11 November 2015
The New Zealand Resuscitation Council cautions that the proposed Building (Pools) Amendment Bill 2015 unduly compromises the safety of children around home pools, spa pools and hot tubs, and would lead to more children drowning at home.
The Bill aims to repeal the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act (1987) to reduce the compliance burden on pool owners and local authorities while maintaining child safety. But Dr Richard Aickin, Chair of the New Zealand Resuscitation Council, is concerned that the Bill lowers the safety standards for home pools. Whereas the Act provides that pools must be fenced, the Bill allows for ‘alternative solutions’ that meet given performance criteria and reduces inspection frequency for most pools.
“There is strong evidence that the incidence of children drowning in pools is decreased where the pool is compliantly fenced on all sides and accessed through a self-closing, self-latching gate”, says Aickin. He adds that New Zealand has made considerable gains since the introduction of the Act, with at least 200 lives saved and the number of children drowning in home swimming pools now down to two or three per year.
Aickin says that the proposed amendments are not best practice, and that there is no evidence that ‘alternative solutions’ provide the same assurance for safety as fully-fenced pools. “All water at home presents a danger to children, but the risk of children drowning in pools has been significantly decreased through enforcement of the Act”, says Aickin.
Aickin acknowledges that compliance and monitoring presents a cost to pool owners and local authorities. However, he also points out that there are major economic and social impacts where a child drowns or incurs severe injury through drowning. Aickin says that the voluntary compliance and decreased monitoring, as proposed in this Bill, is likely to lead to a higher incidence of child drownings.
“Home pools are supposed to provide enjoyment and therefore need to be made safe when they are not being used. The unacceptable consequence of this Bill is that more children will be exposed to an increased risk of drowning at home, thereby increasing the likelihood of need for resuscitation”, says Dr Aickin.
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