Backyard pool safety continues to be a prevalent issue this summer with many pool owners still unaware of safety barrier regulations, and drowning still one of the most common causes of preventable death for children under 5 years of age in Australia.

Essentially, any excavation or structure with the capacity to hold a body of water greater than 300mm, used principally for swimming, wading or paddling, requires a safety barrier. This may include in-ground swimming pools, indoor pools, above-ground pools, jacuzzis, spas, inflatable pools and hot tubs, and excludes fish ponds, bird baths and dams (any structure that is not capable of containing a depth of water greater than 300mm).

In NSW, the Swimming Pools Act 1992 prescribes the fencing requirements of backyard swimming pools, and this Act highlights the varying requirements for child-resistant barriers according to the location of the pool and when it was built.

Local councils are responsible for enforcing the following regulations and can issue on the spot fines for certain failures to comply:

  • If constructed before August 1, 1990, access to the swimming pool from the house must be restricted at all times. Any doors or windows which form part of the pool yard must be kept closed and locked at all times
  • Pools built after August 1, 1990 and before July 1, 2010 must be surrounded by a fence which separates the pool from the house. Exemptions apply depending on the size of the property
  • With the introduction of the Building Code of Australia 2010, all pools built after July 1, 2010 must be surrounded by a fence which separates the pool from the house. Exemptions apply depending on the size of the property and pool
Once a safety barrier has been implemented (building permits are required for installations and alterations) or an existing fence has been properly inspected, they also require regular maintenance.

Not even a fully compliant barrier system can be considered childproof and proper adult supervision is the key to ensuring the safety of children around a swimming pool or spa area. However, enforcing a consistent inspection system can go along way to preventing injury or death:

  • Maintain safety components of gates, doors and windows, including self-closers, latches, flyscreens, catches, and bolts
  • Ensure there are no chairs, boxes, pool pumps, tree branches, pot plants, or other objects near the fence that could be used to climb over
  • All fences (especially timber paling fences) should be in good repair and non-climbable
  • Ensure all gates and doors that provide access to the swimming pool or spa are closed at all times, except when entering or leaving the area
  • Neighbours’ properties adjoining a swimming pool should be inspected for potential hazards or climbable objects (where applicable)