New website educates on pool safety legislation and child mortality in swimming pools
The new swimming pool safety legislation soon to be passed in South Africa has already caused controversy and been met with wide criticism, especially by those without children in the home. The outcry has highlighted the need for a public platform from which to comment on pool safety and better understand the issue.
www.topstep.co.za, a new website conceptualised specifically to prepare and guide pool owners through the Legislation, aims to lower child mortality rates in domestic pools through education and pool safety awareness.
"Pool owners need to 'buy into' the Legislation and understand the reasons for it before criticising. A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age 4 years and under. Furthermore, for every child that dies, five are left with brain damage. The sad reality is that many parents still see swimming as only a social skill, not a life skill. It requires a fundamental mind shift and consistent education if we are to lower these statistics," says Stephen Doyle, co-ordinator of TopStep.
Drownings are entirely preventable with the right combination of pool safety devices, adequate swimming skills and responsible parenting in the form of vigilant adult supervision around pools.
Malcolm Midgley, Divisional Chief, Emergency Services, has had a key role in drafting the Legislation, which is expected to be adopted first in Gauteng with other provinces following suit.
"For years I have been lobbying for change at Municipal level. The fact that children had access to unprotected swimming pools was my concern, as was the fact that pool owners were apathetic when it came to children drowning in their pools (often the domestic worker's child). Pools neglected during the winter months and those in a state of disrepair also pose a risk to the inquisitive child.
"Unfortunately this Legislation has met with a lot of negativity and opposition from various sectors. However, the Legislation will most certainly go ahead," says Midgley.
In most developed countries, pool safety has long been a Legislative issue where pool builders are obliged by law to fit adequate safety measures to any pool they install. Until now, South Africa has lagged behind and, if a pool has in fact been secured, it is down to a responsible pool owner, not because of a formal directive.
Local pool builder Horizon Pools admits that when selling a pool, many pool builders tend not to place pool safety high on the agenda.
"Pool builders in general tend only to talk about pool safety when asked by the client – it is not something that is typically brought to their attention at the point of sale," says John Jager of Horizon Pools.
"I also notice that pool safety is often a 'semi grudge' buy. Customers see pool safety as a) an added cost, b) something that detracts from the visual appeal of the pool area and c) a hassle to put on and off. No one is actually thinking that they would rather take a risk and have someone drown but the seriousness of pool safety during the sales pitch is overpowered by the excitement of getting the pool built.
"I was pleased to be able to contribute to TopStep as it has allowed me to highlight this issue on behalf of my particular industry. I hope that through consistent education, pool builders too will take a more proactive stance on pool safety," says Jager.
Methods of securing a pool for children can be found on TopStep. In addition, TopStep explores some common myths around the appearance of a drowning.
"Many tragedies occur because those nearby think they know what a drowning in progress looks like – shouts for help, thrashing in the water, waving for help etc. In reality, drowning is quick and silent. The child shows no sign of violent struggle and remains upright in the water, often looking like they are just treading water or doing doggie paddle.
"Another myth is that only unsupervised children will drown, whereas most drownings occur within 25 metres of an adult. A few swimming lessons won't make a child drown-proof either," says Doyle.
Welcoming the Legislation, pool safety supplier PowerPlastics Pool Covers highlights the massive discrepancies when it comes to safety in other industries.
"The motor industry is not allowed to manufacture vehicles without seatbelts and neither can the chemical industry be negligent with hazardous substances. Parents need to wake up to the fact that open pools are equally hazardous. It's much like letting your toddler play near a bonfire! I'd also like to see mandatory health warnings on every pool product, much like those found on cigarettes," says Caryn Formby, director of PowerPlastics Pool Covers.
There are different ways to secure a pool, with nets and fences being popular choices. Flotation aids such as water wings should never be used as safety devices.
Only a week old and the first blog of its kind locally, TopStep is a public platform for tips, medical advice, industry insight and a place for people to share their hard won stories about child drowning. Useful educational tools are available for download and victims of drowning are also remembered on TopStep.
"TopStep is a call to action. Legislation or no Legislation, every pool owner must understand the associated risk of swimming pools, whether there are children in the home or not," concludes Doyle.
Pool owners nationwide are well advised to prepare for the new Legislation. There will be a window period in which to comply, thereafter non compliance will carry a penalty.
Visit www.topstep.co.za for more information and join the TopStep community on Facebook.
Issued by: Adlam Ink PR
On behalf of: TopStep, the home of pool safety
Media queries: Claire Adlam
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