Unfortunately, small children drowning in swimming pools is a common occurrence in the news, and despite strict regulations in all States and Territories, some homeowners are still unaware of the dangers of backyard swimming pools and fail to have them inspected by a certified inspector.
What’s even more unnerving is that the current (NSW) Government have yet to make a decision on legislation pool barrier compliance and implement a date when this compliance is to be finalised. The NSW Pool industry was prepared for an April 29, 2015 deadline for pool barrier compliance, yet it was pushed back by the Government until April 2016 with no guarantee that this date will not change again.
Not only is this Government indecision potentially costing lives, many pool businesses and training bodies have invested heavily in staffing, insurance and preparing for the anticipated demand for business, only to find themselves put back on the back burner because of an indecisive Government. In the meantime, pool inspectors who are not properly qualified continue to issue pool barrier compliance certificates and potentially put children’s lives at risk because they are not suitably qualified and have not had the proper training or experience.
Some inspectors are, quite frankly, not qualified to be conducting swimming pool inspections. For example, local council officers are often designated as pool barrier safety inspectors despite the fact that they do not have the expertise, training or experience. Another serious problem with councils is they do not have the staff to keep up with the demand.
Further to the problem, some inspectors do not hold the appropriate professional indemnity insurance and pool inspectors have a duty of care that is owed to swimming pool owners and property managers that engage their services.
Pool inspectors need to be completely impartial, in other words they must not be conducting an inspection with the intention of selling products such as pool supplies or fencing, and this again brings to the point that adequate training and experience is essential.
Each State and Territory in Australia has its own regulations, however most all fall under the same principles:
Australian Standard (AS) 1926.1 outlines the requirements for the design and construction of a safety barrier.
- The height of the barrier should not be less than 1,200 millimetres.
- Boundary fencing that acts as a safety barrier to the pool, should not be less than 1,800 millimetres.
- The safety barrier, and surrounding area should be free from handholds or footholds, climbable objects or anything that can be used to gain access to the pool area. This rule applies to neighbours' fencing that is acting as a boundary fence.
- The height of any opening between the bottom of the barrier and ground level should not exceed 100 millimetres with no gaps in a safety fence exceeding 100 millimetres.
- The barrier needs to be made of strong, unbreakable material such as timber, steel or glass.
- Gates must swing outward from the swimming pool or spa area and be fitted with self-closing and self-latching that cannot be reached from outside the barrier by inquisitive young children.
- For above ground pools and spas, including inflatable pools, the walls of the pool can be considered an effective barrier, if at least 1,200 millimetres high, and free from climbable objects including filters, ladders and items left near the pool.