Water Safety

Water Safety

Keep your child safe near water. Never leave children, especially those under 5, unsupervised near any water, including baths, buckets and water troughs.

Lives can be destroyed when babies and toddlers are not actively supervised around water.

Constant active adult supervision is the only way to keep babies and toddlers safe around water.

A Water Safety New Zealand video.


Key points to remember about water safety

  • drowning is a leading cause of death from injury in young people
  • babies mostly drown in buckets and baths
  • pre-schoolers mostly drown in home swimming pools and unfenced water hazards nearby homes
  • teens mostly drown in natural bodies of water, such as rivers and the sea

Two young children swimming in a pool wearing lifejackets

Never leave young children unsupervised near water

  • always keep within arm's reach of your child when they are in and around water
  • never leave children, especially those under 5 years of age, unsupervised near water, including baths, buckets, ponds, streams and water troughs
  • be aware of unfenced landscape water features, storm water catchment ponds and urban streams near homes
  • all children under the age of 3 years should be constantly supervised in the bath by an adult - if you need to leave the room, take your child with you
  • bath aids, bath seats or young siblings are not a replacement for adult supervision
  • never leave an unwell child unsupervised in the bath

Use pool fencing that completely surrounds your pool and check pool fences and gates regularly

  • use pool fencing that completely surrounds your pool and separates it from the house - spa pools are safest securely fenced
  • check the safety and security of your fences regularly
  • check your pool gates open outward away from the pool, swing shut and automatically latch, every time
  • check pool fences for gaps to crawl under, or for loose bars or planks
  • never prop open a pool gate or have anything nearby that might block the gate latch (such as clothes or towels)
  • make sure to remove any chairs or toys that children might use to climb over a pool fence
  • if fences are modified or houses and gardens redesigned, always check the pool fence still functions to keep children safe
  • be especially careful with children if you are visiting someone with a pool - if you are in a group, always make sure it is clear who has the job of watching the children; otherwise everyone may assume someone else is watching them
  1. Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, Te Rōpū Arotake Auau Mate o te Hunga Tamariki, Taiohi. 2009. Fifth Report to the Minister of Health: Reporting mortality 2002–2008. Chapter 2: Drowning (PDF, 495KB). Wellington: Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee. [Accessed 09/09/2019]
  2. Water Safety New Zealand 2014 Drowning report 

This page last reviewed 10 September 2019.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it