Less than a month ago, a dear friend of mine had a scare. She'd taken her three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son to go swimming in a friend's backyard pool. Just before swimming time, my friend asked the other mom to keep an eye on her kids while she dashed to the restroom. The other mom has triplet three-and-half year old boys and she herded all five kids outside to play until my friend returned. The pool is fenced in and has a locked gate.
While the kids were playing, the other mom turned her back and busied herself with fixing some window screens. When my friend opened the door to the backyard, she was greeted by the sight of all five kids standing inside the pool fence, on the edge of the pool, looking into the water. The older four already had on their water wings, but her baby boy had on nothing to help him stay afloat - and there he stood, inches from the water, contemplating his next move.
My friend screamed and ran - and a tragedy was avoided, but things could so easily have had an unimaginable ending. Turns out, her friend's husband had temporarily removed the lock from the gate and he'd forgotten to tell his wife! The kids had quickly and easily let themselves in to the pool area. What sent more shivers down my spine was discovering that the husband had removed the lock some days earlier and his wife, not realising that their pool was now easily accessible to her boys, allowed them to play by themselves for a bit, in the backyard, while she worked in the kitchen ...
Spine-chilling stuff for any parent I'm sure and, in this instance, the story ends well. However, there are plenty of similar stories where the endings are not so fortunate and each time summer rolls around and kids are at play, whether in the pool or on the play set at a park, in their own backyard, they face potential danger. Approximately 4,200 people go to the emergency room every year due to pool or spa-related injuries and more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger go to the emergency room each year for play set-related injuries.
This summer, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a leading product safety testing organization, has put together tips to help keep us and our children safe around the pool and play sets.
Pool Safety At Home
- If you have a pool at home, install a fence. The fence should be at least four feet high and have a self-closing, self-latching gate that has a locking mechanism beyond a child's reach.
- Cut overhanging tree limbs and remove chairs or ladders from the pool area to prevent children from climbing over the fence that surrounds the pool.
- Keep grates and drain covers in good repair and secured in place.
- Alert your family and guests to stay away from these devices, as the suction from drain outlets can be strong enough to cause entrapment of hair or body parts, which can potentially cause a person to drown.
- Make sure you know infant and child CPR if you own a pool.
Be Safety Smart While Swimming
- Supervision is a must.
- Follow the 10/20 rule when you’re at the pool. The 10/20 rule states the supervising adult needs to position themselves to be able to scan the pool every 10 seconds, and reach the water within 20 seconds.
- Always have rescue devices, such as UL-LISTED life preservers, nearby.
- Flotation devices, toys and inflatable swimming aids are not safety devices. They are toys and can easily puncture and deflate.
- Always drain wading pools after children are done playing. Infants can drown in just a few inches of water.
- Have a telephone nearby and appropriate emergency numbers posted.
- Remove all toys when you leave the pool. Toys may attract children to the unattended pool.
Before Installing A Backyard PlaySet
- Make sure your backyard is large enough for playground equipment. The site must also provide good visibility and security. Before setting up equipment, look out for obstacles, such as the garage, tree branches, utility poles and wires.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions when setting up play set equipment. Be sure your child's weight and age fall within the manufacturer's recommended limits for the equipment.
- Install protective surfacing, such as rubber tiles or mulch under the play set, at least six feed in all directions, to prevent serious injuries should a child fall.
Before Heading Out To Play
- Carefully inspect backyard playground equipment. Make sure equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed and bolts are not protruding.
- Check for spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs. These spaces should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
- Always supervise children on play set equipment to make sure they are playing safely.
- Never attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, pet leashes or cords of any kind to play set equipment. If used improperly, they can be potential strangulation hazards.
- Watch for potential trip hazards, such as rocks, tree stumps and concrete footings. Make sure you’re children are aware of them as well.
- Do a sandbox check. Before letting your child dig in, rake through the sand to check for debris or sharp objects. Also, inspect for any animal contamination or insect problems.