New Standard to reduce drownings of New Zealand children
29 January 2007
SPLASHING about in the backyard pool is a way of life in New Zealand, especially as the summer weather heats up and the school holidays begin. Unfortunately, drowning is a major cause of accidental deaths of young children in New Zealand. Many drownings happen in private houses, unfenced or inadequately fenced swimming pools, spas and hot tubs.
The new Standard Safety barriers and fences around swimming pools, spas and hot tubs (NZS 8500:2006), released in November, will help to prevent children from drowning, says Ian Godfrey, the Chair of the Committee which developed the Standard and Senior Building Advisor at Manukau City Council.
‘The Standard limits unsupervised access to swimming pools, spas and hot tubs by strengthening layers of protection for young children, such as fences, retaining walls and doors.’
Before the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 was passed, on average, 12 toddlers died each year. Water Safety New Zealand statistics show that since the Act was passed, drownings of children under six years, have steadily decreased. However, New Zealand still has the highest rate of youth drownings among OECD countries, at almost twice the rate of Australia.
A 2005 report from the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee reported that 42 per cent of drownings of one to four year olds were in home pools. This prompted the Accident Compensation Corporation, Department of Building and Housing, and Water Safety New Zealand to sponsor the development of the Standard.
One of the major issues that the Standard aimed to address is concern that the 1987 Act is difficult to understand, confusing and has inconsistent requirements, says Ian.
‘Fencing of swimming pools is covered in both the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Code. While both documents are well-intentioned, builders, territorial authorities and homeowners were confused about the legislation and expressed the need for clearer directions on the obligations which they need to meet for ongoing compliance.’
‘The Department of Building and Housing now administers the Act. The Department is expected to make recommendations in 2007 for changes to the Act and to the Building Code which will give “means of compliance” status to the Standard.’
‘The national Standard provides clearer guidelines around pool fencing and safety for residential swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. It removes some of the confusion surrounding the current legislation. We urge all existing and future pool owners, users and members of the pool building industry to make use of this Standard in a bid to reduce drownings of our very youngest New Zealanders.’
Senior Project Manager at Standards New Zealand, Michelle Wessing, says the committee shared a common vision to develop a Standard which would help to prevent young children from drowning in swimming pools, spas and hot tubs.
‘We were heartened at the huge response we received during the public comment phase,’ says Michelle. ‘This is an issue that the public has taken a keen interest in.’