DRESCHEL: What’s next? Fencing around bathtubs?

Opinion Apr 15, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

The protest signs began popping up in the gallery as soon as pool fencing hit the council floor.

It was a bit anticlimactic, though.

Instead of debating it Wednesday night, councillors booted the hot issue to a future committee meeting so the public can have another chaw on a proposal that's already sprouting a three-year growth of whiskers.

Still, the protest signs neatly summed up the pool industry's opposition to a bylaw change which would require new private swimming pools to be fenced on all four sides to prevent kids from drowning.

"Educate don't regulate," said one sign.

"Supervision, not legislation," said another.

My favourite, though, was the poster depicting a bathtub enclosed by a fence with the accompanying message, "What's next?"

Actually, it's no laughing matter. The vast majority of drownings in Canada take place in natural bodies of water. But bathtubs are the No. 1 man-made setting for drownings, and those deaths are on the rise, according to the 2015 report from Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada.

From 2008-2012 — the most recent years available — an average of 43 Canadians per year drowned in bathtubs compared to 27 in private pools.

On top of that, infants less than one year old are especially at risk in bathtubs, which account for 75 per cent of all drownings in that age group. Bathtubs also are the setting for 13 per cent of all drownings among one-to-four-year olds.

True, private backyard pools continue to be the No. 1 place where children under the age of five most often drown. But if fencing bathtubs can save just one life, isn't it time the city took action?

Don't scoff. That's the same bogus argument Coun. Maria Pearson and others have advanced in support of changing the current swimming pool regulations.

Under the staff proposal, all existing pools would be exempt from hemming in. But all new pools — defined as any body of water deeper than 0.6 metres (two feet) — would have to be complexly surrounded by a fence 1.5 metres (five feet) high.

You have to wonder why existing pools are exempted. Either there's a chronic safety issue or there isn't. If it means saving even one life, why not be consistent and cage all pools?

By the same rationale, perhaps it's time the city fenced in all public sidewalks so children can't dash into traffic. After all, according to a 2010 report from the Chief Coroner of Ontario, six per cent of all fatally injured pedestrians in traffic accidents are youngsters, and of those 20 per cent ran out into the street.

At the risk of belabouring the point, if other levels of government adopted the same reasoning, wearing life jackets would become compulsory for canoeists, adult cyclists would have to wear bike helmets, speed regulators would be mandatory for all motor vehicles, and the sale of alcohol and fatty foods would be banned.

The list goes on and on. The point is, the saving-just-one-life argument is a cheap appeal to the emotions, not a reasonable basis for enacting or changing laws. The real test should be: is the law necessary and is it fair.

Among other points, the pool industry says four-sided fencing is already an option for concerned consumers; mandatory fencing will add to costs; any fence can be climbed and gates left ajar; and adult supervision is the real key to swimming pool safety.

It's the last point that grabs me.

According to the aforementioned report, an average of 20 kids under the age of five drown every year. The majority of them are tragically alone when they plunge into the water. In 49 per cent of cases there is no supervision; in 43 per cent the supervisors are distracted; and in 23 per cent the kids are with other minors only.

Whether near lakes and ponds or swimming pools and bathtubs, human error and the lack of proper supervision is the biggest risk factor for toddlers. Sadly, no new fencing rule is going to change that.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: What’s next? Fencing around bathtubs?

Opinion Apr 15, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

The protest signs began popping up in the gallery as soon as pool fencing hit the council floor.

It was a bit anticlimactic, though.

Instead of debating it Wednesday night, councillors booted the hot issue to a future committee meeting so the public can have another chaw on a proposal that's already sprouting a three-year growth of whiskers.

Still, the protest signs neatly summed up the pool industry's opposition to a bylaw change which would require new private swimming pools to be fenced on all four sides to prevent kids from drowning.

"Educate don't regulate," said one sign.

"Supervision, not legislation," said another.

My favourite, though, was the poster depicting a bathtub enclosed by a fence with the accompanying message, "What's next?"

Actually, it's no laughing matter. The vast majority of drownings in Canada take place in natural bodies of water. But bathtubs are the No. 1 man-made setting for drownings, and those deaths are on the rise, according to the 2015 report from Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada.

From 2008-2012 — the most recent years available — an average of 43 Canadians per year drowned in bathtubs compared to 27 in private pools.

On top of that, infants less than one year old are especially at risk in bathtubs, which account for 75 per cent of all drownings in that age group. Bathtubs also are the setting for 13 per cent of all drownings among one-to-four-year olds.

True, private backyard pools continue to be the No. 1 place where children under the age of five most often drown. But if fencing bathtubs can save just one life, isn't it time the city took action?

Don't scoff. That's the same bogus argument Coun. Maria Pearson and others have advanced in support of changing the current swimming pool regulations.

Under the staff proposal, all existing pools would be exempt from hemming in. But all new pools — defined as any body of water deeper than 0.6 metres (two feet) — would have to be complexly surrounded by a fence 1.5 metres (five feet) high.

