Almost half of all child drownings in Canada happen in backyard swimming pools. Children from one to four years of age are most likely to drown in a backyard pool.

Here’s how to reduce the risk of your child drowning in a backyard pool.

Pool fencing

Install a 1.2-metre high, four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent children from having dangerous access to the bodies of water, such as pools and ponds.

  • The majority of children who have drowned in Canada drowned while their parents or caregivers were not watching them. Children drown quickly and quietly. A parent inside the house may not hear their child go out the back door of the house, slip into the water and drown.
  • Prevent your child from drowning by creating a barrier around your pool or between your property and the open water. If you have a property (house or cottage/cabin) close to open water, fence off a play area for children away from the water.
  • Safer pool fencing prevents children from reaching the pool area without adult supervision. Safe pool fencing is designed so that children cannot climb over or under it. Not having a fence allows children dangerous access to the pool. 
  • Research shows that four-sided pool fencing could prevent seven out of 10 drownings to children under five years of age.

Features of safer pool fencing

Four-sided fencing

This completely encloses the swimming pool area. Most backyard pool fences go around only three sides of the pool. This means children can still reach the pool directly from the house.

Climb-resistant fencing

Children can easily climb many fence designs, such as “ranch-style” fencing (primarily made of horizontal bars), as well as chain link fences, whose large openings allow children to get a foothold to climb. These fence styles shouldn’t be used as pool enclosures.

A self-closing and self-latching gate

This controls all entry into the pool area. When properly installed, this gate will automatically close and latch every time the gate is opened, preventing unsupervised access by children.

Minimum height of 1.2 m (4 ft)

Children can easily climb shorter fences.

Fencing opening recommendations

  • Chain-link and wooden lattice openings should be smaller than 38 mm (1.5 in).
  • If horizontal bars are less than 114.3 cm (45 in) apart, the vertical bar spacing should be 44.45 mm (1.75 in).
  • If horizontal bars are greater than 114.3 cm (45 in) apart, the vertical bar spacing should be 100 mm (4 in).

Safety equipment for pools and waterfronts

You should always have the following:

  • First-aid kit
  • Phone for emergencies
  • Reaching pole
  • Ring buoy attached to a rope

Check with your local government to see what additional equipment is recommended or mandated for your pool.