The Western Australian Ombudsman last year compiled a report, Investigation into ways to prevent or reduce deaths of children by drowning to parliament following a six-year investigation from July 2009 - June 2015. One area the Ombudsman examined was active supervision.
In all deaths investigated by the Ombudsman, none of the children were under active supervision, regardless of location.
Active supervision is critical as drowning often occurs silently and rapidly.
According to Royal Life Saving Society Australia "Active supervision means that a child is being constantly watched by an adult who is within arms’ reach at all times. All of your attention should be on the child and you should never leave a child alone, or in the care of an older child, when they are in, on, or around the water."
Active supervision entails 3 important elements - capacity, proximity, and continuity of supervision. The Queensland Family and Child Commission (2014) recommends that all supervisors have the capacity to do so, that is that they are an adult and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With known bodies of water (including pools, baths, and rivers), children must be in close proximity to an adult, ultimately within arms reach. Finally, supervision must be continuous and free of distractions such as caring for other children, checking social media and doing household chores.
We urge all parents to actively supervise their children when in and around water. Be water safe.
By Josephine Moss
Swim School Coordinator