The city has already implemented several changes that an Edmonton judge has called for, following the death of a seven-year-old boy in 2012. The deputy city manager for citizens’ services said some of the recommendations called for by provincial court Judge Renee Cochard will be brought into practice, but others will need further review.
One is that children under eight wear brightly coloured wristbands in city pools. Another is that they wear life-jackets until they can pass a swim test. Rob Smyth said they already use high standards in those areas.
“In 2012 we retained the Royal Life Saving Society to do a real detailed investigation just for us. They’ve been our best practice for the last three or so years so lots of that information is being addressed.” The guidelines drawn up by the Life Saving Society were submitted to the judge during the inquiry.
Smyth said the city will go to even brighter wristbands than what they use now. “Some of them had little smiley faces on them and once they got wet they stayed on the arm well enough but they weren’t particularly bright enough for some of the guards to see.”
“Maybe we can make them brighter. We’ll work on that and see what might come from that.”
He said the city disagrees with the call for life-jackets at all times, as that recommendation goes beyond Royal Life Saving Society requirements. Further discussion will be held on that.
Other city changes that came in following the drowning at the O’Leary Leisure Centre in July 2012 include more stringent adherence to the arm’s reach policy that city trained life-guards enforce. “We certainly do our rigor in terms of training of our (life) guards and keep our staff’s feet to the fire to make sure that is managed well. They’re very very busy environments, pools. More so now than ever before.”
Care givers are required to have enough adult supervision to the number of children with them. The boy, who was in government care and living in a group home, had gone to the pool with a staff member and two other children. The pool required an adult to be within reach of the boy but his worker was preoccupied with a younger child and wasn’t close by.
“Before we had a ratio of one to five. The recommendation emerged that it should be one to three, and these children should be with-in arm’s length. It’s always been at arm’s length but it was consensus opinion and recommendation that five was too many for one caregiver to manage, so now it’s three.”
The judge also wants the province to fund a swimming survival program for Grade 4 students and to require all foster and group homes to have swimming policies, however Smyth said there are some questions about funding that the province will have to address.
He said the pool environment is getting busier every year, and Edmonton is becoming a more diverse and multicultural city, with more multicultural facility users. “We have over the last few years, our water safety managing is in a whole bunch of different languages now. We have name tags on some staff if they have a different language other than English, so people can speak different languages. So we’re trying to keep ahead of that curve, but it’s an ongoing challenge.”
(sj-with files from the Canadian Press)