How to keep your child safe around the pool

Are you going on holiday to a place with its own pool or taken the plunge and installed a swimming pool in your garden? Find out how to enjoy it safely and within the law. 

As a reminder, whatever type of swimming pool you have, even if it is well secured, children should never be left alone near water.


Law, regulations, standards: rules to follow if you own a pool

You are the proud owner of the pool of your dreams, you are the envy of your neighbours (and us). Only now it's time to think about safety and you have one thousand questions going through your head. Fortunately, government websites are quite informative and tell you what you need to know to keep your kids safe.

Before we take a look in detail, let's start with a differentiation that is made in most countries when it comes to rules for private swimming pools. If your swimming pool is installed above the ground, inflatable or removable then it is not concerned. That's it, it's a bit snobby we know, but it's not us saying that, it's the law. That being said, it doesn't mean you can leave your children alone in this type of pool...

Now that things are clear, the first thing to know for your private pool for individual or collective use (in a rental for example) if it is fully or partially in the ground, is that you must install one of the following pieces of equipment:

- a protective barrier,

- an audible alarm system,

- a safety cover or shutter,

- a shelter that completely covers the pool, e.g. a large veranda.

We say "must" because not doing so could put the lives of your children at risk and you could face a hefty fine of up to €45,000.

At this point we recommend you consult your government's website. In France, for example, your swimming pool must meet the criteria of the French standards association (AFNOR). Each piece of equipment has its own standard and in all cases the supplier/installer must provide you with the operating and maintenance instructions for the chosen safety device as well as the drowning prevention measures and recommendations.

If you are renting a villa with a swimming pool, it is the owner's responsibility to explain to you how to close off the pool when you are not using it. It's up to you to play by the rules and secure it when you're not around. Why? Because if nobody is supervising the swimming pool then it must be closed off. Children could slip away to take a dip while you are doing something else (having a shower or taking a nap, for example). And if they are small, they are not aware of the danger of water, they just know that they enjoy being in the pool! So prevention is better than cure and it's best to put safety systems in place for when you do not plan to be in the pool with the children.


Alarm, cover, barrier, shutter, etc. how to protect your pool

In this guide we are talking about the safety of our children, so we will not go into the aesthetic advantages of a protective barrier or the ability of a shelter to help keep in the heat of the water. And let's be honest, your choice will also/mainly depend on your budget.

Going back to the aforementioned list of safety devices, we will not go into detail for each standard but here is an outline:

- Protective barrier: the main purpose of a barrier is to restrict access to the pool, which is why it must be installed at least one metre from the pool and be at least 1.1 metres high. To meet the standard, it must also not injure any children who might try to climb over it and the gate must be difficult to operate by any children who might want to open it (manual action with a force of at least 20 Newtons to open it or two consecutive actions to unlock it).

- Audible alarm system: there are several different models of swimming pool alarms, some alert you if a child falls in the water, others simply alert you if the latter is wandering around the pool. This device is inexpensive but you would need to remain vigilant as you will need to intervene quickly in an emergency. Getting an alarm in addition to another security system can be a good option.

- Safety cover or shutter: there are several different types of safety covers, note that the only ones that do not meet the standard are bubble covers. Choose carefully when looking for the right model for your pool. To meet the standard, all safety covers must prevent a child under the age of 5 from going underwater and be able to hold the weight of an adult up to 100 kg.

- A shelter that completely covers the pool: if you're going to make it safe, you might as well go the whole hog! To meet the current standard for shelters, it must be strong enough to withstand storms, the test of time and impact (like a suit of armour).

Do pools have to be fenced off?

Not exactly, as previously stated it is mandatory to have a safety device around the pool to prevent intruders. As a reminder (it always helps to repeat things), if you break the law, you could be fined up to €45,000 (for that price you could get another pool installed) and if an intruder drowns in a unsecured swimming pool, the owner could be liable. So we can only recommend that you be careful and put in place the necessary measures for everyone's safety, and for your own peace of mind.


How to secure an inflatable or above-ground pool

If you have an inflatable or above-ground pool, you will need to keep a close eye on your children when they are using it. The best and the most effective safety measure for these small pools is adult supervision. Why is that? Because children don't have the reflex to hold their heads out of the water even if there are only a few centimetres of water in the pool (or bath). You must always stay close so that you can react quickly if ever your little swimmer decides to take a look at what's going on at the bottom.

Whereas an inflatable pool lets you choose when you use it (we strongly encourage you to empty and deflate it after use, if only to prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes), an above-ground pool stays in the garden all summer. The first thing you can do to secure it is to remove the ladder. If your child is too little to get into the pool unaided, they are too little to go in unattended.

Some brands make anti-drowning bands. Simply put it around your child's wrist or ankle and as soon as they get in the water the band sends an alert to your smartphone or tablet. But once again, you have to be close enough to be able to intervene quickly...

And of course, it's never too early to teach your little ones to swim or, at the very least, to know how to keep their heads out of the water by themselves! Water awareness is essential to help prevent drowning.

Check out our guides on school swimming lessons, why it's a good idea to sign up for baby swimming sessions and also some games to play in the water because learning also (mostly) happens while having fun. Tell us about your experiences by leaving us a comment at the bottom of the page.



Guide writer


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