Swimming pool and spa barriers

Swimming pool and spa barriers

All swimming pools and spas must have a safety barrier to restrict access to the pool area by children under the age of five or unaccompanied by a responsible supervisor.

Owners of properties with a swimming pool or spa have a legal obligation to ensure that they maintain swimming pool and spa safety barriers to reduce the risk of unsupervised children gaining access.

Residents must also ensure that the gate in these barriers is always closed except when entering or exiting the pool or spa.

These legal obligations apply to all swimming pools and spas in Victoria.

New safety laws for owners of pools and spas

To come into effect on 1 December 2019

These new laws introduced by the Victorian Government will require:

  • mandatory registration of swimming pools and spas
  • a new compliance regime to improve swimming pool and spa safety.

What will be required

Registration

From 1 December 2019, property owners, including landlords, will be required to register their pool or spa with council. Early voluntary registration can be made through the VBA website here.

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.

Certification

Property owners will also be required to have their swimming pool and spa barriers inspected and certified by a registered building surveyor or a registered building inspector, stating that the barrier of a swimming pool or spa complies with the applicable requirements. These requirements vary, depending on when the pool or spa was installed. The owner must then provide a copy of the certificate of compliance to council.

Further details

The exact details, including inspection commencement date and frequency of inspections are expected to be released late 2019.

Are you compliant? You can check.

While there will be stricter laws on managing pool and spa compliance, the requirement to have safety barriers has not changed. You were already expected to have safety barriers in place.

You can check if your pool or spa barriers are compliant using the Victorian Building Authority's two self assessment checklists. They reflect the standards and regulations that are applied to your pool or spa, depending on your installation date. Choose the one applicable on the VBA's website

Safety barriers and your responsibility

What defines a swimming pool or spa?

A swimming pool or spa is any excavation or structure containing water and principally used, designed, manufactured or adapted to be used for swimming, wading, paddling or the like, including a bathing or wading pool, or spa that are capable of containing a depth of more than 300mm of water.

This includes:

  • in-ground swimming pools
  • indoor swimming pools
  • above-ground swimming pools (including permanent and temporary pools)
  • jacuzzis
  • spas
  • swim spas
  • bathing and wading pools
  • hot tubs

Is a lockable lid a safety barrier? 

No, a lockable lid is not a safety barrier and does not meet legal requirements.

What are safety barriers?

Safety barriers restrict unsupervised entry by young children to the swimming pool or spa area. 

A Safety barrier must be a minimum of 1.2 metres high and may be a:

  • fence
  • wall
  • gate
  • screen
  • balustrades 

and includes attachments, such as:

  • doors
  • gates
  • windows
  • locks
  • latches
  • hinges
  • self closing and self latching devices

 

A safety barrier is not required for:

  • structures not used principally for swimming, paddling or wading, including bird baths, fish ponds, fountains, dams and water supply/storage tanks
  • swimming pools or spas not capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300mm 
  • inflatable swimming pools (typically toddler or wading pools) not capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300mm
  • spas inside a building that are used for personal hygiene, such as a spa bath in a bathroom. 

A Building Permit is required for the construction of, and alterations to:

  • all swimming pools - in ground and above ground capable of holding water greater than 300mm deep
  • spas
  • associated safety barriers.

The Building Permit documentation must include details of:

  • site plan showing location of swimming pool or spa, barriers, and any existing buildings on site
  • the type and location of the safety barriers, including fences, gates, doors, windows, latches, catches, self-closing devices and mesh screens
  • water reticulation and filtration equipment (manufacturer's specifications).

From 1 May 2010 outdoor pools cannot be accessed directly from a building or adjoining property.  

After a Building Permit is issued, by a Registered Building Surveyor, safety barriers must be completed within six months of building work commencing on the swimming pool or spa. Building work must also start within 12 months of the date that the building permit was issued.

It is a requirement of the Victorian Building Regulations that any pool or spa capable of containing more than a depth of 300mm of water must have compliant safety barriers. 