You have to wonder why existing pools are exempted. Either there's a chronic safety issue or there isn't. If it means saving even one life, why not be consistent and cage all pools?

By the same rationale, perhaps it's time the city fenced in all public sidewalks so children can't dash into traffic. After all, according to a 2010 report from the Chief Coroner of Ontario, six per cent of all fatally injured pedestrians in traffic accidents are youngsters, and of those 20 per cent ran out into the street.

At the risk of belabouring the point, if other levels of government adopted the same reasoning, wearing life jackets would become compulsory for canoeists, adult cyclists would have to wear bike helmets, speed regulators would be mandatory for all motor vehicles, and the sale of alcohol and fatty foods would be banned.

The list goes on and on. The point is, the saving-just-one-life argument is a cheap appeal to the emotions, not a reasonable basis for enacting or changing laws. The real test should be: is the law necessary and is it fair.

Among other points, the pool industry says four-sided fencing is already an option for concerned consumers; mandatory fencing will add to costs; any fence can be climbed and gates left ajar; and adult supervision is the real key to swimming pool safety.

It's the last point that grabs me.

According to the aforementioned report, an average of 20 kids under the age of five drown every year. The majority of them are tragically alone when they plunge into the water. In 49 per cent of cases there is no supervision; in 43 per cent the supervisors are distracted; and in 23 per cent the kids are with other minors only.

Whether near lakes and ponds or swimming pools and bathtubs, human error and the lack of proper supervision is the biggest risk factor for toddlers. Sadly, no new fencing rule is going to change that.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: What’s next? Fencing around bathtubs?

Opinion Apr 15, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

The protest signs began popping up in the gallery as soon as pool fencing hit the council floor.

It was a bit anticlimactic, though.

Instead of debating it Wednesday night, councillors booted the hot issue to a future committee meeting so the public can have another chaw on a proposal that's already sprouting a three-year growth of whiskers.

Still, the protest signs neatly summed up the pool industry's opposition to a bylaw change which would require new private swimming pools to be fenced on all four sides to prevent kids from drowning.

"Educate don't regulate," said one sign.

"Supervision, not legislation," said another.

My favourite, though, was the poster depicting a bathtub enclosed by a fence with the accompanying message, "What's next?"

Actually, it's no laughing matter. The vast majority of drownings in Canada take place in natural bodies of water. But bathtubs are the No. 1 man-made setting for drownings, and those deaths are on the rise, according to the 2015 report from Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada.

From 2008-2012 — the most recent years available — an average of 43 Canadians per year drowned in bathtubs compared to 27 in private pools.

On top of that, infants less than one year old are especially at risk in bathtubs, which account for 75 per cent of all drownings in that age group. Bathtubs also are the setting for 13 per cent of all drownings among one-to-four-year olds.

True, private backyard pools continue to be the No. 1 place where children under the age of five most often drown. But if fencing bathtubs can save just one life, isn't it time the city took action?

Don't scoff. That's the same bogus argument Coun. Maria Pearson and others have advanced in support of changing the current swimming pool regulations.

Under the staff proposal, all existing pools would be exempt from hemming in. But all new pools — defined as any body of water deeper than 0.6 metres (two feet) — would have to be complexly surrounded by a fence 1.5 metres (five feet) high.

You have to wonder why existing pools are exempted. Either there's a chronic safety issue or there isn't. If it means saving even one life, why not be consistent and cage all pools?

By the same rationale, perhaps it's time the city fenced in all public sidewalks so children can't dash into traffic. After all, according to a 2010 report from the Chief Coroner of Ontario, six per cent of all fatally injured pedestrians in traffic accidents are youngsters, and of those 20 per cent ran out into the street.

At the risk of belabouring the point, if other levels of government adopted the same reasoning, wearing life jackets would become compulsory for canoeists, adult cyclists would have to wear bike helmets, speed regulators would be mandatory for all motor vehicles, and the sale of alcohol and fatty foods would be banned.

The list goes on and on. The point is, the saving-just-one-life argument is a cheap appeal to the emotions, not a reasonable basis for enacting or changing laws. The real test should be: is the law necessary and is it fair.

Among other points, the pool industry says four-sided fencing is already an option for concerned consumers; mandatory fencing will add to costs; any fence can be climbed and gates left ajar; and adult supervision is the real key to swimming pool safety.

It's the last point that grabs me.

According to the aforementioned report, an average of 20 kids under the age of five drown every year. The majority of them are tragically alone when they plunge into the water. In 49 per cent of cases there is no supervision; in 43 per cent the supervisors are distracted; and in 23 per cent the kids are with other minors only.

Whether near lakes and ponds or swimming pools and bathtubs, human error and the lack of proper supervision is the biggest risk factor for toddlers. Sadly, no new fencing rule is going to change that.

Andrew Dreschel's commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel