As the Aussie summer chases thousands of people to seek relief in the comfort of the many pools Australian homes and apartment blocks have to offer, enjoying a relaxing swim comes with the inherent but tragic risk of accidental drowning. As recently as 11 January 2017, a Brisbane toddler drowned in an inflatable pool, while in December of 2016, one Sydney toddler drowned and another child was critically injured after being found in their backyard swimming pools.
Statistics in from the New South Wales government indicate 11 children on average under five years old drown every year, while another 62 children are admitted to hospitals for near drowning. Children in the age group under 5 have the highest mortality rate out of any age group, with approximately 70% of drowning deaths occurring in swimming pools. The tragically high number of people accidentally drowning means all Australian states have strict pool safety regulations which must be complied with and are generally enforced by local councils.
Generally however across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, all pools with a depth of 30 centimetres (300mm) must be surrounded by a pool barrier (or fence) at least 1.2 metres (1200mm) in height, with a self-closing and self-latching gate. As well as being 1200mm high, pool fences and gates must strictly adhere to guidelines which ensure neither can be climbed or opened in any way, including ensuring the gate latch is at least 1500mm from the ground and out of reach of children. Any openings or damage to the pool fence must be immediately rectified.
Some quick tips to ensuring safety around your pool include ensuring there are no nearby climbable objects which could allow children to climb pool fencing. This might include moving furniture, or trimming garden beds or low trees to remove any possibility a child could climb into the pool. Ensure any windows backing onto a pool cannot be opened or at least opened to the extent a child could get through it into a pool, and always check gates to ensure they are regularly and well-maintained.
In Queensland, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) is responsible for pool safety, inspector licensing, compliance and disciplinary functions. All pools must be fenced and registered on the pool safety register, which includes a record of pools, safety certificates issued and licensed pool inspectors. Pools which are not registered make owners liable to a $2,356 fine.
Queensland also introduced new Pool Safety Laws in 2009, which apply to all new and existing pools. There is also clear regulation around Pool Fences and safety barriers introduced in 2012 which replaced 11 different existing standards. Copies of these documents can be found on the Department of Housing and Public Works (HPW) website.
If you’re looking for more information about pool safety and compliance in Queensland, head to the QBCC website. There is detailed information about pool safety, as well as a series of detailed checklists about what you can and can’t do around pools.
Pool safety regulations in the state of Victoria are found with the Victorian Building Authority, and new pools being built must comply with a series of strict guidelines and permits, including being built by a registered builder, erect temporary fencing during construction, and not have direct access via a door from a building of any kind. Under regulations, failing to ensure pool fencing is maintained appropriately can lead to a fine of over $7500.
Further information for pool safety and compliance in Victoria can be found on the Victorian Building Authority website, as well as the Kidsafe Victoria website, which outlines the requirements for pool safety laws.
The New South Wales Fair Trading Commission website outlines pool safety requirements for NSW, while the Office of Local Government is responsible for administering these laws. The Fair Trading website outlines some tips for pool fence and gate maintenance. This includes ensuring all fence bolts, screws and fasteners are tight and in good order, and any of these which are loose, faulty or deteriorating should be tightened or replaced. Self-closing gate hinges, locks and latches should be sprayed with lubricating oil or silicone to ensure they are correctly functioning. For further information on pool safety in NSW, head to the Fair Trading website, or contact your local council.
If you have any concerns about compliance with pool safety on your property, contact your community or building manager immediately to let them know. Maintaining a sense of vigilance about pool safety can ensure a swim in summer remains not only a relaxing, but a safe way to spend your afternoon.