It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that compliant safety barriers are in place under a Building Permit issued by a Registered Building Surveyor. 

Building Permit

A Building Permit must be issued prior to construction of a swimming pool, spa and associated safety barriers. 

During construction

Compliant safety barriers must be in place during the construction of a pool.

During construction it is common for temporary fencing to be erected under the Building Permit and provided by your Builder to allow completion of the pool construction. Ensure you read the contract and discuss the details with your builder to understand what is included and what isn’t. 

The design and location of permanent fencing should be finalised during the design stage, prior to obtaining a building permit. Engage a registered Building Surveyor to advise on compliance issues for your barrier design. 

Temporary fencing

Temporary fencing is not acceptable as an ongoing or long-term barrier system for swimming pools and spas.

Safety barriers must be completed within six months of the commencement of pool or spa works. 

Prior to filling your pool for the first time you must have a compliant safety barrier in place. 

Compliance

Your Building Surveyor will require detailed documentation relating to the pool or spa structure as well as fencing details to demonstrate how the pool will be protected from access by young children in accordance with the Australian Standard. 

Your Building Surveyor will issue you with a Certificate of Final Inspection as evidence that the pool or spa and associated safety barriers comply with the Building Permit documentation. 

Maintenance

Once completed and approved, maintenance of the pool and safety barriers is the responsibility of the property owner. Safety barriers must be maintained in compliant working order at all times. 

Once pool safety barriers have been installed in compliance with Australian Standard AS 1926.1, it is imperative that property owners with swimming pools be aware of their obligations. 

Pool owners are obligated under Part 9 DIvision 2 of the Building Regulations 2018 to ensure the swimming pool safety barriers are maintained to restrict access. 

The following steps will ensure the safety barriers are maintained:

  • Regular inspection and maintenance of safety barriers installed including gates, doors (when permitted) and windows to ensure they are still fitted correctly, and still operate correctly. 
  • Regular inspection and maintenance of fences to ensure they are still in an appropriate condition and are non-climbable. 
  • Maintenance of landscaping to ensure tree branches, pot plants etc. are not able to be climbed by young children to gain access into the swimming pool/spa area. 
  • Maintenance of the general area surrounding safety barriers to ensure items such as chairs, boxes, ropes, pool pumps, clothes lines, dog kennels and children’s play equipment do not enable young children to gain access to the swimming pool/spa area. 
  • For older pools, periodical inspection of adjoining properties to ensure that, over time, potential hazards have not developed in the form of climbable objects that may allow access by young children to the swimming pool/spa.
  • The occupier of the land which contains a swimming pool or spa and/or any person who enters or leaves the swimming pool or spa enclosure must take all reasonable steps to ensure any doors, gate or other openings forming part of the safety barriers are in the closed position at all times.

We currently operate both a proactive and reactive policy to monitor compliance of swimming pools and spas within the municipality.

Proactive Policy

Council actively seeks out non-compliance of swimming pools and spas. The aim of this policy is to:

  • identify non-compliance
  • provide an opportunity for education of property owners
  • provide provision of resources to assist in the long-term, effective maintenance of pools and spas.

Re-active Policy

Council responds to non-compliance as it becomes aware of specific circumstances. This may be through internal or external sources. Once aware of non-compliance, council is responsible for undertaking an audit and inspection process to determine the level of non-compliance and commence enforcement action, as necessary.

If you are concerned about the compliance of your swimming pool, spa and/or safety barriers contact a Registered Building Inspector or Surveyor for assessment and advice. 

Children under the age of five are at highest risk for both fatal and non-fatal drownings (including mild to severe brain or other organ damage due to lack of oxygen) with swimming pools recording the largest number of non-fatal drownings.

Between June 2007 and July 2018, 14 children under the age of five died and 37 children had non-fatal injuries from home swimming pools in Victoria (Department of Justice).

To protect young children, active supervision of young children in and around swimming pools and spas is required at all times.