SwimSafe is a public education campaign born out of coronial recommendations which is targeted at adult vulnerable swimmers and has been proven in research 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 and encourages these patrons to ask staff for ‘5-tips’ to help them ‘swim safe’ in the pool.
- Display and communication of SwimSafe campaign resources
- Identification of vulnerable patrons
- Communication of the ‘5-tips’
- Staff training on water safety including multicultural and disability awareness
1. Understanding the target audience
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).
2. Effective display of campaign materials
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 are available for this purpose:
- Pull up banners
- Brochures/ cards with ‘5 tips’
- A-frame signs
- Hallway and changeroom posters
3. Communication of the ‘5-tips’
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
Additional communication guidelines / FAQ:
- If a patron tells staff members that they can swim and do not need the ‘5 tips’, great! It is important that staff firstly acknowledge that i) it is great they can swim and that ii) staff are not disputing their actual ability. the campaign is geared at raising awareness and promoting two-way communication about water safety.
How do we manage situations not covered directly by the resources?
- In all instances, managers should have undertaken a risk assessment process (risk identification, analysis and treatment) specific to the facility.
- In practice, this should tell management where the risks are and provide them with an opportunity to ensure appropriate treatment measures are in place.
- In principle, risk assessments also demonstrate the business’ understanding and contribute towards demonstrating due diligence. This will only be the case if they are appropriately developed, implemented and managed.
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.
Register for SwimSafe
Injuries in public aquatic facilities is a major issue faced by the Victorian Industry. As a result SwimSafe is a must for public pools in Victoria. The program is supported and endorsed by LSV and links into the Play It Safe By The Water campaign.
For more information or to register your interest on joining the program please complete the form below and email to email@example.com
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:
-“Belgravia Leisure Pty Ltd 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.”
-“Belgravia Leisure Pty Ltd in consultation with Banyule City Council 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
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