Backyard Pools – What Laws Apply to You?
Laws regarding pools in Australia are very strict in order to provide greater protection from drowning. This article briefly explains the laws that might apply to your backyard pool.
With NSW alone having more than 300,000 backyard pools, and drowning the leading cause in the accidental death of young children in Australia, careful adherence to pool laws is incredibly important to reduce fatalities.
While largely based on an Australian standard, laws in this country with regards to swimming pools are determined on a state by state basis. Queensland, NSW, Western Australia and the Northern Territory each have their own governing legislation, overriding the national building code, while the remaining states and territories rely on the code.
Movement has been made towards standardising all legislation at a national level, particularly when it comes to fencing.
In NSW, the laws you need to abide by are the Swimming Pools Act 1992 and the Swimming Pools Regulation 2008. This also applies to other buildings and establishments such as hotels.
So what do you need to know?
NSW legislation in particular, has different regulations depending on the type of property the pool is located within. In general, it is important that the fence separates the pool from your home and from your neighbourhood. This not only keeps you and your family safe, but protects neighbouring children who might accidentally wander into your yard. The fence should be high enough to act as a barrier against children – 1.2 metres high is suggested. Also look at the area surrounding it and make sure there is nothing tall enough to act as an aid for a child wanting to climb the fence. Make sure if you have an old fence, it is still strong and structurally sound, and if not, contact a fencing contractor to have it replaced immediately.
When constructing your fence, you also have a few things to think about. Firstly, check the gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground. Can a child crawl under there? If it is more than 10cm, you are at risk of not complying with laws. The upright palings of the fence could also be a way for children to sneak in, make sure they are close enough together that no one, no matter how small, can get through. The fence should also be maintained as vigilantly as your pool itself.
In terms of the gate, make sure it closes automatically – one of the greatest issues causing death to children is accidentally leaving the gate open. And also ensure the latch closes tightly and swiftly, and is high enough that a child can’t reach it.
Finally, assess the area where the gate and pool is. If one of the walls to your home or garage acts as one side of the fence/barrier, make sure it has no windows or doors – that there is no way a child can crawl through or fall through. Also make sure the fence doesn’t close in a clothes line or something similar which is related to a task that may cause you to lose focus and forget to close the gate.
Under the legislation, you are also required to have a CPR sign displayed in the pool area. But is this really enough? If you have a pool, make sure you not only display the sign, but know how to practically apply it – it could be the difference between life and death. You can get the signs online, or from your pool supplies centre – while there, check out the other safety equipment available.
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