Home pools, rivers are danger zones

2014-12-12 00:00

DROWNINGS across the country are expected to spike in the summer months, with statistics revealing that nearly half of all water-associated emergencies happen in ­KwaZulu-Natal.

As the mercury rises and children take to swimming pools, dams and the sea during school holidays — paramedics are kept on their toes.

According to Netcare 911, the country sees 55% of incidents during summer and 40% of them occur in KZN.

ER24 spokesperson Werner Vermaak said they receive more drowning incidents of children in private pools and rivers than in public pools.

“We generally see an increase in drowning towards the summer ­season and festive period. This might be due to the fact that more children are at home,” Vermaak said.

He said it’s always saddening to see children drowning and perhaps dying in front of them.

“It’s a feeling that cannot be explained. Paramedics have children of their own and on many occasions, it feels like it is their own children they are resuscitating or declaring dead.”

Two months ago, a one-year-old boy died when he drowned in a swimming pool in Hillcrest while a 12-year-old boy drowned in the Umgeni River in Cato Ridge last week.

The uptick of child drownings has put pressure on municipalities to introduce new legislation or review by-laws requiring open water on properties to be covered by safety nets.

The requirements for pools are contained in Part D (Public Safety) of the National Building Regulations that states “the owner of any site that contains a swimming pool shall ensure that access to such swimming pool is controlled”.

Jayraj Jugwanth of the Concerned Swimming Fraternity in Pietermaritzburg said he had raised the issue with Msunduzi Municipality, but they cited lack of human resources to undertake implementation.

“Too many precious lives have been lost through the lack of safety or the negligence of home owners with private pools,” Jugwanth said.

“Many private pools have no safety nets or other safety measures at all. Our municipality lacks capacity and resources to implement this all ­important by-law.”

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said: “We do have by-laws but we are reviewing them to ensure that the children are safe.”

eThekwini spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said they have by-laws and when transgressed, the city prosecutes in accordance with procedures stipulated in the legislation.

“Homeowners must take responsibility for ensuring the safety of both those that reside on the property and visitors to the property. The primary focus is on controlling access to swimming pools by means of pool fencing or walling which must satisfy SABS standards,” she said.

She said homeowners do not have to register to have swimming pools but the building plans have to be submitted to local authority for approval.

Netcare 911’s Marc van Heerden said the summer incidents are ­attributable to the high volumes of visitors who flock to the province during Christmas holidays.

He said having multiple layers of safety, such as a certified safety net, a fence with locked gate, a ­child-minder and a surface alarm around the pool, can prevent accidents and drowning.

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