Everything You Want to Know about Backyard Pool Safety

Backyard pools should be inspected at least annually by the pool owner or by an NLS-certified lifeguard recruited by the owner. Use the Society's Backyard Pool Safety Inspections Guidelines with the Backyard Pool Checklist. If the inspection is positive, owners can download our Backyard Pool Inspection Certificate.

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Relaxing by backyard pool

On Guard Card

The Lifesaving Society's new On Guard Card reminds parents that someone must be watching children near water with focused attention at all times. The On Guard Card designates the pool safety supervisor - if you wear the card you're on guard. Individual cards for $7.60 or 25 for $126.88.

Watch the video.

Water Safety Tips / French / Chinese

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On Guard Card 291

Woman receives $4 million in pool accident

A Hamilton woman, who became quadriplegic at age 15 after sliding into her family's backyard pool in a crouched position, was awarded $4 million in damages from the slide's parts supplier in 2008. The judge ruled the manufacturer should have warned her to slide feet first: a precaution that would have prevented the accident.

Backyard pool owners have a responsibility to provide a safe environment. Ensure bathers are educated about safe practices and pool manufacturer warnings. These can be expressed on signage and by telling bathers in advance. If you fail to do so, and an injury or death occurs, you can be prosecuted for not operating your pool with a reasonable standard of care.

Enhance safety in your pool (or your neighbour's pool) by using the Society's Backyard Swimming Pool Checklist, available on our website. Or ask a NLS-certified lifeguard to complete the inspection. Those who do will receive the Society's Backyard Pool Safety Inspection Certificate free. Call your local pool for help finding a lifeguard to conduct this inspection.

The Lifesaving Society has other resources, too. Our Backyard Pool Safety Guidelines outlines steps owners can take to enhance safety around their pools including fencing and equipment. We sell water-quality testing products to monitor chemical levels such as free-chlorine and bromine. The Society's "Within Arms' Reach" brochure and DVD provide safety tips.

Backyard pools remain the number one location
where children under age five drown (31%)

The biggest risk factor is lack of supervision from parents or caregivers. Almost all young victims were alone when they became immersed in water.

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The Lifesaving Society believes you must control and restrict access to the pool area with layers of protection and closely supervise these fearless toddlers - "if you are not within arms' reach, you've gone too far."

Fencing law breaks new ground

In May 2008, Toronto City Council revised a bylaw to require all new in-ground pools to be enclosed by a permanent four-sided fence; or, where the wall of a building forms part of the swimming pool entrance, the use of a self-closing and self-latching door is an alternative to a fourth fence.

This is in contrast to most North American municipalities that require only a three-sided fence (with the fourth side being the house). Safety experts, including the Lifesaving Society, strongly believe this is insufficient to prevent toddlers from inadvertently accessing a backyard pool when the door is left unlocked or open.

"With three-sided fencing, you are protecting all of your neighbours' children from coming into the pool area, but not the children in your house," said Barbara Byers, the Society's public education director. And backyard pools are the number one location for drownings of children under the age of five. Four-sided fencing that isolates the swimming pool from the home is widely acknowledged as the most effective strategy to prevent such drownings because it does not require human interaction to work - it is always in place.

The most stringent swimming pool enclosure regulations are those in Queensland, Australia, where regulations require compulsory four-sided fencing on all outdoor residential pools, irrespective of when the pool was constructed.

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Pool fencing

The Lifesaving Society encourages all backyard pool owners to fence in their pools on all four sides and to ensure the pool gate is: securely fastened, self-closing, and can be locked when the pool is not in use. Backyard pools should be inspected at least annually by the pool owner or by an NLS-certified lifeguard recruited by the owner.