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FunSwimShop.co.uk - Advice Taking Children Swimming
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Going swimming with children is great fun and you probably take it for granted that public swimming pools are a safe environment. However, wherever there is water there is a hazard. Constant supervision is required at all times, and although lifeguards are there for pool-users’ safety, they cannot replace the care and attention of a parent for their children. Here’s some useful safety advice for parents:

- Familiarise yourself with the layout of the swimming pool and its safety rules. In particular, make sure you know how the depth of the pool changes.

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Check how many lifeguards are on duty and where they are positioned.

- Never leave your child unattended, even if they are wearing a swimming aid.

- Make sure your child walks in the pool area and only enters the water with you.

- Encourage your child to watch what the lifeguards do and to start to identify which activities in the pool are dangerous.

- Enrol your child in swimming lessons or personal survival classes.

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 Encourage your child to shower before going into the pool; good hygiene will help maintain the water quality of the pool. If your child is not yet toilet-trained, ensure that they wear a swimming nappy.

 
Be aware that private pools (e.g. hotels, gyms, holiday parks) and home pools are often not supervised by a lifeguard, so the requirement for constant supervision is even more important. Home pools should be fenced with self-closing, self-latching gates that cannot be opened by a child. Fences should be at least 1.1 metres high, with vertical rails, making them more difficult to climb. Do not have gaps that a small child could squeeze through. Whilst safety covers and alarms can be useful, do not rely on these alone. A combination of barriers and safety features can prevent or detect access by young children to the pool, but they cannot replace supervision. Always ensure that at least one responsible person is supervising children at all times and acting as a lifeguard.
 
Importantly, make sure you know what to do should an emergency arise. Ensure you know where to summon help if in a public or private pool. Also, consider taking a basic first aid course to learn resuscitation techniques. At a home pool, keep a phone and the phone numbers of the emergency services handy.
 
Children’s admissions policies for general swimming
Guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive states "Pool operators will need to consider the number of young children (under the age of 8 years) allowed into the pool, during unprogrammed sessions, under the supervision of one parent or adult."
(Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools HSG179)
 
A swimming pool should formulate its policy following a careful risk assessment because the number of children that one responsible person can safeguard will depend upon a number of factors:

- The design, layout and type of pool.

- The staffing levels, experience and qualifications of the staff.

-  The swimming ability and maturity of the children.

- Whether suitable buoyancy aids are being worn by non-swimmers.
 
The Institute of Sport and Recreation Management (ISRM) has issued guidance on children’s  admissions, which states that a responsible person, aged at least 16 years, should accompany all children under the age of 8 into swimming pools and go in the water with them. The guidance includes a standard ratio of:

- Children under the age of four should be accompanied by a responsible person on a one-to-one basis.

- Children aged between four to seven should be accompanied by a responsible person on a maximum two-to-one basis.
 
For further details of the guidance go to:
www.isrm.co.uk/news/admissionpolicy.htm.

Some parents are unhappy about the adoption of standard ratios and complain that it discourages taking children swimming. This is not the aim and it should be remembered that the risk assessment is the most important factor in determining which ratio should be adopted. However, we must remember that young children are more vulnerable in swimming pools and a number of deaths occur each year where toddlers escape parental supervision, even just for a moment. Drowning is often a silent accident; usually there is no cry for help or audible splash, a child will simply become immersed and sink to the bottom. Standard ratios should be considered in light of these facts.
 
Advice for adult swimmers

- When swimming in a public pool familiarise yourself with the pool environment and read the safety notices.

- Make sure you know which is the deep end and which is the shallow end.

- Find out whether diving is permitted in the pool before you attempt to dive.

- Do not swim if you have drunk alcohol, taken illicit drugs or eaten a meal.

- Allow at least an hour for food to digest before going swimming.

- If taking prescription or over-the-counter medication, check whether it affects physical exercise or if it will cause drowsiness.

- If you are feeling at all unwell do not start swimming or, if already in the pool, stop swimming immediately.

-  Swim within your limits; don't overdo it.

- Maintain good hygiene; shower before going into the pool.
 
This advice applies to swimming in private pools and home pools, although extra care will be needed in home pools as they are not likely to be supervised by a lifeguard. Also, when swimming in outdoor pools you need to be aware of the weather conditions and temperature. In good weather take precautions against sunburn and heat exhaustion. In addition, be careful not to become dehydrated, which can be exacerbated by alcohol. Stop swimming if you see or hear an electrical storm.

Make sure you know what to do should an emergency arise. Ensure you know where to summon help if in a public or private pool. Consider taking a basic first aid course to learn resuscitation techniques. At a home pool, keep a phone and the phone numbers of the emergency services handy.