With barbecue season in full swing, it's more important that ever to think about the hazards your garden could present to little people who might wander off during all the fun.

However small you might think it is, your ornamental pond could be lethal to visiting grandchildren and other little ones. And I should know - I nearly drowned in a garden pond when I was two.

We were visiting friends when I toddled into their small pond, thinking the pond weed on top was just a continuation of the grass. If it hadn't been for my quick-thinking sister alerting my parents, I wouldn't be writing this now.

I was completely submerged when my mum jumped in to pull me out. Now, as the mother of an inquisitive little boy who's just coming up to two and running around everywhere, I urge all parents and grandparents – and anyone with a garden pond – to take some simple steps to prevent a tragedy.

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The facts

The World Health Organisation says drowning is among the three leading causes of death from 'unintentional injury', with the highest rates being among children under five.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), in the 10 years between 1995 and 2005, 147 children under the age of six drowned at a residential location, including those left for a moment in baths and those who fell into buckets and swimming pools. Garden ponds accounted for 58 of these deaths, with the tragedies often happening within a matter of minutes, and usually while the children's parents were briefly distracted.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) says drowning is one of the five principal causes of serious injuries for the under-fives in England. In fact, between one and four years of age is often described as the 'danger age' when it comes to the risk of drowning - in 2010, of the 28 children under 15 who drowned in the UK, 12 were in this age bracket.

The charity's campaigns manager, Pamela Prentice, says: "Most drownings involving two to three-year-olds happen in the home and garden."

Near-drowning, which saw 170 children under 15 hospitalised between 2008 and 2009, can have serious long-term health consequences too.

The problem

According to government figures, four out of five residential pond drowning incidents do not happen at the child's own home. So while you may have a perfectly safe water feature, your neighbours, friends and relatives may not.

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Size doesn't matter, as babies can drown in as little as two inches of water. As Prentice points out, "even rainwater collecting in a bucket can be a danger for a small child. They drown silently, so there may not be any noise to alert you".

RoSPA notes: "From a child's perspective, a 500mm-deep pond is equivalent to an adult falling into six foot of water – the child being unable to climb out."

Boys are apparently more at risk than girls, as government research found 79% of victims of garden pond incidents were male.

The reasons for children drowning, according to the research, included confusion over which parent was in charge, overgrown ponds, a bin or a bucket being left with water in it, and socialising adults being distracted by others. In particular, it was noted: "At social gatherings - for example, barbecues - because there are several people present, a false sense of security is created, allowing the child to wander off unnoticed."

The solution

Prentice advises: "Fill in your garden pond – they make great sandpits. If you can't fill them in, make sure they are fenced off or covered."

She also recommends that parents are vigilant about making sure children can't access neighbouring gardens which may have water features: "Keep gates shut and bolted and check hedges or fences to make sure there are no gaps."

RoSPA also advises that "containers holding rainwater should be emptied or sealed to prevent children gaining access, and paddling pools should be emptied and turned upside down after use".

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Supervision is key. Parents, or the adults in charge, need to constantly watch little ones, and make sure each other knows who's responsible when you're in a garden with a pond.

If you install a grille or rigid mesh over a pond, it must be firmly secured, should remain above the surface of the water at all times and must be able to take the weight of the child, RoSPA advises.