Who is responsible for supervision in the swimming pool? – SWR power

A four-year-old boy drowned in an outdoor pool in Nieder-Olm. The question of the duty of supervision always arises. Parents or lifeguards?

Although police and prosecution investigations are still in their infancy, after the four-year-old died in Nieder-Olm, there was hostility towards parents on social media: One of the charges was that they played on their mobile phones and let their child drown. But what about the duty of care in general? Are the parents or relatives or lifeguards responsible?

Water exerts an almost magical attraction on children, whether it is a pool, pond, swimming pool, river, lake or sea. At the same time, especially smaller boys and girls can not assess the dangers in the water at all. Parents need to know that. For those or other adults accompanying a child, the following applies: You cannot transfer the duty of care to the swimming instructor at the pool edge. The duty of supervision always lies 100 percent with the parents or companions who are required by the parents to supervise!

This is especially true for children who can not swim yet. The 100% supervision obligation also applies not only to swimming pools, but also guarded beaches.

Parents and relatives can therefore not trust 100 percent of the lifeguards in an outdoor or indoor pool or on a lifeguard beach. In 2017, the Federal Court (BGH) in Karlsruhe specified the tasks of lifeguards in a judgment. According to this, “there is no obligation to observe any swimmer without holes”:

However, the swim leader is obliged to continuously monitor the bathing operation and thus also what is happening in the water and to monitor with continuous control whether dangerous situations arise for the bathers.

BGH has also reversed the burden of proof. The bathing establishment must now prove that the supervisor has not committed a grossly negligent breach of duty.

Whether there was negligence in the Nieder-Olm case is still completely unclear. A so-called death investigation is currently underway, which is being conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Mainz. According to the brief report from the autopsy, there were no indications of “a mechanical external influence relevant to the cause of death” or serious health problems for the four-year-old victim, senior plaintiff Andrea Keller said when asked by SWR.

Outdoor facility and outdoor pool in the Rheinhessenbad in Nieder-Olm


Franziska Maurer

The purpose of the investigation is to find out, “whether there are signs of third-party negligence,” Keller continued. The inquest is not aimed at specific individuals.

It may be a long time before the question of how the fatal swimming accident in Nieder-Olm occurred can be clarified, as such death investigation procedures can be very time consuming. The fact is that fewer and fewer children learn to swim at an early age, also because swimming pools are closed and swimming lessons do not take place.

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According to a Forsa study commissioned by the German Lifesaving Society (DLRG) in 2017, not even every second child of ten years could swim properly. This development was exacerbated by the corona pandemic. That is one of the reasons why the Rhineland-Palatinate Sports Association is now promoting swimming courses in the state.

Marco Vogt, spokesman for DLRG Rheinland-Pfalz, recommends that all parents take their child on a swimming course or teach them to swim themselves. Children must be able to swim safely, at the latest when they leave primary school – that is, at the age of ten to eleven, says Vogt.

This means that they have at least mastered the requirements for the bronze swimming badge (free swimmer). It means:

  • Swim on your back and stomach for 15 minutes without holding on
  • pick up an object from two meters depth
  • jump from the starting block or a meter board

DLRG has compiled tips for parents to make swimming with and with children safer:

  • Even if your child has a swimming aid on, it must be supervised at all times.
  • Swimming lessons can start at the age of four or five.
  • Introduce your child to the water early.
  • Make rules about what is allowed and not allowed on the water.
  • Remind your child regularly of the rules.

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