Are children's swimming floats a health hazard?
The question is being asked after a public swimming pool banned the swimming aids earlier this week, when a child allegedly almost choked on one.
Harpers, a privately run company which runs Sports Centres for many local authorities across the South-East, has decided that its swimming aids can only be used during paid lessons under close supervision.
The rule was made after the alleged choking incident, which sparked fears of a lawsuit.
Although staff have been told about the policy, its existence was only disclosed when novice simmer Sarah Swain went swimming.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Ms Swain told how she visited the Harper's pool in the sports centre, owned by Wokingham Borough Council at Lower Earley, Berkshire.
She was prevented from picking up a swimming aid by one of the lifeguards on duty.
'He was terribly apologetic but said I couldn't have one for health and safety reasons. When I asked him why, he said the company had banned them from handing them out because a small child almost choked on one.
'It is embarrassing enough to have to admit you can't swim when you're 31 but to be told you can't have a float for health and safety reasons is plain barmy.
'What are they going to do next? Ban the pools from having water in them in case someone drowns. It is ludicrous.'
A spokesman for Harper's said: '...we do not generally distribute floats or swimming aids during public swimming sessions as we would prefer those less confident in the water do not go into the deeper water.
'However, floats are available for swimmers during lessons and Swim School.
The policy is just the latest example of swimming pools banning aids for health and safety reasons.
In November 2008 staff at a Waterworld in Prudhoe, Northumberland refused to give a five year old a float.
They ruled the water aids and wings, designed to prevent children from drowning, should not be given to young children as they could pass on infections.
The previous year a three-year-old girl was banned from using a swimming pool float in Devon, Exeter in case she was injured with the polystyrene block.
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