Are garden water features safe when you have small children?

Water holds a particular fascination for young children. Whether the water is in a garden pond, a rainwater butt, a paddling pool or a bucket, a young child will invariably investigate.

Due to this natural inquisitiveness, 68 children under the age of six drowned in a garden pond or in the back garden (excluding swimming pools) between 1995 and 2005, quite often within the space of a few minutes of the supervising adult being momentarily distracted. It is impossible for any parent to supervise a toddler 100 per cent of the time so it is essential that steps are taken to reduce the risk of drowning within the garden where the child will play.

Parents should check the garden regularly. Containers holding rainwater should be emptied or sealed to prevent children gaining access and paddling pools should always be emptied and turned upside down after use. Although garden ponds have great ecological benefits, RoSPA advises parents of children under six years-old to temporarily fill them in. Use it as a sandpit, garden or something similar, until your child is out of the age category when they are most at risk of drowning in it.

If parents with children under the age of six choose to maintain a garden pond they must be aware that they need to constantly supervise their children in the garden. They also need to ensure that the pond is inaccessible to any child who may escape supervision. If you don’t want to fill in your pond or are unable to do so, certain security measures can be considered.

Rigid mesh or a grille can be used to create a secure cover for a garden pond, but the mesh must be firmly secured and regularly checked for signs of deterioration. The mesh or grille needs to be able to support the weight of a child and should remain above the surface of the water at all times. Fencing off the pond is only a partial solution and can often lead parents into a false sense of security. If the pond is fenced it must be of such a height and design that makes it secure, preventing access by young children.

Date Updated/Created: 13/09/2010

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