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Pool Standards Too Low

By Nicole Miljevic

After a mammoth of drownings in the space of Christmas to the present date, many parents have to keep an eagle eye on their children in and around water. An Australian mother, Wendy Atkinson posted a video on her Facebook page on Tuesday to alert parents to the dangers posed by pool fences – even those that meet Australian height standards.

It takes two-year-old Brodie Atkinson (her son), 21 seconds to scale the pool-like fence, in a video that has sent chills through Australian parents.

“After much deliberation I am reposting this because I refuse to have another child drown before every parent has had a chance for my beautiful 2-year-old son to educate them,” Ms Atkinson, from Adelaide, wrote.

“To teach parents just how quick and clever a 2-year-old can be.”

The video shows Brodie, still in nappies, climbing a metal fence with vertical bars by wedging his feet between the bars and then hauling himself up. The gate swings open when he releases the latch and he is all smiles.

Ms Atkinson said the fence in the video was around an area in her backyard used to store wood, but it was higher than the Australian standard for pool fences.

More than 7000 people have shared the video and it has been watched more than 360,000 times.

​Ms Atkinson is quick to note how dangerous the situation could be.

“Think about that 21 seconds. While you’ve just sat down to breastfeed your baby the siblings have just flown out the back not realising baby is in tow,” she wrote in the Facebook post.

“As vigilant as we like to think we all are and would love to be when you add extra risks like unpredictable siblings, friends, environment it gets beyond your control accidents will happen.”

NSW Fair Trading dictates pool fences must be at least 1.2 metres high and have no more than a 10-centimetre gap between vertical posts, to stop children from slipping through. Ms Atkinson’s video shows, however, that children can make use of those small gaps to scale the fence.

“This is beyond alarming,” she wrote.

NSW has experienced a spate of drowning deaths this summer, including 23-month-old twins Robbi and Charli Manago and two-year-old Vera Peacock, who died after being found unconscious in backyard pools.

A Royal Life Saving report found that last financial year, swimming pools were to blame for 52 per cent of drowning deaths among those aged under four, compared with 16 per cent for all age groups.

NSW Pool Fence Requirements
  • Fence must be at least 1.2 metres high
  • Gap at the bottom must be no more than 10 centimetres from the ground
  • Gaps between vertical bars must be no more than 10 centimetres
  • Horizontal bars must be spaced at least 90 centimetres apart

Every parent must stay vigilant – even when a pool fence is in place.

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