Child Safety and Pools

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in Queensland for children under the age of 5 years old.

For every young child that drowns in a pool, approximately five are hospitalised due to immersion injuries, some of whom will suffer permanent brain damage.

Improve your pool safety

Parents, people supervising children and pool owners should follow the ABC of pool safety:
  • Always supervise your children near a pool. This means you must focus Supervision means focusing all of your attention on your children all of the time, when they are in, on, or around water.
  • Begin swimming lessons for your children.
  • Close the pool gate and always keep your fence maintained.

Read the ABC of pool safety and the Does your pool pass the test? fact sheets.

What is supervision?

Supervision is not an occasional glance while you do something else. You must constantly look at every child who is in, on or around the pool.

If a child is under 5 you should be in the water and within arms' reach at all times. For older children, be ready to enter the water in case of an emergency.

Always have a designated adult supervisor. Responsibility can be rotated if there is a large number of children to supervise. Older children cannot be responsible for supervising younger children.

For more information on active supervision, please visit the Royal Life Saving website.

First aid

Extended breath-holding can be dangerous and cause death

The Queensland Government is committed to reducing the incidence of drowning and serious immersion injuries involving young children in swimming pools. The following information is presented as part of that commitment.

What is shallow water hypoxia?

Shallow water hypoxia (SWH) or ‘shallow water blackout' (SWB) can be fatal, even in shallow water. SWH is often associated with repeated breath-holding games. Taking several deep breaths or hyperventilating before an extended period of breath-holding is extremely risky. Despite the dangers of SWH, many people are not aware of this issue or its link to breath-holding games and activities. 

How could breath-holding under water cause death?

If a person is trying to stay underwater for any length of time, they might either ignore the body's signal to breathe, or deliberately reduce that signal by hyperventilating— breathing fast on purpose—prior to breath-holding. If the person does not surface and breathe at this point, unconsciousness follows, and death quickly occurs unless the person is immediately rescued from the water and is resuscitated.

SWH can result from one episode of hyperventilation prior to breath-holding, or be triggered by repeated episodes of breath-holding. Often, deaths and brain injuries due to SWH occur in very competent swimmers and/or experienced divers.

For supervisors and life guards, it can be difficult to distinguish between a person ‘playing' on the bottom of the pool and one who has passed out.

The Queensland Government strongly recommends that pool owners and pool safety inspectors acquaint themselves with this information as well as other organisation's websites:

To reduce the incidence of SWH-related injury and death, children should be supervised at all times around water, particularly swimming pools. Adult swimmers should also set a good example by acting responsibly around water. Being aware, and making others aware, of the risks associated with breath-holding games and activities will go a long way to reducing the incidence of drowning related to SWH.