Work from home and residential pools. How to do it safely.

Father and children enjoy time by the pool

Interview with Raynald Hawkins of the Lifesaving Society Quebec Branch

Since social distancing measures were put in place, working from home has become the norm for many Canadians. According to a new Allstate Canada poll conducted on the Angus Reid Forum online panel, 39% of Canadian parents reported they will be working from home at least most of the time this summer, and 49% of pool owners with at least one child 12-and-under said that they would personally supervise their children’s pool time while working from home.

For those with a pool – or even planning to have one installed – now is a great time to review the reasons why working from home and supervising swimmers is a dangerous combination.

We invited Raynald Hawkins, general manager of the Lifesaving Society’s Quebec Branch, to better understand how to go about spending the summer safely around residential pools.

1. GOOD HANDS Blog Team (GHBT): What pieces of advice do you have for parents who own a pool and will need to supervise swimming children while working remotely?

Raynald Hawkins (RH): It only takes about 15 to 20 seconds for a person to drown — and it can generally be done in silence. When we work from home, we must stop to watch children attentively and without distraction. If both parents work from home, it is advised to set up a swim schedule and assign a designated supervisor who will take a break from work to watch the children. If there is only one adult at home, create a swim schedule in order to make sure young swimmers only get in the water when they have the full attention of a responsible adult.

2. GHBT: With many swim classes canceled, which will likely be the case this summer, or even not available in some communities, what should parents consider if they would like to have their children learn how to swim?

RH: Swimming lessons are important. It’s similar to teaching them how to cross the street. At first, you hold their hand to avoid accidents and it’s the same when having them learn how to swim. Some companies offer swimming lesson services at your home. While we are still in social distancing mode, the instructors can – from a distance – guide parents while they are in the water with their children. Some instructors will even bring a mannequin to show certain techniques from a safe distance.

3. GHBT: According to retailers selling pools, they have noticed a significant increase in the number of sales at the start of summer. What should new pool owners know about residential pools?

RH: You really need to make sure that the pool is safe and that all of your municipality’s regulations are respected. Visit to make sure that your pool is perfectly secured. Then, there is a certain learning curve for this new acquisition. You, your family and children need to establish and respect safety rules. And, finally, all pool owners should take a CPR class.

4. GHBT: Many summer camps were cancelled and there will be a lot of parents who own a pool that will have their children supervised by a babysitter or friends. How can they make sure their children are properly supervised?

RH: When you are leaving your children in the care of a babysitter, spell out their responsibilities to them when they are around the pool. For example, you can give them a special hat they must wear whenever the children are in the pool as a reminder that their eyes must remain on the swimmers at all times without distraction, even to check their cell phones.

5. GHBT: Are there any risks that parents should be aware of should they decide to do a staycation this summer in their homes?

RH: Whether it’s the pool at home or the lake near a cottage, it is important to explain to children when and where swimming is permitted in order to always have someone watching them. This is just as true for children 8 to 10 years old as well as teenagers. Preteens could play potentially dangerous games, like holding their breath underwater, which could cause a heart attack. And teenagers could dive into the shallow end or carelessly in rivers, rapids or lakes.

6. GHBT: What should we do if a drowning occurs before our eyes?

RH: It’s important not to put your own life at risk trying to save the other person. If it’s a young child, get in the water to save them as quickly as possible. If they are at the bottom of the water and you cannot reach them, call 911 immediately. If it’s a teenager or adult and you don’t have lifesaving training, it’s better to get them a floating device, a stick or pole to grab onto.

7. GHBT: Do you have anything else to add?

RH: Social distancing measures have meant people need to adapt and take extra precautions for the safety of their families. Make sure to control the accessibility of the body of water at our homes or cottages, have a designated lifeguard (or a teenager with a lifeguard training) during each swim, and educate our family and children. At the end of the summer, you want to be able to tell funny anecdotes, not horror stories.

Did you know?
According to an Angus Reid poll, 57% of respondents said they think that a pool would automatically be covered by their home insurance. In reality, this type of coverage should be discussed and added on in Quebec.

Advice from Allstate:

If you are buying a pool, or if you are changing the type of pool you have, it is important to inform your insurance company.

Insurance Facts

What is covered*

◾️ In-ground and permanently attached swimming pools are covered as detached private structures whereas portable style pools are covered by personal property coverage.

◾️ Damage to pools is covered if caused by an insured risk (i.e. a tree falls on the pool)Damage from the pool is also covered (i.e. water escaping and causing damage in basement), including accidental discharge or overflow.

◾️ Liability is covered for potential medical and legal expenses (i.e. a guest injured at the pool), but homeowners should carefully consider the amount of liability coverage.

What is excluded*

◾️ Damage to outdoor swimming pool caused by collapse is not covered
◾️ Damage to outdoor swimming pool caused by water escape, rupture, or freezing is not covered*

NOTE: The above are only applicable for provinces outside of Quebec.

In Quebec specifically, pools and spas are covered by endorsements — meaning it’s not covered “de facto” by your standard insurance policy. It’s an optional coverage to be added to an existing insurance policy.

For pool and spa endorsements, subject to the exclusions and limitations, you are insured against all risks of direct loss or damage to property insured under this endorsement which includes loss or damage due to freezing and thawing and to the weight of ice or snow.

However, be sure to talk to your local agent to learn more about specific coverage for an added pool and spa endorsement.