SwimSafe is a public education campaign born out of coronial recommendations which is targeted at adult vulnerable swimmers. It is a research-based campaign which has been proven to be effective at educating both staff and patrons on the vulnerabilities of weak and non-swimmers, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and those with pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities about the hazards associated with aquatic environments.
Staff are provided with resources, training and marketing materials to ensure patrons receive the 5-tips to ‘Swim Safe’:
- Read the safety signs
- Enter feet first
- Stay within your safe depth
- Swim with a friend
- Put your hand up for help
- Albury Outdoor Pool
- Aquahub (Croydon)
- Aquanation (Ringwood)
- Aquapulse (Hopper’s Crossing)
- Ashburton Pool and Recreation Centre
- Bass Coast Aquatic and Leisure Centre
- Benalla Aquatic Centre
- Boroondara Sports Complex
- Brunswick Baths
- Cardinia LIFE
- Carlton Baths
- Casey Aquatic and Recreation Centre
- Casey Recreation and Aquatic Centre
- Castlemaine Swimming Pool
- Coburg Leisure Centre
- Coburg Olympic Swimming Pool
- Collingwood Leisure Centre
- Cowes Primary School Outdoor Pool
- Croydon Memorial Pool
- Dandenong Oasis
- Diamond Creek Outdoor Pool
- Doveton Pool in the Park
- Drouin Outdoor Pool
- Eltham Leisure Centre
- Fawkner Leisure Centre
- Fitzroy Swimming Pool
- Foster Outdoor Pool
- Harcourt Swimming Pool
- Hawthorn Aquatic and Leisure Centre
- Horsham Aquatic centre
- Kensington Community Centre
- Kew Recreation Centre
- Kilmore Leisure Centre
- Korumburra Outdoor Pool
- Lakes Entrance Aquadome
- Melbourne City Baths
- Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre
- Mildura Waves
- Mirboo North Pool
- Nathalia Outdoor Pool
- Neerim South Outdoor Pool
- Newstead and District Swimming Pool
- Noble Park Aquatic Centre
- Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre
- North Melbourne Recreation Centre
- Numurkah Aquatic and Fitness Centre
- Numurkah Outdoor Pool
- Oak Park Aquatic Centre
- Pascoe Vale Outdoor Pool
- Peter Krenz Leisure Centre
- Poowong Outdoor Pool
- Rawson Indoor Pool
- Reservoir Leisure Centre
- Richmond Recreation Centre
- South Australia Aquatic and Leisure Centre
- South Gippsland SPLASH
- Strathmerton Swimming Pool
- Sunshine Leisure Centre
- St Albans Leisure Centre
- Thorpdale Outdoor Pool
- Trafalgar Swimming Pool
- Wangaratta Olympic Pool
- Wangaratta Sports and Aquatic
- Warragul Leisure Centre
- Werribee Outdoor Pool
- Wodonga Sports and Fitness Centre
- Yarrawonga Foreshore Splash Park
- Yarrawonga Outdoor Pool
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are vulnerable patrons?
Those at the greatest risk of drowning have been identified as weak or non-swimmers. Two key groups at increased risk of drowning in public aquatic facilities are:
- People from CALD communities; and
- People with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions (including older adults).
What should I expect to see in a SwimSafe accredited facility?
The communications component of the SwimSafe campaign is focused around informing the public of the safety tips and starting the conversation between the target audience and staff at your facility. The following resources will be prominent in SwimSafe accredited facilities:
- Pull up banners
- Brochures/ cards with ‘5 tips’
- A-frame signs
- Hallway and changeroom posters
What messages will staff be communicating?
The campaign aims to encourage discussion between the target groups and facility staff (including reception staff, lifeguards and management) and to deliver the ‘5 tips’ to help those users swim safely.
Visual and verbal communication of the SwimSafe campaign is key to its’ success.
Communicating the SwimSafe materials on entry (and even before patrons enter the front door, e.g. via social media) is vital. However, it is important to retain an element of discretion to allow for unique circumstances that arise.
Publicising the SwimSafe materials in areas where patrons are likely to pause and interact with the materials is crucial. Having key information displayed in stands, on the backs of cubicle doors and in areas where movement is corralled is important.
It is an important part of the campaign to ensure that materials are displayed at or near where the actual hazards exist as well as the places that people are most likely to notice the materials. Hazard areas include:
- Entry points to pools where deep water exists
- At the entry to lanes where deep water exists
- Along footpaths from changing areas to deep water
- Where other hazards exist
Why is LSV introducing this campaign now?
In 2018, Royal Life Saving Australia (RLSSA) published the report, ‘A 10 Year Analysis of Drowning in Aquatic Facilities’ (RLSSA, 2018b).The report analysed fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents in Australian aquatic facilities between 2005 and 2015. Key findings included:
- 36 drowning deaths in public / commercial swimming pools
- 257 non-fatal drowning incidents in public / commercial swimming pools
- 28% of those who drowned were born overseas
- 61% of those who drowned had a pre-existing medical condition
- $4.2m is the estimated cost of a single drowning death.
