School pond health and safety

Information sheet

Practical considerations to consider before installing a pond or making improvements to your existing pond.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s):

School pond health & safety

Water provides a home for wildlife which in turn adds a huge learning potential to your garden setting. Cover the pond with a metal grid so that children are unable to fall in. Alternatively there are safe water features using a pump and re-circulated water bubbling through pebbles or round metal balls that offer interest without the risks that come with deeper ponds. Water is a welcome addition to any garden, and it is especially attractive to wildlife. Your pupils will get much enjoyment from the creatures that visit an area of water in your school garden.
There are however health and safety factors which must be considered when using water in your school garden.                        

Hazards associated with water.

  • Water is a drowning hazard; just 500mm is deep enough for a small child to drown in.
  • Leptospirosis (Weils disease) is a disease which is transmitted to humans through contact with the urine of an infected animal (in fresh water).
  • Slips, trips and falls into the water from uneven surfaces, steep banks and slippery edges.
  • Danger from falling through the ice when the pond is frozen.

Factors which will make ponds or areas of water safer for children.

Make sure the pond has sloping sides; this makes it easier for people and wildlife to climb out if they fall in. You can cover a pond with a metal grid so that children are unable to fall in. 

Avoid hidden edges to the pond, especially if there is a drop on the other side. Ponds must be fenced off (seek your local authority advice on this). Frame the pond with plants to show the perimeters.

If pond dipping is going to be an activity the pond is used for- ensure there are specified areas for this to take place and risk assessments have been written for the activity.

Evaluate the level of risk and write a risk assessment accordingly.

This will depend the levels of precaution that are/will be put in place, how the pond is going to be used, when and by whom?
Will it only be used under the supervision of an adult and is the area able to be closed off?
Is the warning signage adequate and has a rescue plan been written?

Alternatives to ponds

Consider other water features for your school garden Bird baths and drinking bowls will help wild birds and animals in your locality. Alternatively, there are safe water features using a pump and re-circulated water bubbling through pebbles or round metal balls. Wall fountains and pools in large pots will add extra sensory interest to your school garden without the potential danger of a pond.

Who could be harmed?

  • Young children, particularly under fives
  • Teenagers (peer pressure could lead to risk taking) 
  • Teaching and grounds' staff and volunteers
  • Members of the local community.

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