Did you know your responsibilities as a pool owner have changed?
Pool safety barriers restricting access to residential pools are now subject to new requirements under the Building Act 2004. These changes took effect from 1 January 2017. All pool safety barriers must now comply with section 162C of the act.
Any new pool installed in or after 2017 must meet the function and performance requirements of the new regulations.
Safety barriers for swimming pools built in 2017 or later
If your pool was installed before 2017, and your swimming pool fence is still compliant with the previous act (Fencing of Swimming Pools) when it’s inspected, it will still be considered compliant.
The Building Act also now places a requirement on councils to ensure that all pool safety barriers within its jurisdiction are compliant, and requires councils to undertake inspections. Even if your pool has already been inspected and was compliant, we need to inspect it again every three years.
New fees and charges for scheduled pool safety barrier inspections
We began scheduled pool safety barrier inspections in early 2016, in preparation for the Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016 which changed the way pool safety barriers were regulated and inspected. The change meant that councils are now legally responsible for ensuring all pool safety barriers within its jurisdiction are registered and achieve compliance.
In 2016 we decided that scheduled pool safety barrier inspections would be undertaken at no cost to the pool owner, with all costs borne by council. This approach was undertaken until all pool safety barriers had been initially inspected and brought to a compliant standard.
The act requires triennial (approx. once every 3 years) inspections to ensure the ongoing safety of pool barriers, as they may fail or deteriorate over time. To cover the cost of this ongoing inspection requirement, we have begun charging reasonable fees to pool owners for inspections.
An inspection fee of $160.00 will be charged at the time of the scheduled pool safety barrier inspection.
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, objects, projections or surfaces that could enable a small child to climb into the pool.
- 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? (for pre January 2017 pools)
- 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.
- 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 achieve compliance by applying the provisions of the new Code F9. To do so, 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 at least 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, with no permanent steps, objects, projections or surfaces that could enable a small child to climb into the pool
- 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 potential foothold.
- There must be no permanent climbable surface, object or projection within a 1200mm arc measured from 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.
- If access to the latch may be possible through any gap or space in the fence below 1200mm, it must be shielded by a 450mm diameter cover.
There must be no object, projection or device near to the gate that could be used to hold it open.
Can the walls of a building act as a barrier?
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. Such doors are deemed compliant pursuant to the provisions of Clause 11 of the compliance schedule to FoSPA.
- All windows opening into the immediate pool area, with an internal sill height of less than 1200mm, 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 not defined by ‘area’ as such, but by the contents or activities undertaken within the area in relation to the use of the pool. This 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, include access to the main door of the dwelling, other outbuildings, or accommodate other outdoor activities such as clotheslines, vegetable gardens, pet housing or children’s play areas or play equipment.
What about spa pools and lockable spa pool covers?
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 ground or deck, and the walls of the pool inhibit climbing. In addition, there must be no surfaces, objects or protrusions within 760mm, measured in an arc from the top of the small heated pool, which may enable a small child to access the pool.
Last Reviewed: 05/10/2020