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Swimming pool safety barriers

Did you know your responsibilities as a pool owner have changed? Pool Safety Barriers are now regulated by Section 162 of the Building Act 2004 and the new Building Code F9, which took effect from 1 January 2017. 

The new Act requires that Council must ensure that all pool safety barriers within its jurisdiction are compliant, and requires that Council undertake scheduled inspections every three years. Council will therefore need to inspect all pool safety barriers in this scheduled inspection programme even if they have been previously inspected and approved.

The new legislation also provides for pool safety barriers that were previously deemed compliant with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, and then so long as they remain compliant upon inspection, they are deemed to meet the requirements of Section 162C.

Does my pool need safety barriers?

If your pool has a minimum water depth of 400mm, it must have compliant pool safety barriers.

You do not need pool safety barriers if:

  • The pool sits above ground with smooth vertical walls that are 1200mm or more high, with no permanent steps or objects that would enable a small child to climb into the pool. Any permanent steps would need to be fenced and gated in accordance with legislative requirements. 
  • The depth of water in the pool is less than 400mm (such as a shallow paddling pool or an empty swimming pool). Note: A responsible adult should supervise the use of paddling pools at all times.
  • People are employed specifically to supervise the pool when it is in use, and the entire pool facility is locked at all other times.

What sort of barrier does my pool need?

  • Pool Safety Barriers must fully enclose the pool area and should prevent young children from moving directly into the pool area from the house, other buildings, gardens or other parts of the property. A boundary fence may act as an effective pool safety barrier, providing it meets legislative requirements. There must be nothing on the neighbour’s side, such as stored materials, close horizontals etc. that a small child could use to scale the barrier. 
  • Alternatively, if the barrier is on a boundary and the neighbour’s side cannot be made compliant, then so long as the barrier is a minimum of 1800mm high on the pool side it may still comply. It must have a 900mm clear zone (measured no more than 150mm from the top), on the inside of the barrier, with no surface, object or projection that might provide a climb down, and so provide an opportunity for a small child to scale the fence internally. Such a barrier would need to be located a minimum of 1000mm from the water’s edge of the pool, to prevent a small child jumping directly into the pool.

The safety barrier

  • The barrier must be at least 1200mm high at every point around the entire length of the outside and the barrier must not be able to be climbed.
  • Any perforated material (trellis, mesh or netting) must have no gaps or spaces wider than 13mm if the barrier is between 1200mm and 1800mm high or no wider than 35mm if the barrier is a minimum of 1800mm high. 
  • Any horizontal or angled supports such as rails, rods or wires, located on the outside of the barrier must be at least 900mm apart, or be made non-climbable, for example with the installation of a 60° angled fillet to the top surface of a horizontal rail, to negate any foothold.
  • There must be no climbable surface, object or projection within 1200mm of the top of the barrier that may assist a small child to access the pool and there must be no gaps or spaces greater than 100mm within or under the barrier

Gates in the barrier

  • All pool gates must only open outwards and swing away from the pool.
  • All pool gates must be fitted with self-closing hinges or a mechanism that automatically closes the gate; and a self-latching device so that the pool gate automatically closes and the latch is cleanly engaged, from a static start at any position.  
  • Any latches accessible from the outside must be at least 1500mm above the outside ground level, and any external surfaces or projections such as decks, planter boxes etc. to keep them out of reach of small children.
  • Any internal latch must not be accessible by reaching over or through the gate unless the gate or any hole in the gate is at least 1200mm above ground level. 
  • A 450mm diameter cover must shield any gaps or spaces in the gate that may allow access to the latch below 1200mm.  
  • There must be no object, projection or device near to the gate that could be used to hold it open. 

What if my pool is right next to a building?

The wall of a building may form part of the pool safety barrier if it complies with the relevant legislation.  

  • For swimming pools installed prior to 1 January 2017, all doors that provide direct access to the pool or immediate pool area must be fitted with a high-level locking device located at least 1500mm from the internal floor level. 
  • For swimming pools installed after 1 January 2017, no doors that provide direct access to the pool or immediate pool area must be able to be readily opened by small children. In addition they must either be self-closing and self-latching from a static start, or be fitted with an acceptable pool door alarm that meets Building Code requirements, to signal any unwanted entry into the pool area. 
  • All windows opening into the immediate pool area, with an internal sill height of 1200mm or less, must be restricted to an opening of no more than 100mm, or be provided with a shielding device to the whole window, such as a strong mesh screen, to restrict the passage of small children. 

What is the ‘immediate pool area’?

The immediate pool area is the area that is directly related to the use of the pool and may include a pump shed, change rooms, decking or paving, pool furniture and a barbecue/dining area. The pool area should not be a thoroughfare, provide access to the main door of the dwelling, other outbuildings, or accommodate other outdoor activities such as laundry area/clothesline, vegetable gardens or children’s play areas or equipment.

What about lockable spa pool covers?

Under the new legislation from 1 January 2017, Spa Pools and Hot Tubs are now deemed to be ‘Small Heated Pools’ and compliant child resistant covers are deemed to be a lawful pool safety barrier, so long as certain performance criteria are met. The pool cover must:

  • restrict the entry of children when closed
  • be able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load
  • be able to be readily returned to the closed position
  • have signage indicating its child safety features.

However, these criteria can only be applied when the top surface of every wall of the small heated pool is at all points not less than 760mm above the adjacent floor such as a deck, or ground and the walls of the pool inhibit climbing. In addition, there must be no surfaces, objects or protrusions within 760mm of the top of the small heated pool, which may enable a small child to access the pool. 

Last Reviewed: 15/08/2018

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