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Swimming Pool Safety for Children – What Outside Barriers / Fences Should Be In Place to Protect Children from Drowning Related Injuries and Deaths?

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network


The Pool Safety Campaign emphasizes the importance of installing barriers around outdoor swimming pools. By doing so, parents are limiting pool access to adults only. This is the best way to keep children safe. A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting over, under or through to gain access to the pool or spa. Successful barriers include fences, walls, and gates.

A fence or other type of barrier should be at least four feet high or taller. There should be no footholds or handholds that could help a child climb over it. Vertical fence slats should be less than four inches apart to prevent children from squeezing through. If the fence is chain link, no part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches. Finally, the maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed four inches above grade.

The steps or ladder into an aboveground pool pool should be secured, locked or removed to prevent access. If this cannot be done, then a barrier such as a fence should surround the steps or ladder.

Fence gates should open out from the pool and should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of a child’s reach. The release mechanism for the gate should be at least three inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. The gate should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

Parents should follow these safety suggestions to ensure the prevention of poolside accidents with their children. It only takes a split second for the unimaginable to become a reality. By simply blocking the entrances to family pools with barriers, parents may ultimately be saving a life.

For more information, see The Pool Safely educational video on pool and spa fencing and gates.

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