Summer Water Safety

Main points

  • Whether at the beach, a pool, a river or a lake, supervising children around water is essential for keeping them safe.
  • There are different safety rules for each place and we need to be aware of local conditions before we go in.

At the beach

  • Always keep a close eye on your child while you are at the beach.
  • Whenever practical, choose to swim at a patrolled beach. Life Saving Victoria has a full list of patrolled beaches, so you can plan your trip with peace of mind. At a patrolled beach, swim between the red and yellow flags where lifesavers patrol.
  • If the beach is not patrolled, check and read water safety signs and follow their advice. It is advisable not to swim alone.
  • Slip, slop, slap and make sure you have adequate shade for protection during the hottest time of the day. Remember to reapply sunscreen according to the directions on the label. Some sunscreens are waterproof and don’t need to be reapplied before going into the water. Some sunscreens come with spray-on applicators, making it easier to apply; others need to be rubbed onto the skin. The higher the rating the more protection it provides – a 30+ sunscreen is better than a 15+ sunscreen. See Cancer Council Victoria for a list of recommended sunscreens, hats, clothing and portable shade items.
  • Make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. A day at the beach may mean you’ll need more water than you normally would at home. Keeping your child hydrated is one easy way of making a day at the beach a safe and enjoyable one for everyone.

At the pool

Nothing beats a dip in the backyard pool or local swimming pool. It’s a great way to cool off, especially on a really hot day.

  • Never leave children unsupervised near a pool. Supervision means constant visual contact, not the occasional glance. Even in a supervised public pool, never take your eyes off your child while they are swimming. If your child is under five, you should be within arm’s reach. Actively participating in your child’s play will help make things safe.
  • If you leave the pool or water area, even for a moment, take your child with you.
  • If you have a backyard pool, make sure your pool fence and gate are in good working order. Pool fences should have a self-closing and self-latching gate, and these should be regularly checked and maintained.
  • Empty paddling pools when they are not in use. Empty baths, basins, sinks, buckets and troughs immediately after use.

For more information, see:

  • Water Safety’s Pool Safety – includes advice on home pool safety and pool safety tips
  • Better Health Channel’s Swimming Pools – water quality – it’s important to check the water quality of your home swimming pool (pH and chlorine levels) daily; these tests should preferably be done before the first swim of the day.
  • Better Health Channel’s Swimming – preventing injury – water sports, swimming and water play are part of our way of life. Unfortunately each year people drown in the sea, inland waters and in swimming pools.

At the lake or river

Many families holiday by lakes and rivers. These are places where it’s nice to spend some time in the shade by a river or in a boat on a lake, especially on hot days. If it’s not an area you know, check if it’s okay to swim by asking someone who knows the area, such as a local shopkeeper, park ranger or caravan park owner.

  • Never swim, or allow your child to swim, in fast-flowing water. You can check how fast the river is flowing first by throwing in a twig to see how fast it travels.
  • Beware of submerged objects in rivers and in lakes. Trees, branches and rocks can be hazards just underneath the surface. Never dive into a river or lake until you know how deep the water is, whether it is free of hazards and what the bottom surface is like.
  • Lakes may look calm but this can be deceptive. Strong winds or sudden changes in the weather can create choppy conditions, making it dangerous for swimming or boating.
  • Cold currents in lakes or rivers can pose a risk. Suddenly submerging into cold water can be a problem and slow immersion is a better bet. While a quick dip in cool water can be very refreshing on a hot day, if your child is cold or shivering in the water they should get out immediately.

Related links

  • Water Safety – information to assist you on how to be safe at the beach, the river, the pool, and while boating and fishing
  • Kid’s Health’s Water Safety – kids need constant supervision around water, in a bathtub, pool, the sea, or a water park.
  • Better Health Channel’s Water safety for children – always supervise a child around any water including swimming pools, baths, dams, creeks, the beach and irrigation channels
  • Learn to Swim Victoria – our swim school program has been designed to allow for continuous improvement at age and ability-appropriate levels in small classes, with our highly qualified AUSTSWIM instructors.