A new swimwear craze making waves across Australia has raised questions around water safety and public liability. The use of mermaid fins has been banned in many public pools across the country, to the outrage of tail enthusiasts.
What are the issues with mermaid tails?
Many swimming centres and public pools have banned the use of mermaid tails from their premises as the fins pose a drowning risk. The tails are made from silicone or swimsuit material, and generally come in two forms, either fully enclosed from the waist down, or as a mono-fin covering only a person’s feet. The fully enclosed iterations of these tails are of particular concern, as their shape essentially binds the wearers legs together. This can compromise a person’s balance when standing or swimming in a pool, making them a drowning risk.
A study funded by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that the swimming ability of children was decreased by 60 per cent while wearing mermaid tails. From these findings, the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia recommends that if mermaid tails are to be used, the wearer needs to be a competent and experienced swimmer. They further recommend that mermaid tails should only be used in a controlled environment with the supervision of an adult in case an accident was to occur.
Despite these hazards, the ban has created a splash between mermaid groups – known as pods – and public pools for their right to use facilities for their interest.
What liability risks do mermaid tails pose?
The heightened risk of drowning has caused many swimming centres to be apprehensive about allowing the tails to be used in their facilities. If a tail related drowning were to occur, it may be unclear which party is eligible to pay damages. It is most likely that facilities accepting mermaid tails operate on a “swim at your own risk” basis.
If a public pool were to conduct mermaid swimming classes or tail-friendly events, they may be liable to pay compensation under this affiliation due to a breach in their duty of care. Under the Civil Liability Act, certain professions or places need to adhere to a standard of care to ensure the safety of themselves and others. For beaches and public pools, this would mean that a lifeguard or instructor would need to remain alert and perform their job to the best of their ability to maintain this duty.
In the event of a child drowning during a mermaid swimming lesson, the victim’s family may be able to seek compensation under the assertion that the instructor or facility was negligent in their duty of care. However, if the child or family had previously signed a liability waiver releasing the swimming centre from any responsibility following an incident, they may not be eligible for compensation.
If you or a loved one believe that compensation can be sought from an accident in a public space, get in touch with the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners.