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Child safety and pools

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in Queensland for children under 5.

For every child that drowns in a pool, nearly 5 attend hospitals because of immersion injuries; some of these children have permanent brain damage.

Improve your pool safety by following these tips to Stay Swim Safe:
  • Always STAY close to kids in the pool: Effective pool safety depends on the vigilance of parents and carers supervising young children around pools at all time.
  • Start SWIMming lessons: Many parents start swimming lessons are never a substitute for supervision, but learning to swim does reduce the possibility of drowning.
  • Keep and maintain a SAFE pool fence:  It is important to make sure that your pool gate always self-closes and self-latches and that you check your pool fence to ensure it complies. For more information on pool fencing laws, visit contact your local council.

Video transcript (TXT, 1KB)

 What is supervision?

Supervision is not an occasional glance while you do something else. You must be constantly watching every child who is in or around the pool.

If a child is under 5, you should be in the water and within arms’ reach at all times. For older children, be ready to enter the water in case of an emergency.

Always have a designated adult supervisor. Responsibility can be rotated if there are many children to supervise. Older children cannot be responsible for supervising younger children.

For more information on active supervision, please visit the Royal Life Saving website.

First aid

Find out more about first-aid courses.

Extended breath-holding can cause death

Shallow water hypoxia or ‘shallow water blackout’ can be fatal—but many people are not even aware of it. It is often associated with repeated breath-holding games. Taking several deep breaths or hyperventilating before an extended period of breath-holding is extremely risky.

When someone holds their breath, they ignore their body’s signal to breathe. Hyperventilating—breathing fast on purpose—increases a person’s oxygen levels while decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide. However, it is increased carbon dioxide that triggers the body’s response to breathe, not low oxygen. If the person does not surface and breathe at this point, they will fall unconscious. Unless they are immediately rescued from the water and resuscitated, they will die.

This can happen the first time someone hyperventilates before breath-holding, or be triggered by repeated episodes of breath-holding. Even competent swimmers and experienced divers have died or suffered brain injuries due to shallow water hypoxia.

For supervisors and life guards, it can be difficult to distinguish between a person ‘playing’ on the bottom of the pool and someone who has passed out. 

What you can do

  • Supervise children at all times when they’re in or around water.
  • Set a good example by acting responsibly around water.
  • Spread awareness of the risks associated with breath-holding games.

Learn more about shallow water hypoxia

Last updated 01 July 2016    Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Know someone who needs this information?

Download our Stay Swim Safe (PDF,107KB) and Does your pool pass the test? (PDF, 543KB) fact sheets.

Child safety
and pools


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