Water and boating activities are very popular in Québec, which has about 300,000 residential swimming pools and over a million boating enthusiasts. However, people who do these activities must comply with certain safety measures in order to avoid the risk of drowning.

Limit access to pool

  • Make sure you limit access to the pool by making the pool area safe:
    • In-ground pools and semi in-ground pools: Install a non-climbable fence that is at least 1.2 m high around the pool in order to completely separate it from the grounds and the house.
    • Above-ground pool not attached to an elevated structure (platform or deck):
      • if the sides are more than 1.2 m high, you do not have to install a fence around the pool. However, the ladder to access the pool must have a gate;
      • if the sides are less than 1.2 m high, you must install a fence at least 1.2 m high around the pool.
    • Above-ground pools attached to an elevated structure: (platform or deck): you must install a fence at least 1.2 m high to prevent access to the pool from the structure. The fence gate must also be at least 1.2 m high.
    • Temporary pools (soft sides, inflatable or not): if the sides are less than 1.4 m high, you must install a fence at least 1.2 m high around the pool.
    • Make sure the fence:
      • prevents the passage of any round object 10 cm in diameter;
      • does not have any elements that could make it easier to climb;
      • does not have any openings to enter the enclosure.
    • A hedge or shrubs cannot be used as a fence.
    • Install water filtration and heating systems more than a metre away from the edge of an above-ground pool or the outside of the fence. Also make sure that the conduits connecting the systems to the pool are flexible and are not installed in a way that makes it easy to climb the sides of the pool or fence. This way, no one can climb on them to get into the pool.
    • When a portable ladder provides access to the pool, it is strongly recommended that the ladder be removed after swimming and when the pool is not in use.
    • Install a self-closing and self-locking safety device on every entrance to the pool.
    • Check regularly that the gate’s locking mechanism is working properly. Make sure the gate closes by itself immediately after each use.

Example of a safety device that ensures automatic closing and locking of gate

Watch your children at all times

  • Never leave a child alone and unsupervised in or near a pool. Make sure you can see them at all times. If they are not within view, call or shout for them to come closer or to make sure they are not drowning.
  • While supervising your child, do not allow yourself to be distracted, for example by the phone or by someone else. In case of an emergency or if you have to move and are no longer able to keep an eye on your child, have them get out of the pool and take them with you.

The fact that your children know how to swim or have taken swimming lessons is not enough to avoid all risk of drowning. Supervising children when they are swimming is therefore essential at all times.

Adopt safe behaviour

At the pool

  • Do not dive into above-ground pools because they are not deep enough.
  • Before diving into an in-ground pool, check with the owner to see if the diving board and pool meet the minimum safety standards for installation. To learn more about these standards, go to the Bureau de normalisation du Québec This hyperlink will open in a new window. website.
  • Do not drink alcohol before or during swimming activities.
  • After swimming, remove all objects and floating toys from the pool. This will prevent a child from accidently falling into the water while trying to reach them.

In natural bodies of water

  • Do not dive when the water is shallow
  • Before swimming, find out about the depth of the water and whether it is possible to swim safely.
  • Check the swimming area for hazards such as:
    • steep drop-offs;
    • excessive depth;
    • insufficient depth (making diving dangerous);
    • algae;
    • rocks, barriers or other submerged obstacles;
    • backwash or currents;
    • big waves breaking;
    • boating traffic.
  • While swimming, always keep an eye on the depth of the water. It can be uneven and vary suddenly, even close to shore.
  • Observe safety instructions and warnings about hazards that may exist around lakes, rivers, or other natural bodies of water.
  • Always wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device when swimming or when you are in a boat.

A few numbers on drowning in Québec

According to the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur:

  • between 2006 and 2015, an average of 73 people drowned each year;
  • between 2009 and 2015, an average of 48 people were hospitalized for non-fatal drownings each year.

In Québec, 10% of drownings occur in residential pools, while nearly 70% of drownings occur in natural bodies of water.

People of all ages can drown. Most often, children drown in residential pools after accidentally falling into the water when no adult is supervising them.

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