Swimming pools should be fun. However, drowning is the leading cause of death in Queensland for children aged one to four years. Supervision of kids and teaching them to swim at a young age can save lives. Effective pool fencing also helps keep kids safe. This is why new pool safety laws have been introduced.
Stage 1 of the new pool safety laws was introduced on 1 December 2009 and applies to new residential pools. The final stage, stage 2, commenced on 1 December 2010 and mostly affects existing swimming pools.
There is now one pool safety standard, the Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4, (PDF) that replaces 11 different pool safety standards.
What the pool safety laws mean for me
Under the new swimming pool safety laws:
- a pool safety certificate, issued by a licensed pool safety inspector, is required when selling, buying or leasing a property with a pool (pool safety certificates are valid for one year for a shared pool and two years for a non-shared pool)
- the pool safety standard applies to all pools associated with houses, units, hotels, motels, backpacker hostels, caravan parks, mobile van parks and other forms of short-term accommodation
- the pool safety standard applies to indoor pools as well as outdoor pools
- all swimming pools need to be included on the state-based pool safety register by 4 November 2011
- safety barriers are mandatory for all portable pools and spas deeper than 300 millimetres.
If a building such as a home, unit or hotel room is within the pool fence perimeter, it needs to be fenced from the pool. This includes buildings with living areas such as games rooms. Toilet facilities and change rooms may be located within the pool area, but these structures must not provide a thoroughfare into the pool enclosure from outside.
When the new pool safety standard has to be met
Pool owners have until 30 November 2015 to comply with the new pool safety standards, or earlier if their property is sold or leased before then.
If you are selling a property with a non-shared pool on or after 1 December 2010, such as pools for houses or townhouses or units with their own pool or spa:
- a pool safety certificate must be obtained before the settlement of a contract; or
- a notice of no pool safety certificate - form 36 issued before contract and before settlement advising the buyer that a certificate must be obtained within 90 days of settlement.
If you are leasing your property, a pool safety certificate must be obtained before entering into the lease.
If you are selling or entering into an accommodation agreement (e.g. lease, hotel stay etc.) for a property with a shared pool associated with short-term accommodation, such as hotels, motels, backpackers or hostels, you have a six month phase-in period to obtain a pool safety certificate.
If you are selling or entering into an accommodation agreement for units and townhouses with a shared pool or spa, there is a two year phase-in period to obtain a pool safety certificate.
New swimming pools
All new swimming pools require a building development approval. For new swimming pools:
- mandatory follow-up inspections are required to be undertaken if the final inspection has not been done. Building certifiers are required to undertake a mandatory follow-up inspection within a set time frame after giving a building approval for a swimming pool. The time frames are 6 months for new pools or 2 years in cases where building approval is granted for a swimming pool and a new building. If the building approval is due to lapse earlier than 6 months or 2 years, the final inspection must be done before it lapses.
- compliant temporary fences are permitted for a maximum period of 3 months during the construction of a pool. After this time, compliant permanent barriers are required. Both the temporary and permanent fences will need to be inspected and certified by the building certifier who approved the application.
- The building certifier, either a private building certifier or a local government building certifier, who approved the building approval must inspect and certify the pool safety barrier before the pool is filled to a depth of 300 millimetres or more.
For inspection and certification costs, check with the building certifier who approved the application to allow the pool and safety barrier to be constructed. The fee may have been incorporated in the building development application fees.
Pool safety inspection system
From 1 December 2010, pool safety certificates are required when selling or leasing a property with a pool. Pool safety inspectors can only issue a certificate when they have placed the certificate details onto the pool safety register. Pool owners and others, such as real estate agents and solicitors, will be able to search the register.
The legislation does not set the amount that pool safety inspectors can charge. This is determined by the market and pool owners are encouraged to shop around for the best deal. Local governments are obliged to provide a pool safety inspection service if asked and it is a matter for individual local governments if they charge and, if so, how much to provide the inspection service.
The main role of pool safety inspectors is to inspect pools to determine whether or not they comply with the pool safety standards. Upon inspection, the inspector must issue a pool safety certificate or nonconformity notice, depending on the outcome of the inspection. The nonconformity notice must state how the pool doesn't comply and what needs to be done to make it comply. The inspector can also, if agreed with the pool owner, carry out specified minor repairs (such as adjusting or replacing a latch or striker and removing climbable objects).
If pool owners are in any doubt about their pool safety inspection, they should request further clarification from the pool safety inspector in the first instance. They may also contact the Pool Safety Council for advice and may appeal an inspector's nonconformity notice to the Building and Development Dispute Resolution Committees.
Pool safety certificates must be obtained from a licensed pool safety inspector. Certificates are valid for one year for a shared pool and two years for a non-shared pool.
Pool fences and safety barriers
Maintenance of pool fences and safety barriers is essential to reduce the number of drownings and serious immersion injuries of young children in swimming pools. Pool owners are responsible for ensuring pool barriers are maintained and damaged fencing or barriers are fixed immediately.
A Single Standard For Pool Barriers
There is now one pool safety standard, the Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4 (PDF), that replaced 11 different standards on December 5, 2010.
Pool fences and safety barriers commonly fail because:
- the gates are not self-closing and self-latching from all points
- the height of the pool safety barrier is less than 1200 millimetres because ground levels and garden beds have increased or grown over time and have, therefore, reduced the height of the pool barrier
- the adjoining boundary fences have climbable rails
- the windows opening into the pool enclosure are openable with more than a 100-millimetre gap
- there are climbable objects near the pool safety barrier.
There are a number of easy fixes to help ensure your pool safety barrier or fence complies:
- replace, tighten or adjust the hinges on your gates
- make sure the pool safety barrier height is 1200 millimetres from bottom to top
- trim back any vegetation or branches that a child could use to climb over the pool safety barrier
- shield or remove climbable objects within 900 millimetres of the pool safety barrier
- install permanently fixed security screens on windows that open into the pool enclosure
- remove climbable objects from the pool safety barrier and surrounding areas.
Replacing Damaged, Demolished Or Removed Portions of A Fence or Barrier
If a substantial portion of a pool fence or barrier is damaged, demolished or removed, it must be replaced with a new pool safety barrier. The new safety barrier must comply with the current standard.
If a small part of the safety barrier has fallen into a state of disrepair, for example where palings, hinges or latches need to be replaced, the barrier may be repaired to the same standard that applies to the existing pool safety barrier up until the end of the five year phase-in to comply with the new pool safety standard, unless the property is sold or leased earlier.
Certain work for pool safety barriers, such as an entire new fence, requires a building development approval from either the local government or a private building certifier before the work can begin. A building development approval is generally not required for minor work, such as adjusting a gate latch, however minor work must still comply with the pool safety standard.
Some pool safety inspectors are licensed to perform minor repair work.
- Owners of swimming pools:
- The pool owner is generally the owner of the land. The owner of the property is responsible for ensuring their pool safety barrier is compliant.
- Tenants renting a property with a swimming pool:
- Tenants are responsible for ensuring that the gate is kept closed and that there are not any objects that would allow children to access the pool.
- If a person renting a property buys a pool that requires pool safety barriers, the owner of the pool must ensure the pool has a compliant pool safety barrier.
A swimming pool safety guideline is available to assist with pool safety requirements.