New safety laws for owners of pools and spas
New State Government laws about pool and spa fencing are anticipated to come into force from 1 December 2019.
The new laws will require:
- Mandatory registration of all private swimming pools and spas
- Introduction of a new compliance program to improve pool and spa safety.
Owners of existing swimming pools and spas will need to register their pool or spa with Council by 14 April 2020 or within 30 days after completion if their pool or spa is under construction.
Further updates will be provided when the new regulations are finalised.
Visit Engage Victoria to learn more.
What changes are expected?
From 1 December 2019, property owners, including landlords, will be required to register their pool or spa with Council.
We will maintain a register of swimming pools and spas using owner registrations, existing Council records and aerial photography to ensure the database is up-to-date.
Once you have registered your swimming pool or spa with Council we will let you know more about your required safety barrier and the compliance process.
A registration and certification process will be available online from December 2019.
Property owners will need to have their swimming pool and spa barriers inspected and certified by a registered building surveyor or building inspector.
The requirements will vary depending on the age of the pool or spa.
You must provide a copy of the certificate of compliance to Council.
More information on the new pool and spa safety rules will be available in late November 2019.
Is my pool or spa compliant?
While there will be stricter laws on managing pool and spa compliance, the requirement to have compliant safety barriers hasn’t changed. You are already expected to have compliant safety barriers in place.
You can check if your pool or spa barriers are compliant using the Victorian Building Authority’s three self-assessment checklists.
Safety standards and regulations
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.
- in-ground swimming pools
- indoor swimming pools
- above-ground swimming pools (including permanent and temporary pools)
- swim spas
- bathing and wading pools
- hot tubs.
What are safety barriers?
Safety barriers are designed to help restrict unsupervised entry by young children to the swimming pool or spa area.
A safety barrier may consist of a:
and includes attachments, such as:
- self closing devices.
Provided their use & physical characteristics such as heights, gaps, rigidity etc. meet the requirements of the applicable safety standards required.
When is a safety barrier not required?
A safety barrier is not required for:
- An excavation or structure that is NOT designed, manufactured or adopted to be used principally for swimming, paddling or wading, such as 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 300 mm
- spas inside a building that are used for personal hygiene, such as a spa bath in a bathroom.
Do I need a Building Permit?
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
- associated pool or spa 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, safety barriers must be completed within 6 months of building work commencing on the swimming pool or spa.
Your responsibilities as a pool or spa owner
It is a requirement of the Victorian Building Regulations that any swimming 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.
A Building Permit must be obtained prior to the construction of a swimming pool, spa and for their associated safety barriers.
During construction it is common for temporary fencing to be erected under the Building Permit 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 Practitioner to advise on compliance issues for your barrier design.
Temporary fencing is not acceptable as an ongoing or long-term barrier system for swimming pools and spas.
Compliant and permanent safety barriers must be completed within 6 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 that has been inspected and approved by the relevant Building Surveyor.
Your Building Surveyor will require detailed documentation relating to the pool or spa structure as well as fencing details to demonstrate how compliance will be achieved in accordance with the Australian Standard and the Building Regulations.
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 & applicable barrier standard.
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.
Buying/selling a home
If you own or are purchasing a home with a swimming pool or spa and are not sure that the swimming pool or spa fence or barrier complies, contact a Private Building Surveyor or Inspector to arrange for an inspection.
Why barriers are important
Children under the age of 5 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 5 have died and 37 children have 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.