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Swimming pool safety

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Swimming pool safety

Under the Swimming Pools Act 1992 (NSW) the owner of a swimming pool has the responsibility to ensure that the pool is at all times surrounded by a complying child-resistant pool fence or safety barrier.

Pool fences must be maintained in a good state of repair as an effective and safe barrier restricting access to the pool.

New swimming pool legislation

In 2012 a comprehensive state review of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 was finalised. This review identified a number of amendments designed to enhance the safety of children under the age of five years around private ('backyard') swimming pools in NSW.

As a result of this review the Swimming Pools (Amendment) Act 2012 commenced on 29 October 2012. 

In summary

The Swimming Pools (Amendment) Act 2012 requires:

  • A NSW State Government Swimming Pools Register to be available for use
  • Swimming pools to be registered by owners on the State Register
  • Pool owners need a compliance certificate before sale or lease of their property from 29 April 2016.

What Swimming Pool Owners need to do:

  • register their swimming pools on an online register to be provided by the NSW Government (see link below).
  • self-assess, and state in the register that, to the best of their knowledge, their swimming pool complies with the applicable standard when registering their pool.
  • provide a valid swimming pool compliance certificate before they sell or lease a property with a pool.

Penalties

There is a penalty for owners who fail to register a swimming pool (penalty notice amount of $220).

Who can do the inspections?

Accredited certifiers under the Building Professional Act 2005 may conduct swimming pool inspections initiated by the pool owner.

Council will be required to:

  • develop and implement a swimming pool barrier inspection program in consultation with their communities 
  • report annually on the number of pool inspections undertaken and the level of compliance with the requirements
  • inspect pools associated with tourist and visitor accommodation and multi-occupancy developments at three year intervals
  • at the request of a pool owner, inspect pools prior to sale or lease
  • issue compliance certificates after an inspection which finds a pool barrier compliant with the requirements of the legislation. Compliance certificates are valid for three years.

Other matters under the Act:

  • A swimming pool which has had an occupation certificate is exempt from an inspection program for three years from the date of issue of the occupation certificate.
  • Councils may inspect any swimming pool that is the subject of a complaint to the council.
  • Council powers of entry will be consistent with the Local Government Act 1993.
  • Councils may charge a fee for each inspection undertaken (up to a maximum of $150 for the first inspection and $100 for one re-inspection resulting from the first inspection).

Visit www.swimmingpoolregister.nsw.gov.au to register your pool.

Further information on the new legislation is available here.

How can I be pro-active and make sure my swimming pool barrier complies?

For a fee, Council can perform a barrier inspection on your pool and issue a Compliance Certificate once satisfied that the swimming pool barrier complies with the applicable requirements.

This Certificate is valid for a period of three (3) years, provided the barrier remains compliant.  Please ensure your pool has been successfully registered and self-assessed using the checklists on the NSW Swimming Pool Register before lodging this application form.

Click here to access the Certificate of Compliance for Swimming Pool Barrier application form

General requirements

  • All pools, including pre-fabricated self-installed pools, require approval prior to installation. The Certifying Authority (Council or an Accredited Certifier) is required to inspect and approve the child-resistant barrier system prior to filling the pool with water.
  • Pools must be separated from residential buildings and adjoining public or private properties by child-resistant barriers in accordance with the Regulations and AS1926.1-2007.
  • Gates must be self-closing and self-latching and open outwards from the pool.
  • No door access from a residential building into an outdoor pool is permitted.
  • Walls of above-ground pools or self-installed prefabricated pools are not accepted as a child-resistant barrier.
  • Only structures associated with the pool (filter housing, etc.) are permitted within the enclosed pool area.

Pool gates

The following requirement apply to gates in pool fences or safety

  • Barrier gates must be self-closing and self-latching and must be closed at all times.
  • Gates must open outwards from the pool area.
  • No double gates are permitted.
  • Latch release mechanism must be 1.5 metres above the ground, except where a shield is used. If a shield is used the latch is positioned on the pool side near the top of the gate. The shield makes it necessary to reach over the gate to release the latch mechanism.
  • The latch release must be positioned a minimum 1.5 metres above ground level & 1.4 metres from highest lower horizontal barrier member.
  • Gate width is to be kept to a minimum (no more than 1 metre)

Spa pools

Spa pools are also covered by the legislation and should be separated by a child-resistant pool safety barrier in accordance with Australian Standard AS1926.1-2007. Alternatively, the spa pool must be covered and secured by a lockable child-safe structure (such as a door, lid, grille or mesh). Such lockable structure must be able to be removed/installed and locked by a single person.

Resuscitation warning sign

All pools require a resuscitation chart or warning notice to be displayed in a prominent position in the immediate vicinity of the pool.

The following warning statements must be contained within the resuscitation sign:

  • Young children should be supervised when using this swimming pool.
  • Pool gates must be kept closed at all times.
  • Keep articles, objects and structures at least 900 mm clear of the pool fence at all times.

The resuscitation sign must be:

  • legible from a distance of at least three metres
  • maintained in a clearly legible condition.

Resuscitation/warning signs are available for purchase from the Non-Government Organisations listed below.

Any approved sign erected between 1 September 1995 and 31 August 2008 does not require replacement and may be retained. However, it is recommended that signs more than three years old be replaced, due to changes in best practice resuscitation techniques.

Exemptions

Exemptions currently exist for some existing pools based on the age and location of the pool, however, the council recommends all pools be upgraded to comply with current requirements.

Existing pools and pools on small properties

This exemption applies to pools built prior to 1 August 1990 and pools on small properties less than 239 m2 in area (non-waterfront properties) built prior to 1 July 2010. The owner may choose to comply with the general requirements or utilise the option not to separate the pool from the residential buildings, provided access to the pool from the residential buildings (i.e. doors, windows, openings) is at all times restricted in accordance with AS1926.1-2007. The pool must still be separated from adjoining public or private properties by approved child-resistant barriers.

