Parents court danger for kids by flouting pool safety rules

Dubai Municipality says some villa-owners violate safety regulations after receiving approvals

The issue of swimming pool safety resurfaced after two Emirati toddlers drowned in a pool in a Mirdif villa on Friday as their parents were having iftar. Picture for illustrative purposes.

Dubai: Some parents in the UAE are courting danger for their children by sidestepping safety rules for swimming pools at home despite strict regulations being in place.

While some parents neglect to supervise children, some owners of swimming pools in private villas flout safety norms in the name of convenience and aesthetics, according to officials and industry experts.

Gulf News revisited the issue in light of two Emirati toddlers drowning in a villa pool in Mirdif in Dubai on Friday. One-and-a-half-year-old Suad and her two-and-a-half-year-old cousin Shehab drowned after reportedly sneaking into the pool while their parents were having iftar.

According to the police, there was a door from the kitchen leading directly to the pool.

While questions are raised about parental negligence, experts say there are people who knowingly compromise on safety.

Redha Salman, director at Dubai Municipality’s Health and Safety Department, said the responsibility of ensuring safety in private pools rests entirely with parents and guardians.

“We cannot enter private properties to inspect pools,” he said.

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The department is involved in the design stage and gives approval to swimming pool designs only if they meet safety requirements.

The final approval from the Building Department for pool construction is issued only after the health and safety approval is secured.

“However, sometimes these are modified by occupants of villas, which we will not be aware of [as the municipality is not authorised to inspect private pools].”

Such modifications can cause safety hazards, he pointed out.

maximum stipulated depth of a kids’ pool

“Some people even seek exemptions in implementing some of the safety features. They even give letters of undertaking for us to approve exemptions as they see certain requirements like fences as less aesthetic.”

The official clarified that the municipality does not entertain such requests. “But there is a chance that these people can make changes after they finish construction,” Salman said.

And that is what happens in many villa pools, according to Praveen Palakkeel, who has been involved in the construction and maintenance of hundreds of swimming pools in the UAE.

“When it is given for approval, the plan will have fencing. After inspections by the municipality for commissioning, they remove it,” he said.

He has also noticed the absence of safety accessories like safety rings, life jackets and goggles in many villa pools.

In some villas, he said, the owners insist on maintaining a constant depth in swimming pools.

“It is a wrong practice. There should be a shallow end and then a slope to the deep end,” Palakkeel said.

mandatory height of a swimming pool fence

Some owners do not agree to maintain safe depth levels, he added.

“Kids’ pool should have only 45cm to 50cm depth, but they want to make it 75cm to 80cm.”

Some other safety violations that Palakkeel has seen in private pools include lack of depth marking, chlorinator to release right amount of chlorine to clean the water, warning boards to supervise children aged below 12 years in common swimming pools meant for a number of villas.

Salman pointed out that people also flout one of the most important safety rules that the pool fence, which should mandatorily be 90cm high, must always be secured with child lock.

Dubai Municipality to bolster awareness on pool safety for kids

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Dubai Municipality will be partnering with children’s events to conduct awareness programmes on swimming pool safety, a senior official told Gulf News. The municipality’s campaign titled ‘Is Your Home Safe’, which has a segment on pool safety, will also be carried out in various schools. Redha Salman, director of Health and Safety Department, said parents can ensure additional security with the help of gadgets. “There are gadgets and sensors to alert about drowning in a pool, but nothing replaces the vigilance of parents,” he said.

The campaign highlights the following points to prevent accidents and injuries to kids while they are in a pool.

■ Ensure adult supervision without any distractions such as using the phone or reading a book.
■ Children must wear a pool float and life jacket as well.
■ Always keep the first aid box and life ring close to the pool.
■ Eliminate children’s activities in the pool area such as playing with a ball and running around.
■ Ensure that the safety fence around the pool is closed.

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