Safer Tourism Foundation reveals extent of unnecessary deaths and accidents in holiday swimming pools and calls for action to avoid more tragedies this summer

  • 25 Drownings in holiday pools each year*
  • 500 serious pool related incidents each year**
  • 1 in 12 (8%) holiday makers have witnessed a serious pool related incident
  • 1 in 6 (16%) have heard about a pool related incident on holiday from someone they know
  • Fear of drowning and accident is causing families to worry. Over a third of people (38%) say they worry about dangers related to the swimming pool when on holiday.

The Safer Tourism Foundation (STF), a charity dedicated to preventing accidents, injury and illness for Brits travelling abroad, has revealed the extent to which accidents in and around holiday swimming pools are ruining holidays – and lives – for those travelling overseas.

In each of the last two years, over 25 people have drowned in holiday pools while each year nearly 500 people** (the majority being children) have been involved in a serious accident or near drowning, primarily due to lack of supervision, diving or jumping into shallow water, or becoming entangled in the filtration system. Many of the incidents occur in water parks.

Research for STF*** revealed that parents need to do more in many cases:

  • Over 50% of people have seen others leave their children unsupervised around pools.
  • Less than a third of those with children have educated their kids on water depth and safety of diving in.
  • Only a quarter (25%) of people with children have explained to their children how to use chutes and water slides safely.
  • Over 1 in 5 (21%) admit to having have drunk alcohol before swimming in holiday pools.

The research also showed that there are some serious misunderstandings. For instance, the provision of a lifeguard, while providing some reassurance, can never guarantee a safe pool experience, whereas just over half (52%) of respondents believe it does. Other research findings include:

  • Over 1 in 10 (10.9%) of respondents with children agree or strongly agree that it is ok to leave their children for a short while if there is a lifeguard present.
  • Nearly a third (28%) of respondents admit that they do not always check out the depth of a swimming pool before diving or jumping in.
  • Nearly half (42%) of respondents say that they don’t know the CPR/ kiss of life procedure well enough to deliver it.
  • Less than 3 in 10 (28%) respondents check their kids’ swimming costumes for anything that can be dragged into filtration systems.
  • Just over 7 in 10 (71%) respondents think parents/ carers could do more to supervise and help make pools safe, with over a quarter (26%) of respondents stating that they strongly agree with this.

As well as a feeling that parents could do more, many people feel that companies providing holidays could be better at creating a safer experience:

  • Only 2 in 5 (40%) respondents think that safety around holiday pools is good enough.
  • Less than half (44%) respondents think that they get adequate information and communications to use pools safely when on holiday.
  • Less than half (43%) respondents think hotels and accommodation providers do enough to make pools safe when on holiday.

Launching a new campaign to raise awareness of these problems and encourage a safer swimming pool experience for families, the STF has set out a set of principles for holidaymakers to follow for a safer experience. These will enable holidaymakers to RELAX, confident that their family is safe.
We are also asking travel companies to assess their own care for their clients at all times.

Kathy Atkinson, CEO of the Safer Tourism Foundation said: “Swimming pools are one of the great features of many family holidays abroad. We want people to enjoy their time in the pool. But too many people are having serious accidents in holiday swimming pools. It’s ruining hundreds of holidays and, sadly, many lives too. The terrible thing is that it’s so unnecessary. With a little extra care on the part of travellers and holiday companies, these tragedies could be avoided, and lives saved. We know this is causing holidaymakers to worry, so this summer we want people to be able to RELAX in and around the swimming pool, confident about the safety of their family.

“Follow these simple steps to help you to RELAX:

Recce the pool environment when you first arrive at your accommodation. Identify safety features, barriers, slides and chutes, deep and shallow end, whether there is a lifeguard if it’s a shared pool and when they’re on duty. Take a moment to enter the local emergency numbers into your phone when you arrive.

Eyes on the kids – keep a look out always (whether it’s you or someone you trust).

Lifesaving techniques. Make sure you or someone you are with knows how to save lives. There may not be a lifeguard where you are going, so learn some basic CPR. And even if there is a lifeguard, bear in mind they are not substitute parents

Armbands – If they are needed, make sure they stay on at all times. Children often want to go back in the pool even when the time for swimming is over.

Explain to children how to use the pool safely. Take time to do this. It’s vital.

“And for travel and tour companies, villa providers and individuals renting out accommodation direct to customers, we have some clear requests to help ensure that they take care of every family that travels with them and uses a swimming pool on holiday.

Firstly, make sure pool signage and any briefing material is clear on what to do in an emergency. Regardless of the presence of lifeguards, emergency contact numbers should be easily accessible, at or close to the pool. It is also worth reminding people that the presence of lifeguards is not a guarantee against accidents.

For those that do provide a lifeguard service, we expect the lifeguard’s hours of duty to be clearly communicated and signed. Regardless of the local requirements, which vary from country to country, we expect lifeguards to be adequately trained and able to deliver CPR in an emergency. Crucially, they also need to be able to communicate effectively with visitors to the pool. This is common sense and reflects current HSE guidance as well as ABTA guidance on pool safety.”

“We want to raise awareness on all sides that more needs to be done to prevent serious accidents in holiday pools, and it is the joint responsibility of parents and travel companies to make the swimming pool experience as safe as possible. It’s great that some travel companies have already agreed to highlight this issue to their clients. We hope the whole industry will get behind our campaign by reminding travellers going abroad this summer about the practical things they can do themselves to have a great holiday by the pool, as well as looking at their own practices to ensure they are doing all they reasonably can to reduce the risks.”

Read more in the Telegraph here

ABTA’s Swim Safe campaign has lots of resources and practical advice on staying safe in a range of swimming environments.

Alan Oliver, Safer Tourism Foundation

Alan Oliver, Safer Tourism Foundation

Published on 07/07/18

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