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Water safety outside the home

Even a rain shower can fill a container with enough water for a child to drown in.

Young children can drown in as little as 6cm of water.

To keep children safe from water outside:

  • Empty, store upside down, fence off or safely cover anything that can collect water. This includes ponds, barrels, water troughs, buckets and basins.
  • Never leave a child alone in a paddling pool.
  • Empty paddling pools after use and store them so that they cannot fill with rain water.
  • Be aware of puddles - remember children can drown in small amounts of water.
  • Never leave children alone on a farm.
  • Fence off exposed areas on farms, including slurry pits.
  • Remind children to stay away from edges.

Farm safety for babies and children

Rivers, lakes, ponds, swimming pools and the sea

Water Safety Ireland have a list of beaches and waterways with lifeguards on duty during the summer.

Some beaches in Ireland have flags to show if it is safe to swim:

  • Never swim when there is a plain red flag.
  • Swim in the space between the half-red, half-yellow flags - this is called a 'Swim Zone'. Bodyboarders should also swim here.
  • Do not swim between black and white checkered flags - these are spaces for surfers and windsurfers.


Lifeguards are trained to prevent drowning and to rescue people. But it is not their job to watch children at all times.

Parents or carers should not let children out of their sight when they are in or near water.

Water safety on holiday

It is natural to relax when on holidays. But you should be aware of potential risks to your child's safety.

In other countries, there may not be lifeguards on duty or signs and flags to show if swimming is safe. You should supervise your children at all times.

Never leave an older child minding a younger child close to water, or in the water.

If your holiday destination has a swimming pool nearby, be very vigilant. Make sure there is a locked gate or door between your child and the pool.

Learn more about safety outside the home -

Staying safe in water

Teach your child to swim when they are at the right age. But you should still always supervise a child in and near water. You should do this whether they can swim or not.

To make sure children are safe in the water you should:

  • stay within arm's reach of small children as they can move quickly and drown in seconds
  • not let them stay too long in cold water and take them out to warm up if they start to shiver or get cramps
  • not allow a child who is sick to go swimming
  • make sure arm bands and other buoyancy aids have an approved current safety standard mark (I.S. EN131138 and the CE mark) and fit properly
  • check how deep the water is and if there are any sudden drops
  • always make sure you and your child wear a life jacket or floating aid in a boat near the water
  • always tell children that S.A.F.E is short for 'Stay Away From Edges'
  • look out for the giant hogweed plant in fresh water as it can cause skin irritation


Make sure any life jackets or floating aids are in good condition, are the right size and are fastened properly.

Do not let children play or interfere with life-saving rings or ring buoys. Damaging or tangling them may mean they cannot be used when needed to help someone else.

Page last reviewed: 19 September 2022
Next review due: 19 September 2025

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.