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Pool immersion incident reporting

Queensland public and private hospitals and Queensland Ambulance Service have mandatory reporting obligations to the Department of Health for pool immersion incidents involving children under the age of five years.

The reporting requirements fall under the Building Act 1975 and Ambulance Services Act 1991, and aim to reduce the incidence of pool-related immersion injuries and deaths for children aged under five years.

The Department of Health maintains a pool immersion incident notification system to support these reporting requirements. The Department of Health forwards notifications of pool immersion incidents to relevant authorities including the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, Queensland Family and Child Commission and the relevant local government.

The reporting of pool immersion incidents enables relevant authorities to monitor pool safety and informs future policy development for preventing child deaths and improving child health and safety.

Defining a pool immersion incident

A pool immersion incident refers to an event involving the immersion or partial immersion of a child under the age of five years under water in a swimming pool.

A pool immersion incident needs to be reported if, because of the immersion:

  1. a child has died, or
  2. the child has been deprived of air and their health and wellbeing has been adversely affected.

A swimming pool is defined as an excavation or structure that:

  • is capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300mm or more
  • is capable of being used for swimming, bathing, wading, paddling or some other human aquatic activity, and
  • includes a spa pool, spa tub, or similar thing (portable or fixed) and a wading pool (excluding a portable wading pool less than 300mm deep).

This does not include:

  • dams
  • tanks
  • fish ponds
  • watercourses
  • beach
  • baths
  • bathroom spa baths
  • portable wading pools (less than 300mm deep)
  • birthing pools.

Further information on what is considered a swimming pool can be found in schedule 2 of Building Act 1975

Requirement to report pool immersion incidents

Public and private hospitals

A person in charge of a public sector hospital or a licensee of a private health facility must notify the Queensland Health chief executive when an examination of a child under five years by a doctor in the hospital indicates the child has been involved in a pool immersion incident.

A person in charge of a hospital means:

  • for a public sector hospital under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 – the person responsible for the day-to-day operation and control of the hospital.
  • for a private facility under the Private Health Facilities Act 1999 – the licensee of the private health facility.

Queensland Ambulance Service

If the Queensland Ambulance Service is notified of a pool immersion incident, the service must give written notice of the pool immersion incident to the Queensland Health chief executive.

Health professionals

If a health professional reasonably believes that a young child has been involved in a pool immersion incident, the health professional may report to the Queensland Health chief executive with any relevant information about the young child’s condition and the incident.

The health professional is not liable, civilly, criminally, or under an administrative process for giving the information. Additionally, the health professional cannot be held to have breached any professional etiquette or ethics or departed from acceptable standards of professional conduct for providing the information.

A health professional includes:

  • a person who is a health professional under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011
  • an ambulance officer under the Ambulance Service Act 1991.

Patients, their family members or their general practitioner are not required to notify the Queensland Health chief executive of a pool immersion incident.

Reporting a pool immersion incident

Making a notification to the pool immersion incident notification system using the approved notification form (PDF 129 kB) satisfies the requirement to notify the Queensland Health chief executive.

Notification form

A notification of a pool immersion incident can be made to the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system using the approved notification form (PDF 129 kB). The notification form includes the following information:

  • the name and date of birth of the child
  • the day the examination happened
  • the date the pool immersion incident happened
  • the address of the child’s parents or guardians
  • the address where the pool immersion incident happened
  • other information about the pool immersion incident considered relevant
  • the notifier's name and contact details.

Period in which to notify

Notifications must be made within five days of an examination by a doctor in a hospital, or the Queensland Ambulance Service being advised of a pool immersion incident.

Failure to submit a notification within five days without a reasonable excuse is an offence under the Building Act 1975 and may incur a maximum penalty of 20 units.

Notifying from public hospitals

To facilitate notifications by public hospitals, the notification form has been inbuilt into emergency department electronic information management systems, including EDIS and FirstNet applications. When a notification is made using the pool immersion incident notification form within EDIS (since 2011) and FirstNet (effective 14 December 2020), the information is automatically submitted electronically to the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system.

Public hospitals without EDIS or FirstNet or where these electronic information management systems are down for an extended period of time, are required to manually complete and submit the notification form (PDF 129 kB) to the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system.

Notifying from private hospitals

Private hospitals are required to manually complete the notification form (PDF 129 kB) and submit to the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system using secure file transfer (SFT).

Notifying from Queensland Ambulance Services

Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) is required to manually complete the notification form (PDF 129 kB) and can submit to the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system securely using a standard Queensland Health/QAS email account.

Using secure file transfer (SFT)

Notifiers who do not have a Queensland Health email account are encouraged to use secure file transfer (SFT) to send pool immersion notifications to the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system. An SFT email account ensures confidential patient information is transferred securely.

Follow these instructions on how to create an SFT email account (PDF 196 kB) with Queensland Health—instructions applicable for pool immersion notifications only.

Follow these instructions on how to submit a notification via an SFT email account (PDF 194 kB)—instructions applicable for pool immersion notifications only.

Giving notice of pool immersion incidents to relevant authorities

Notifications of a pool immersion incident received by the Department of Health pool immersion incident notification system are forwarded via secure file transfer to relevant authorities within five business days.

The relevant authorities include the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, Queensland Family and Child Commission and the local government where the pool immersion took place. On receiving a notice of a pool immersion incident for a regulated pool the local government must inspect the pool for compliance with relevant pool fencing and safety standards and take any enforcement action necessary. These measures are designed to ensure children under five years are kept safe around swimming pools.

Further information

Contact us

Pool immersion incident notification system
Health Protection Branch, Prevention Division
Department of Health

PO Box 2368
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006

Phone: (07) 3328 9310
Fax: (07) 3328 9622
Email: pool_incidents@health.qld.gov.au

Last updated: 14 December 2020