Waterfront properties and large properties

This exemption applies to pools on properties that have a frontage to a large body of water built prior to 1 July 2010 and pools on properties having an area of 2 hectares or more built prior to 1 July 2010. The owner may choose to comply with the general requirements or opt not to surround the pool by a child-resistant barrier so long as access to the pool from any residential building (i.e. doors, windows, openings) is at all times restricted in accordance with AS1926.1-2007.

Note – Where child-resistant doors are used under the above exemptions, such doors must have a latch that is a minimum 1.5-metres above the floor; be self-closing and self-latching; be capable of being opened from either side of the door and must be in the closed and latch position at all times except when actually passing through the door opening.

Selling or purchasing a property with a pool

The Conveyancing (Sale of Land) Regulation 2010 requires an owner of a property on which a swimming pool is situated to ensure that the pool complies with the requirements of the Swimming Pools Act 1992.

The owner of a premises can apply to Council for a Certificate of Compliance under s 24 of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 and this is the only document that can be relied on to ensure that a swimming pool complies.

From 29 April 2016 owners will be required to have a valid Swimming Pool Compliance Certificate before they sell or lease a property.

The relevant legislation and standards for pool safety are:

Frequently asked questions
 

Do I need a pool fence?

This depends on when your pool was built.

If your pool was built before 1 August 1990 then you do not have to have a swimming pool fence as such, but the pool MUST be isolated from access from the street or from adjoining properties. The pool does not have to be separated from any residential building on the land provided the means of access from the building to the pool is restricted at all times.

If your pool was built after 1 August 1990, then you are required to have a child resistant pool fence that complies with Australian Standard 1926-1986 “Fences and Gates for Swimming Pools”. 

If your pool was built after 1 September 2009, then you are required to have a child resistant pool fence that complies with Australian Standard 1926-2007 “Fences and Gates for Swimming Pools”.

What are my responsibilities if I am a tenant in a property on which there is a swimming pool?

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, it is usually the landlord's responsibility for providing and maintaining the premises in a reasonable state of repair, however the tenant is not to intentionally or negligently damage the premises and the tenant must notify the landlord of any damage.

What is my local Council's role in relation to swimming pool fencing?

Your local Council is responsible for the enforcement of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 and can advise on the standards required. Councils can grant exemptions from the requirements of the Act in certain circumstances. There is a right of appeal against a refusal to grant an exemption.

I have a backyard swimming pool. What are some of the safety issues I need to consider?

Owning and operating a home pool or spa is in some respects no different from running a public pool. You are still aiming to provide a safe, clean environment for your family and friends. The major issue for you as a pool owner is children – your own, your friends and your neighbours. If you own a pool you should consider the following safety issues:

  • Have you ever practised dealing with a mock injury?
  • Do you have a regular maintenance plan for your pool plant (pumps and filters)?
  • Do you know what practises you would adopt in the case of a minor aquatic emergency (lack of water clarity, chemical irregularities)?
  • Do you know what procedures you would adopt in the case of a major emergency (near drowning, spinal injury, chemical spill)?
  • Do you have any rescue equipment such as rescue poles or rescue tubes?
  • Is the rescue equipment in easy reach and in good order?
  • Do you keep electrical equipment away from the pool?
  • Are all power outlets or the main circuit fitted with earth leakage protection?

What are some of the things I need to consider when dealing with pool chemicals?

In order to maintain your pool at the standard of cleanliness to prevent infections and disease, you will need to sanitise the water. In most home pools this is done using a pump, a series of filters and chemical treatment of the water. There are a number of simple safety issues you should remember when using and handling chemicals, these include:

  • Keep pool chemicals away from fertilisers and petroleum products. They may explode.
  • Use only clean, dry and impervious scoops (not wood) when transferring chemicals.
  • Water should not be poured over chemicals, pour the chemicals into water.
  • Do you know what your local government health regulations recommend as safe levels for swimming pool water?
  • How regularly do you monitor the clarity and quality of your pool water?
  • Are chemicals stored out of reach of children?
  • Are your chemicals stored in a cool dry area away from sunlight?
  • Do you use protective equipment (gloves and eyewear) when handling pool chemicals?

If your pool fails a water test at any stage DO NOT allow anyone to swim in it until it is corrected.

Why are the laws so tough?

It is in the public interest. The Regulatory Impact Statement of the proposed Swimming Pools Regulation 2008 sets out the reasons why the NSW Government regulates swimming and spa pools.

NSW Government advice

  • Water Safety NSW - provides further information on: fencing backyard pools; frequently asked questions; information in community languages; checklists for pool owners.
  • Swimsafe - Department of Arts, Sport and Recreation information regarding swimming lessons.
  • Division of Local Government – provides advice about swimming pool and spa laws and requirements
  • Office of Fair Trading – Swimming pool safety guidelines for consumers

Non-Government Organisations

  • Video: Kids Health (The Children's Hospital at Westmead) - Online video presentation with useful information for pool owners about pool fencing and the common faults.
  • The Royal Lifesaving Society Australia - the largest single organisation dedicated to the teaching of lifesaving and the prevention of drowning.
  • Surf Life Saving NSW – provides water safety, first aid and CPR training
  • Austswim -  Australia's national organisation for the teaching of swimming and water safety
  • St John Ambulance Australia - Australia's leading provider of first aid training, first aid services at public events and supplier of first aid kits and equipment.
  • Kid Safe NSW - Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia provide general advice.
  • Keep Watch – Home Pool Safety - Royal Life Saving Society information including checklist, fact sheets and other information.

Resuscitation advice