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New rules: Swimming pools, spas and their safety barriers

Published on 17 January 2019
Categories:
  • Community
  • Community safety
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Enjoying the water is a great Australian pastime, but owning or building a pool comes with strict safety responsibilities and legal requirements.

Maroondah Mayor, and Chair of the Maroondah Community Safety Committee, Cr Rob Steane, said that with drowning a leading cause of accidental death in children under the age of five, pool and water safety is a vital issue that affected the whole community.

“While pool and spa barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of drowning incidents, evidence suggests that a large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty, or non-compliant with Australian standards,” Cr Steane said.

According to Royal Life Saving Australia, 18 Australian children aged 0-4 years died as a result of drowning in 2017-18. The majority of these incidents occurred in backyard swimming pools.

Council is supporting Kidsafe Victoria’s ‘Safe Barriers Save Lives’ campaign, which calls on all pool and spa owners to check the safety of their pool or spa barriers to help keep children safe in and around water.

“If you haven’t already done so, it is vital that you check that pool and spa safety barriers are effective and working properly, at all times,” Cr Steane said.

New laws recently announced by the Victorian Government will requires mandatory registration of all pools and spas.

Under the regulatory changes, household owners, including landlords, are required to register their pool or spa with Council and have their pool barriers inspected and certified compliant against the appropriate standard. The new registration and compliance requirements come into effect on 1 December 2019 and will be enforced by Council.

 “It is a legal requirement that all swimming pools and spas have fence barriers to prevent unsupervised children gaining access. This includes above-ground, bathing, wading and portable pools and hot tubs capable of holding more than 300mm of water,” Cr Steane said.

“Water draws children like a magnet, and the first essential rule is to never take your eyes off them when they’re near or in the water.

“Safety barriers and fences are no substitute for adult supervision. You should never leave small children unsupervised around water, and never rely on older children to supervise younger children in and around pools and spas.

“The second vital safety rule is to make sure you have approved barriers around the pool or spa – if it’s your pool or spa, it’s your responsibility.

“Toddlers can drown in as little as a few centimetres of water – this means that objects including buckets, inflatable/toddler wading pools, backyard ponds, eskies with melted ice and even pets drinking bowls can all pose a potential drowning hazard.

“Children require active adult supervision around water at all times, especially toddlers. This means being within arm’s reach, such as being with them in the pool or beside them in the bath,” he said.

Council proactively inspects pools and spas each year to ensure safety barriers are compliant, and has set about establishing a new municipal-wide register of swimming pools and spas to be added to its existing database.

Read more on swimming pool and spa barriers

How to voluntarily register your pool or spa

The Victorian Building Authority has created a voluntary swimming pool and spa register and online pool barrier compliance self-assessment tool in time for the 2019 summer period.

The voluntary register is a chance for pool and spa owners to register the details of their swimming pool and/or spa leading up to the introduction of mandatory registration.

Anyone who fails to comply with the legislative requirements may be liable to penalties.

You can register your details on the Victorian Building Authority website

10 Pool and Spa Safety Tips

  1. Always watch your children in and around water. If multiple adults are present, designate one of them to watch the children for a designated amount of time and then rotate. This technique will help prevent lapses in supervision.
  2. Don’t rely on water toys such as noodles or floating beds to keep children safe. If your child cannot swim, fit them with an appropriate personal flotation device (PFD), making sure to never take your eyes off them.
  3. Safety barriers must not be installed near trees, barbecues or other climbable structures that could allow children to gain access to the pool/or spa (this may include pot plants and outdoor furniture).
  4. Never prop open any gate providing access to the swimming pool or spa.
  5. Ensure there is no excess space under fence barriers where children can crawl under to gain access to a pool and/or spa.
  6. All gates must have a self-closing, self-latching device.
  7. All outdoor pools and/or spas built after 1 May 2010 must not have direct access to the pool area via a door from a building (i.e. house or garage). 
  8. Teach children basic water safety tips and enrol them in swimming lessons.
  9. Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbours.
  10. Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.
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