Pool death sparks alarm call

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
a three year old boy's died after falling into his family's backyard pool.
Camera Icona three year old boy's died after falling into his family's backyard pool. Credit: Unknown/Supplied,

WA Building Commissioner Ken Bowron has said the Department of Mines, Industry Regulations and Safety will suggest that audible alarms be included as a requirement for pool gates.

His comments come after three-year-old Geraldton boy Jake Anthony Botica drowned in the family pool in February after the gate became stuck and was left open.

The Australian standard for safety barriers around private swimming pools states gates must self-close and self-latch.

Pool-gate alarms, which sound when the gate is stuck or left open, are not listed as a minimum requirement.

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A 2017 report by the WA Ombudsman on preventing or reducing drowning deaths of children found problems with gate latches were the most common reason pool barriers did not comply with regulatory requirements. Royal Life Saving WA has found pool gates that are propped open or not closed correctly account for about 40 per cent of backyard pool drownings in children under the age of five.

Mr Bowron said the department would write to the Standards Australia Committee.

“We will suggest (the committee) considers including audible alarms as part of the technical requirements for pool gate latch assemblies,” he said.

“Any amendments to the Australian standard would apply nationally, not just in WA.

“The department is examining the adequacy of the currents laws and is working with industry and local governments on a holistic approach to the issue.”

Last week, Geraldton resident Amy Bowlay started a petition calling on the City of Greater Geraldton council to review the legislation around pool safety and make pool-gate alarms mandatory.

In her petition — which has been signed by more than 900 people — Ms Bowlay said an alarm would have alerted Jake’s mother, Kylie Parker, of the danger within 15 seconds.

“It was less than a minute between the mother being told the gate hadn’t closed properly until the time she found Jake in the water, unresponsive,” Ms Bowlay wrote.

“Pool-gate alarms need to be mandatory on all self-closing pool gates.

“This issue is necessary to protect our children.”

But Mayor Shane Van Styn told the Geraldton Guardian changes to pool safety legislation were out of the City’s control.

“Residential pool laws are the exclusive domain of the State Government,” he said.

“I will say, mandatory pool inspections by the City are a constant source of complaints by residents, and any increase in regulatory burden will need to be carefully considered.

“We will be leaving any further decisions on that to the State.”

According to the 2018 Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report, swimming pools accounted for 67 per cent of drownings among children under five in 2017-18.

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