swimming pools and spas
New swimming pools in Victoria now require four-sided pool fencing as the Building Code of Australia 2010 came into effect on 1 May 2010.
Drowning is the most common cause of preventable death for children under five in Victoria. Pool fencing reduces the risk of drowning to about one quarter of that of drowning in an unfenced pool. While pool fencing is demonstrated as being effective, parents or other adults should always supervise young children in a swimming pool.
Owners installing a new swimming pool and spa are required to:
- Have a safety barrier for all swimming pools and spas with a depth greater than 30cm (300mm).
- Obtain a building permit for the construction of the pool and barrier.
- Complete the barrier within six months of building work commencing on the swimming pool or spa.
- Engage a registered building practitioner to carry out the work if the value of the work exceeds $5,000 (including labour and materials).
- Maintain the barrier and any self-closing and self-latching gates in good working order. (All gates are to have a self-closing, self-latching device – regardless of when the pool was built).
- Never prop open any gate providing access to the swimming pool or spa.
- Non-compliance with the Regulations risks lives, and pool owners could incur a fine of over $5,000.
- Access from dwellings is not permitted directly into the pool area via external doors.
- Indoor swimming pools and spas must have self-closing, self-latching doors that swing away from the pool area.
“Safety barrier” refers to a fence, wall, gate or screen, and includes gates, windows, locks, latches, hinges and self-closing devices attached to them. Safety barriers are required for in-ground swimming pools, jacuzzis, indoor swimming pools, above-ground swimming pools and spas. This includes inflatable and portable units that are capable of holding water greater than 30cm (300mm) in depth.
The responsibility of swimming pool and spa owners to maintain and use safety barriers can help save lives. Remember when children are near water, adult supervision is essential.
apartments, motels and hotels
The Building Regulations also require owners of Class 2, 3 and 4 buildings (multi-storey apartments, motels, hotels and houses attached to factories) to have safety barriers around swimming pools or spas.
What are safety barriers NOT required for?
- Structures not used principally for swimming, paddling or wading including bird baths, fish ponds, fountains, dams and water supply/storage tanks
- Swimming pools or spas not capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300 mm
- Inflatable swimming pools (typically toddler or wading pools) not capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300mm
- Spas inside a building that are used for personal hygiene such as a spa bath in a bathroom.
Maintain gates and fences regularly
- Ensure all gates providing access to a pool or a spa have self-closing and self-latching devices that work.
- Ensure no tree branches, pool pumps, pot plants or other item which could be used to climb over the barrier are within a 900mm radius of the gate or fence
- Make sure any fences (especially boundary timber paling fences) are still in good repair and non-climbable.
- Ensure all gates that provide access to the swimming pool or spa area are closed at all times, except when entering or leaving the area.
Compliance and enforcement
- A new pool and the associated safety barriers are initially the responsibility of the Relevant Building Surveyor overseeing the building work.
- Thereafter, the ongoing maintenance and up-keep of pool and spa safety barriers is the responsibility of the owner and occupier of the property.
The Municipal Building Surveyor of your local council has the power to act against owners and occupiers of properties where swimming pool and spas safety barriers do not comply with the regulations or have not been maintained.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Importance of supervision, pool barrier maintenance and CPR
It is important to remember that while fencing may assist in reducing drownings in backyard pools, the most effective way to prevent drownings is for children to be adequately supervised by a parent or other responsible adult.
Research on child drownings in backyard swimming pools indicates that the most common contributing factors are inadequately fenced pools and human error (for example, people leaving the gate open, or fences not being maintained in good condition).
People choosing to have a pool have a responsibility to ensure that pool safety barrier(s) and gate(s) are installed, operated and maintained to the Australian Standard referred to in the Regulation.
It is also important that parents and others responsible for supervising children know how to administer Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). The Royal Life Saving Society of NSW and Surf Life Saving NSW conduct CPR courses. All supervising adults are encouraged to undertake CPR training.
Further information for councils is available in the Directory of Policy Advice for Councils under ‘Swimming pools (backyard)’.
The Swimming Pools Act
In NSW, private or ‘backyard’ swimming pool safety is legislated by the Swimming Pools Act 1992 (the Act) and the Swimming Pools Regulation 2008 (the Regulation). The legislation also applies to moveable dwellings, hotels and motels.
The Swimming Pools Act 1992 prescribes the fencing requirements of backyard swimming pools in NSW. Some other safety requirements are prescribed including the requirement for a CPR sign to be displayed near the pool.
The Swimming Pools Regulation
The Swimming Pools Regulation 2008 was re-made on 1 September 2008. It calls up AS1926.1-2007 Swimming Pool Safety, Part 1: Safety barriers for swimming pools, which includes new requirements for non-climbable zones, mesh sizes for fences, retaining walls that form part of a barrier and balconies that project into the pool area.
On 1 May 2011 the Swimming Pools Regulation was amended to replace certain references to the Australian Standard 1926.1-2007 Part 1: Safety barriers for swimming pools (the standard) with references to the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The BCA in turn will refer to the Standard.
The Regulation also requires that councils and the Division have the following documentation available for public inspection at no cost:
- Guideline 8 Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation – This Guideline is available at the Australian Resuscitation Council website at www.resus.org.au. By registering at the website visitors can access and print the guideline free of charge. Councils and others should consider subscribing as this will allow them to access an extensive range of related material.
- AS1926.1-2007, Australian Standard Swimming Pool Safety Part 1: Safety barriers for swimming pools – This Standard (as amended 5 May 2008) is available for purchase at www.saiglobal.com.
- Building Code of Australia – the Division and councils are required to make available a copy of the BCA for free public inspection.
Conveyancing (Sale of Land) Regulation 2010
Amendments made to the Conveyancing (Sale of Land) Regulation 2010 mean that from 1 September 2010 contracts for the sale of land must include a warning in relation to a land owner’s obligations under the Swimming Pools Act 1992 which states that:
“An owner of a property on which a swimming pool is situated must ensure that the pool complies with the requirements of the Swimming Pools Act 1992. Penalties apply. Before purchasing a property on which a swimming pool is situated, a purchaser is strongly advised to ensure that the swimming pool complies with the requirements of that Act.”
Residential Tenancies Act 2010
Section 52 of the Residential Tenancies Act provides that a landlord must comply with a landlord’s statutory obligations relating to the health or safety of the residential premises. Section 52 includes the following note:
“Note. Such obligations include obligations relating to swimming pools under the Swimming Pools Act 1992.”
This note makes it explicit that, in accordance with the Swimming Pools Act, a landlord must ensure that a swimming pool situated on a tenanted premises must be at all times surrounded by a child-resistant barrier that separates it from any residential building on the premises and from any public or private place adjoining the premises. The barrier must be designed, constructed, installed and maintained to the standards prescribed in the swimming pools legislation applicable at the time the pool was constructed or installed, unless it has been substantially altered. In this case, the standard applicable at the time the barrier was altered applies. Landlords should contact their local council in relation to the appropriate barrier standard that applies to their rental property pool.
Tenants are urged to notify landlords immediately of any damage they detect to any barrier surrounding a pool on a residential property that they are renting. Tenants are also reminded that section 64 of the Act enables tenants to carry out urgent repairs and be reimbursed up to $1,000 for any fault or damage that causes the premises to be unsafe under certain circumstances, including if the landlord or agent cannot be contacted or does not carry out urgent repairs within a reasonable time.