A lot of Australian homeowners love to have a swimming pool in the back garden, and the warm summer climate lends itself well to lazy days by the water. In Queensland, 17.9 percent of homes have their own pool, second only to the Northern Territory, where 28.9 percent of homeowners enjoy this luxury. It's great fun to have a swimming pool, but it's also important to keep your family safe in and around the water. Learn more about the pool fencing standards in Queensland, so you can protect your family and stay on the right side of the law.
The risk that swimming pools present
A lot of people enjoy playing or swimming in water, especially when the sun is shining, but these spaces can become deadly. Between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013, 291 people drowned in Australia, and 22 percent of those deaths occurred in Queensland. While people can drown at the beach, on rivers or on boats, swimming pools aren't always safe as you would expect.
Swimming pools are particularly dangerous for children under the age of 14. For children between the age of 0 and 4, 61 percent of all drowning occur in a swimming pool. In 2013, swimming pool drowning increased by 95 percent, compared to the previous year.
Many parents underestimate the danger a swimming pool can present. A child can quickly drown in a pool for several reasons including:
- Lack of swimming ability. It's easy to underestimate the size of a pool at home.
- Lack of barrier around the pool. Toddlers and young children can easily fall into water.
- Lack of supervision. A young child can drown in less than 2 inches of water, so a family pool is more than deep enough.
Close supervision and swimming lessons can help cut the risk of drowning. Safety experts also recommend pool fencing, and Queensland law now mandates adequate barriers around the water.
About Queensland pool fencing safety standards
In many cases, pool fencing and safety barriers around Queensland pools were often inadequate. In some cases, the fences weren't high enough to create a suitable barrier, or there were adjoining objects that allowed children to climb over the pool fence. As such, the Queensland government introduced a single standard in 2010 that applies to all swimming pool fences.
According to the safety standard, you must have swimming pool fencing that:
- Forms a continuous barrier around the water that is strong enough to withstand the impact of people
- Has a gate fitted with a latching device that closes and locks automatically and that young children cannot easily use
- Does not incorporate any doors to and from a building
- Is at least 1200 millimetres from bottom to top
- Does not have a climbable adjoining boundary fence
You must also shield or remove all other climbable objects within 900 millimetres of the fence. Any windows that open directly into the pool enclosure must have safety screens.
If you damage, remove or demolish any part of your pool fencing, you must replace the barrier, but you can repair small defects. For example, you can replace a broken hinge or latch. To entirely replace a pool barrier, you must get development approval from the local authorities.
If a member of your family is disabled, your pool may become exempt from these regulations, but you may need to give the authorities medical evidence to get this exemption. Other exemptions are possible if it is impractical to erect the barrier, or if your property has protection under another local law. Contact your local authority for more advice.
Registering your pool
Under these regulations, you must also register your pool on the state-wide Pool Safety Register. You can do this online, through the Queensland Building And Construction Commission (QBCC) website.
If you sell or lease your property, you need to get a pool safety inspection certificate to show that your pool fencing meets the requirements. You can also find details of registered inspectors through the QBCC website. These certificates are only valid for two years, unless you share the pool with another property, which cuts the time to one year.
If you don't meet the pool safety regulations, the local council can issue an on-the-spot fine. This starts at $113, but you could face a sum of nearly $19,000.
Swimming pools without fences or barriers are dangerous, and, in Queensland, they are now also illegal. If you're looking to install a new pool fence, talk to a professional like Adelaide Fence Centre to make sure you build a barrier that meets the requirements.