Some key risk factors for these drownings included:
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Drug use (prescription medication)
- Lack of swimming ability and water safety knowledge.
Between 2005 and 2015,
- 28% of those who drowned in aquatic facilities in Australia were born overseas (RLSSA, 2018b).
- 35% of drownings in Victoria in 2017/2018 were from CALD communities (Life Saving Victoria, 2018).
LSV undertook significant research over the last 3-years into what campaign materials and messages would be effective in reducing the likelihood and consequence of potential incidents. The SwimSafe campaign is the result of more than three iterations of campaign materials trialed in research and in partnership with the Victorian Aquatics and Recreation Industry.
By participating in this campaign your facility is actively contributing to a safer community and to increased community resilience.
Being an accredited facility means that you are part of a State-wide initiative. The program and industry has the peak body support of both LSV, including the link to the highly recognisable Play It Safe by the Water campaign (PISBTW).
Public pools provide an ideal setting which allow people to engage with and enjoy aquatic recreation in a controlled environment with lifeguard supervision. However, lifeguards are supervising up to 100 people at a time and therefore cannot be supervising every patron constantly. Therefore, by making those individuals at higher risk aware of the need to inform pool staff of their potential vulnerabilities, staff can then provide simple information to reduce the likelihood of an injury or drowning event occurring.
A Victorian coroner recently recommended that:
-“[pools] implement a system, not limited to, but which may be in the form of signage, requesting patrons to inform a staff member of their vulnerabilities before entering the water.”
-“[pools]… explore the options and means for best communicating with and encouraging patrons who have English language challenges, to inform staff members of their vulnerabilities before entering the water.”
These recommendations have implications for the wider aquatic industry; it is recognised that all public pool operators need to be able to better communicate with patrons with certain vulnerabilities and English language challenges. Materials were developed in response to the above-mentioned coronial recommendations, however an evaluation of these resources revealed low levels of recall and uptake. It was identified that prior to any further development of resources research was required to determine the ideal messages and methods of communicating these messages to the two key audiences: i) CALD communities and ii) those who have a physical disability.
In response, a research project was undertaken by Life Saving Victoria (LSV) from May to August 2019, to evaluate the suitability of draft communication resources that were developed for patrons who may be weak or non-swimmers.
This project involved three stages:
-Stage 1 involved exploratory research into the above objectives.
-Stage 2 involved concept testing of the submitted communication materials in order to inform the final campaign. This included key message development as well as materials (posters, brochures, banners) ready for print or use with digital media and on websites/ social media.
This report summarises the evaluation of Stage 3 of the Communication with vulnerable swimmers at public pools campaign, which piloted the communication materials at public pools in Victoria and was re-branded as the SwimSafe In The Pool campaign. The LSV Public Training and Pool Safety (PTPS) department engaged LSV’s Aquatic Risk & Research department to conduct the study.
The report is available here: SwimSafe Evaluation 2019
SwimSafe although born out of coronial recommendations also happens to satisfy several requirements contained within the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations (GSPO) and during the research phase of the campaign care was taken to align the resources with the requirements of the GSPO. Life Saving Victoria would like to thank Royal Life Saving Society Australia and the National Aquatic Industry Committee for their continued research into water safety and the development and revision of the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations.
The applicable sections of the GSPO that SwimSafe applies to are included here:
SV16.5.1 The owner or operator of an aquatic facility should implement policies to encourage patrons with inexperience / vulnerabilities or who may be non-swimmers to inform a staff member of their inexperience / vulnerabilities at the point of entry to the aquatic facility.
16.5.2 This may include, but not limited to, membership conditions, entry-based signage / information, website information and information displayed in changing facilities.
16.5.3 Based on this information the owner or operator of an aquatic facility should have in place risk mitigation procedures to reduce the likelihood of drowning from occurring. This may include but is not limited to:
-Additional Parent/Guardian and Lifeguard Supervision
-Activity Zoning or restriction of activities / areas where the depth is greater than 900mm
-Personal Protective Equipment
-Public Education and Skill development programs
SV 16.6.4 The Owner or operator of an aquatic facility should ensure adequate signage supporting the policies for the supervision of non-swimmers is displayed at the following points:
-Entry to the facility
-Entry or exit of change areas
-Aquatic environment where this is areas deeper than 900mm or a change in gradient.
SV4. 4.2.9. Special consideration should include those user groups who through drowning and injury research are more prone to need supervision
SV 16.4.5 The owner or operator of an aquatic facility should implement a broad ranging program to manage the risks associated with non-swimmers. This should include but is not limited to:
-Engagement and Public Education and skill development
-Parent / Guardian and Lifeguard Supervision
-Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment