Being a swimming pool owner can be a perk all year round in the Australian climate. Everyone loves to enjoy a warm afternoon in the cool waters of a swimming pool or host an entertaining pool party with family and friends. While a swimming pool is a blessing in disguise, one must be dutifully dedicated to abiding by all forms of pool safety and legislation, for even a small accident in or around it can turn into something dangerously fatal. Being a swimming pool owner, it is your responsibility to provide and ensure protection to everyone against the perils of a swimming pool, especially young children. Emphasising the importance of taking appropriate pool safety measures, the local council of Victoria- the Victorian Building Authority- has also introduced new legislation on pool fencing, not complying to which will invite heavy fines on pool owners. This blog article is all about highlighting these new regulations and their significance in making swimming pools a much safer commodity.
SELF-EVALUATION OF YOUR SWIMMING POOL
Different Australian states have different pool compliance laws and safety regulations. To fully comply with the ones in your state, there are certain details about your pool that you must know. Further, there are separate checklists for pools made in different periods. We’ve prepared a generic checklist for all the specifications you will need to self-assess your pool:
- How old is the swimming pool?
- If there is an existing pool fencing, how old is it? Was it ever rebuilt? If yes, when?
- What type of pool do you have: indoor, spa, outdoor, etc.?
- What type of property do you own: waterfront, small-sized or large?
When you have these questions, you will easily meet the pool safety standards set for your state. To find out more about the Victorian pool safety checklist, please visit https://www.vba.vic.gov.au.
NEW POOL FENCE REGULATIONS IN VICTORIA
When you are buying a new property that has a pool enclosed or thinking of getting one built, you must keep in mind that there are strict regulations that you will have to comply with to make the pool safe and prevent mishaps. Compliance is mandatory with the new laws in Victoria. All pools and spas must be lodged with local councils, and pool compliance inspection is compulsory every four years. Here are the pool fence regulations in Victoria as of June 2021:
- Your pool or spa must have a safety barrier
- Pool fencing must be a minimum of 1.2 metres high
- Self-closing and self-latching gates are necessary
- Entry to the pool or spas must have a child-lock
- The bottom gap should not be more than 10cm
- The gap between the vertical bars must be less than 10cm
- Other requirements relating to the climbing ability of fencing and objects close to the fencing
Meeting all these regulations will allow you to get a pool compliance certificate that needs to be reviewed regularly through a pool safety inspection.
REGISTRATION AND INSPECTION OF POOLS AND SPAS
On 1 December 2019, Victoria introduced new laws intending to improve swimming pool safety measures in the state. Specific regulations came into effect about the registration, inspection and certification of all pool and spas:
- The last date to register an existing pool with your local council was set to be 1 November 2020.
- A mandatory inspection from a registered pool inspector of your pool barrier must be organised.
- You must rectify all problems in your pool barrier as examined by the said inspector.
- You will receive a certificate of compliance when satisfactory safety measures are in place. You will have to submit this certificate to your local council by the due date in order to be registered.
POOL SAFETY BARRIERS
As aforementioned, the new compliance regulations call for appropriate pool barriers to be installed in order to get the pools and spas registered under the relevant local authorities in Victoria. This section of our blog post talks about everything you need to know about pool barriers and answers basic questions on barrier requirements, inspections, barrier improvement notices, non-compliance fees and much more.
According to the Victorian Building Authority, all swimming pools and spas that have the capacity to hold more than 300 mm (30 cm) depth of water must restrict the entry of young children (below five years of age) through a compliant pool barrier. If your swimming pool and/or spa fit under the criteria mentioned below, you are legally liable to get a pool barrier constructed, the lack of which would result in severe penalties:
- In-ground pools and spas
- Indoor spas and pools
- Above-ground spas and pool, including relocatable and inflatable pools with the capacity to hold water for more than 300 mm (30 cm) depth and also require assembly on site.
- Bathing and wading pools with the capacity to contain water for more than 30 mm (30 cm) depth.
Which establishments do not require barrier safety?
The following types of setups do not require barriers:
- Inflatable swimming pools, pools or spas that cannot contain a water depth greater than 300 mm (30 cm).
- Small inflatable pools that do not consist of multiple components and do not require any assembly, such as a small inflatable kids’ pool
- Birdbaths and fountains
- Domestic water supply/storage tanks
- Fish ponds and dams
- Baths used for personal hygiene and emptied after each use, such as bathtubs
- Spas inside a building (e.g. in a bathroom) used for personal hygiene and emptied after each use
What to keep in mind while getting a new pool or spa constructed?
If you are planning to get a new pool or spa made, there are rules about its design, construction and installation that call for strict compliance in Victoria. Remember the following regulations while doing so to avoid being issued a non-compliance certificate by the authorities:
- It should be constructed by a builder registered in an appropriate category or class or an owner-builder who has an owner-builder certificate of consent
- It should have self-latching and self-closing pool gates
- Safety barriers must comply with AS1926.1-2012.
If you already have an existing pool or spa, remember to self-assess it via the checklist mentioned.
After registration of your spa or pool, organising an inspection by relevant professionals is mandatory. Inspection for your pool or spa barrier in Victoria can be conducted by following:
- A VBA registered Pool Inspector ( such as Master Property Inspections)
Only when they assess all factors relating to pool barrier safety and find it satisfactory, will you be granted a certificate of compliance.
If said inspectors conclude after their inspection that the barrier safety measures do not conform to Victoria’s regulations, they can:
- Immediately award a non-compliance certificate of barrier; or
- Issue a written notice to you – called a barrier improvement notice- specifying:
- The problems that need to address in order to get a compliance certificate;
- Available period to make the pool compliant with recommended changes (within a maximum of 60 days); and
- Intended date and time for barrier re-inspection.
What is a barrier improvement notice?
A barrier improvement notice is generally issued by an authorised organisation such as a municipal building surveyor after the local council in Victoria is intimated of a certificate of barrier non-compliance. This barrier improvement notice is usually issued when the inspector finds only minor issues of non-compliance in your pool or spa barrier safety.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- For how long is a certificate of barrier compliance valid?
A certificate of barrier compliance remains valid for 30 days from the date of issue. Also, it must be submitted to the relevant council within this period. On the off chance that the certificate is not lodged within this period, you must get a new inspection done and submit the new certificate to the relevant council.
- What is the fee for lodging a certificate of barrier non-compliance?
Yes, you will have to pay a fee if a certificate of non-compliance is issued against your property. On issuing the certificate, the local council gives you notice of the fee specifying the due date for payment (not less than 28 days). Visit the Victorian council’s website to find out the fees applicable to your municipality. Please note, however, failing to pay the fee by the due date can result in a fine of approximately $330 and a penalty of up to $1,652.20.
- What to do when alterations/changes are done to the pool barrier after registration?
If you make alterations to your pool or spa after a barrier inspection has been done, the relevant inspector needs to be notified immediately, who will conduct another assessment to conclude whether or not the latest changes comply with Victoria’s regulations.