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Water Safety Week: Are your pool and spa barriers compliant?

Published on 05 December 2019
  • Community
  • Community safety

Enjoying the water is a great Australian pastime, but owning or building a pool comes with strict safety responsibilities and legal requirements.

From 1 December 2019, property owners, including landlords, will be required to register their pool or spa with Council as part of tough new laws introduced by the Victorian Government. Owners can register online from 2 December 2019.

The implementation period will require owners of existing swimming pools and spas to take action by 1 June 2020.

In addition, owners will be required to provide regular certification to Council every four years from a registered building surveyor, certifying that their pool or spa safety barriers comply with the standard applicable at the time of their installation.

Maroondah Mayor Councillor Mike Symon said that drowning was a leading cause of accidental death in children under the age of five, which is why pool and water safety was a vital issue that affected the entire 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 Symon said.

According to Royal Life Saving Australia, 19 Australian children aged 0-4 years died as a result of drowning in 2018-19. The majority of these incidents occurred in backyard swimming pools.

This week is Water Safety Week (2-6 December) and 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, now is the time to check that pool and spa safety barriers are effective and working properly, at all times,” Cr Symon said.

“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,” Symon 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 will maintain the register of swimming pools and spas within the municipality through owner registrations, existing Council records and aerial photography to ensure the database is up-to-date.

You can check if your pool or spa barriers are compliant using the Victorian Building Authority’s self-assessment checklists.

For more information on swimming pool and spa barriers and compliance read New safety laws for owners of pools and spas

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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