Many Australian families enjoy time spent using their swimming pools. With over 2,700 residential swimming pools in the City of South Perth, it is imperative that swimming pool safety barriers restrict access to pools by young children. Drowning is the most common cause of preventable death of children from 0-5 years old. As such, there are specific laws in WA that mandate the installation of a safety barrier to enclose domestic swimming pools and spas.
Requirements for pool and spa owners
Under the Building Act 2011 and the Building Regulations 2012, building permits are required for:
- Swimming pools
- Pool safety barriers
Swimming pools and spas that are capable of holding water that is more than 300mm deep require a building permit from the City prior to their construction or installation. This includes inflatable and portable above-ground pools/spas.
If you plan to install a swimming pool and/or spa on your property, you must first obtain a Building Permit from the City. If the company installing the pool/spa is not the same as the one installing the safety barrier, separate applications need to be submitted for both the pool/spa and the safety barrier.
Under the Building Regulations 2012, all property owners and occupiers with a domestic swimming pool and/or spa (including those which are inflatable and portable above ground) containing water that is more than 300mm deep, are required to have a compliant safety barrier around the pool and/or spa. This is to restrict access by young children to the pool and/or spa and its immediate surrounds. A compliant safety barrier is one which is in accordance with Australian Standard AS 1926.1.
Once installed, all pool and spa barriers must be inspected and approved by the City, before a pool or spa can be filled with water. The City is bound by legislation that requires every swimming pool and spa in the City to be inspected by an authorised person, once every four years, to ensure safety is maintained in accordance with the Australian Standard.
Please refer to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website for information about the building approvals process for new swimming pools/spas and safety barriers.
It is the owner/occupier’s responsibility to ensure that the safety barrier is compliant, operating and maintained at all times. A Rules for Pools and Spas simple checklist for residents can help you check some of the basic elements of pool safety barriers.
- A pool safety barrier must comply with the provisions of the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standard AS 1926.1 – 2012 and building Regulations 2012
- Pools or spas installed before 5 November 2001 are required to restrict access from the house, adjoining properties and the road. Doors are permitted to lead directly into the pool area but must be compliant with Australian Standard AS 1926.1 - 1993
- Pools or spas installed on or after 5 November 2001 are required to have an isolation fence. There must be a compliant fence or gate between any door and the pool/spa area. No door is allowed to lead directly into the pool area
- For pools or spas installed on or after 1 May 2016, a boundary barrier must be a minimum of 1.8m in height if it is being used as part of the safety barrier
- It should be noted that if a swimming pool or spa is located to the front of the property, and a front boundary fence will form part of the pool safety barrier, planning approval may be required from the City’s Statutory Planning Services for the 1.8m front fence.
Please be aware that under the Building Regulations 2012, a fine of $5,000 can be imposed for a failure to provide a compliant pool safety barrier.
For further information, please refer to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website.
Builder’s responsibility – Notice of Completion
The responsible person (builder named on the building permit) must give a Notice of Completion (BA7) in accordance with section 33 of the Building Act 2011 to the permit authority (the City) within seven days of completion of the work or stage of work for which the permit was granted. This establishes the end date of the permit which serves to record relevant compliance matters. The notice of completion must be accompanied by a copy of an inspection certificate for each inspection and test that applies to the building permit. It is the responsibility of the builder to organise the inspection certificate.
A Notice of Completion which includes a swimming pool and/or spa safety barrier shall be accompanied by certification which details inspection of the safety barrier against the requirements of Australian Standard AS 1926.1 – 2012. Currently, certification by the Royal Life Saving Society WA is preferable, under the responsibility of the nominated builder. The owner or builder is responsible for the cost of the inspection and certification.
Under the Building Regulations 2012, the City is required to inspect private swimming pool/spa barriers at an interval of no more than four years. The regulations permit the City to levy an annual fee for the administration and inspection of private swimming pool/spa barriers. The current fee is $30 which is levied through the annual rates notice.
Decommissioning/removing a pool or spa
For a swimming pool or spa to be considered decommissioned, it must be rendered such that it cannot hold water. Such measures to decommission, as a minimum may include:
- Removing the structure altogether
- Placing sizable hole(s) in the deepest point of the pool or spa and removing the filter and access ladders. Consideration must be given to soil permeability, height of the water table height and ensuring good drainage and no blockage of holes
- Placing sizable hole(s) in the deep end of the pool and multiple other locations, filling with clean fill and compacting.
An inspector at the City will need to visit your property to verify any decommissioning work. Once deemed satisfactory, the pool levy on your rates can be removed. Should you wish to reinstate a pool and/or spa, a new application for a building permit will be required. A swimming pool/spa safety barrier shall comply with the current legislated Australian Standard.
Safety alert - swimming pool skimmer boxes
Pool skimmer boxes help to clean a pool by skimming water and capturing floating debris such as leaves before it sinks to the bottom of the pool. Older style skimmer boxes with removable covers and unprotected intake areas can pose a serious safety risk for young children as a child may lift the cover and sit inside them. Children in Western Australia have suffered serious injury, or died, as a result of sitting on open skimmer boxes.
If your skimmer box is unsafe, immediate action should be taken:
- Buy and fit a low-cost conversion kit, available from local swimming pool suppliers; or
- Place a bar or other fitting (safety skirt) across the opening of the skimmer box to prevent children from sitting in the box; or
- Permanently fix the cover over the skimmer box so it can only be removed using a tool.
If you have any concerns about the safety of a skimmer box, please contact the Consumer Protection’s product safety team on 1300 304 054, or email email@example.com, or visit the ACCC product Safety Australia website or contact a local pool shop for expert advice.