Domestic swimming pools are still a mark of luxury in the UK although as they are coming down in real price terms they are becoming more popular. The most effective safety device of a swimming pool here is the whether in the UK; the less attractive going for a swim becomes, the fewer opportunities there are for accidents.
Safety of Swimming
Swimming pools are remarkably safe. According to government figures there are around fifteen deaths each year from drowning in swimming pools. While that is obviously fifteen people too many, in the context of three hundred and fifty million visits to public swimming pools it is a remarkably low figure. But that figure doesn’t include visits to private pools, such as those at homes and in clubs, hotels and other private establishments.
Swimming pools are probably relatively safe because of risk of compensation. Because we are aware of the dangers, particularly of drowning, we tend to take more care. But as well as deaths there are many injuries suffered by people slipping at the pool side or diving into shallow water.
Areas of Safety to Consider
If you have an open-air pool in your garden, or are considering having one put in, there are three elements to consider
- Fencing to prevent people accessing the pool area without supervision.
- Covers to prevent people falling in (either flush or canopies).
- Correct chemical treatments for the swimming pool water.
For the purposes of this article we are not considering indoor pools although some of the advice is relevant.
Fencing or walls and gates to keep people away from the swimming pool is a good first step and is mainly aimed at preventing young children, who don’t understand the dangers of a swimming pool, away from the area. You may find this unsightly and it is not compulsory in the UK (although it is now in France) but it is worth considering.
If you have an above ground pool you might be able to achieve the same effect simply by removing the steps or ladders when they aren’t in use. Small children wouldn’t then be able to reach up and get into the pool.
Some fencing systems for swimming pools come with motion detectors attached to a proximity alarm system. This way if a child manages to climb over the fence, or perhaps opens the gate, the alarm will let you know.
This would be useful for older children who can navigate the barrier of the fence but are unwilling to understand that they must have adult supervision when they are using the pool.
Covers for Swimming Pools
Swimming pool covers have three main purposes. They retain heat, prevent leaves and other debris falling in, and if strong enough, prevent people from falling in. If you do have children in the garden and you decide not to erect a fence, then a cover that is described as a safety cover, that will take a person’s weight, is really a must.
Be careful if you have softer covers that aren’t safety covers. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with them as long as they aren’t the only line of defence, they can be worse than no cover. If someone slips under the water between the cover and the wall of the swimming pool, the cover may then prevent them from surfacing to breathe.
Canopies are covers that are raised up over the swimming pool so that you can swim in inclement or cold weather, a bit of a halfway house between an indoor and an outdoor pool. From a safety point of view they can do the job of a fence rather than a cover but they should be equipped with locks if not alarmed as well.
Keeping the water chemicals at the correct level and changing water in line with manufacturers’ recommendations will prevent people from getting ill from swimming in your pool. The two dangers are bacterial infection and chemical damage.
There are a number of different chemical treatment regimes for swimming pools so it’s not possible to give hard and fast guidelines here. But do not exceed any chemical doses or considerable discomfort can be caused, particularly with chlorine. If you follow the guidelines the water should be free of any bacteria or other infection-carrying entities.
Enjoy Your Swimming Pool
As with many other safety issues in the garden, the key is to take enough precautions to be able to relax and enjoy your pool at leisure. Don’t lose sight of that!