.
- Make sure you have a safe play area for your child well away from any dam or waterway.
- Always swim with a friend or family member.
- Be aware of changing abilities and fitness levels.
- Know what to do if something goes wrong – learn first aid and CPR.
- Understand the environment including weather and water conditions and remember that these can suddenly change.