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Water Safety

Safety around Swimming Pools and other Recreational Water Facilities

Pools and associated facilities have high safety risks associated with them, particularly the risk of drowning, injuries associated with slips or falls, diving injuries, and injuries occurred in water as a result of people bumping into or knocking each other, or bumping into pool edges. Good planning, a well maintained facility, good supervision, and the presence of suitably qualified first aiders (and associated materials and equipment) can minimise the likelihood of injuries or fatalities occurring, and if they do occur provide a prompt, suitable response.

People using swimming facilities are particularly vulnerable, because:
1/   The skin is usually largely exposed (e.g. easy to cut your feet on sharp surfaces, or
     abrade the skin of your arms and legs).
2/   The presence of water increases the risk of surfaces becoming slippery.
3/   The presence of water increases the risk of surfaces becoming contaminated with
     growths of algae, bacteria or fungi.
4/   The water may be contaminated with dangerous pests or diseases, particularly if
     filtration and treatment equipment is not properly maintained, or it breaks down.
5/   There is a risk of drowning.
6/   There is a risk of injury from diving (eg. into water which is too shallow).
7/   There is a risk of injury from bumping into hard objects, such as pool edges.
8/   The rapid movement of arms and legs as people swim, exercise or play, can easily
     result in adjacent pool users being knocked or hit.
9/   Poorly covered inlets, outlets, blowers, etc. pose a risk to people, particularly small
     children, getting their hands or fingers trapped.
10/  Swimming areas are often exposed to the sun, and swimmers have large areas of
     their skin exposed, (hence danger of sun burn and skin cancer)
11/  Pools are generally shallow, and there is a risk of physical injuries (e.g. head, neck,
     spine) to people who dive into the pool, or even jump feet first into very shallow
     depths. The depth of each section of pool should be clearly labelled in all cases.
12/  Natural swimming areas (eg. surf, rivers, lakes etc), often have unseen hazards such
     as currents or "debris", hidden below the waters surface. In some areas, particularly
     tropical areas, animals such as crocodiles, sea wasps, jellyfish, etc. may pose a risk.

NOTE: Health regulations often apply to ensure safety in a pool. You should know what regulations are appropriate in your locality. Find this out by asking the health department at the appropriate local authority (eg. council).


  • Public pool facilities should be properly supervised at all times that they are being used. Staff supervising pool activities should not become distracted by people outside of the pool (e.g. socialising). Their concentration must be focussed on the pool at all times, while they are on duty.
  • Supervising staff should be able to clearly observe all parts of their designated areas, at all times. For large areas, or facilities with large numbers of patrons, an elevated observation point may be necessary (e.g. tower). Access to such observation points should be limited to authorised staff only.
  • Access to the pool should be limited to only authorised personnel at times when the pool is not open for general use.
  • Safety rules should be clearly displayed near the pool entrance. These rules should be enforced at all times.



  • Slip-resistant surfaces should be used around the pool, and other water-based facilities (e.g. spa) and on the pool floor. Many surfaces give good grip when they are dry, but become very slippery when wet.
  • Step edges should be marked (usually with a contrasting colour) so that they are clearly visible.
  • The gradient for the pool floor should not be greater than 1:15.
  • Water depths should be clearly indicated.
  • Stepped access points should be supported with handrails
  • The siting of the deep ends in pools should ideally be on the opposite side of the facility to the main entrance area.
  • There should be a minimum concourse width of 2.0 metres. The width should be wider at regions of high people use.
  • The concourse should be constructed to prevent ponding, and a slight slope should be provided to aid drainage.
  • Surrounding wall fixtures, planter boxers and other ornaments should have smooth edges, ideally be placed out of well-trafficked areas and be securely fixed in position.
  • Poolside seating should be placed in a manner that will not interfere with concourse width, or inhibit traffic, but ideally still allow good viewing of the water areas.
  • Supervision points should allow uninterrupted view of all parts of the pool.
  • Sun protection (by awnings, umbrellas, shade trees, etc), is strongly recommended.

Other Related Safety Factors

  • Pool staff, including instructors in the water, should ensure they have adequate skin   protection on. High sun protection factor (SPF) clothing should be used, including wide brim hats and sunglasses with a high eye protection factor (sunglasses should allow good visibility). Sunscreen creams, lotions, etc. should be water resistant, with a high SPF Factor, and be applied ideally about 20 minutes before being exposed to direct sun. It should be reapplied at least every two hours (more frequently if they have been in water).
  • Facilities and toilets should be cleaned regularly, to an acceptable standard.
  • Safety signs should be clearly posted (e.g. on walls) and be well maintained. Examples might be; "beware of deep water" - shallow end   - no diving; and "slippery when wet:"  - cleaning in progress - resuscitation steps
  • Suitable rescue equipment should be well maintained and readily available, and include such things as: - reaching poles  - rescue tubes - life jackets   - throwing ropes - spine board.   Such equipment should be clearly signposted as being only for emergency use.


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