Swimming Pool Safety

Summer is a great time to enjoy swimming pools. However, it is important to be aware of the importance of safety and the vulnerability of small children near pools. The most effective way to prevent drowning or near-drowning is for children to be adequately supervised by a parent or other responsible adult. Properly installed and maintained barrier fencing also assists in reducing the incidence of drowning in backyard pools.

Why is pool safety important?

Drowning is a leading cause of death among children under five years of age. The Royal Life Saving Society have reported that, in NSW from 1 July 2007-30 June 2009, an average of 11 drowning deaths occurred annually among children under five years of age. The Children's Hospital at Westmead have reported that a further 62 children have been hospitalised for near drowning each year. This represents the highest drowning rate of any age group, with approximately 70% of the drowning deaths occurring in swimming pools.

Do I have to fence my pool?

The Swimming Pools Act 1992 requires access to all back yard swimming pools, spa pools and the like be restricted with a barrier compliant with Australian Standard 1926.

The Act and Regulation apply to all swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor) on premises where there is a residential building, a movable dwelling (eg caravan), a hotel or a motel.

The Swimming Pools Act 1992 defines a swimming pool as:

An excavation, structure or vessel:

(a) that is capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300 millimetres or more, and

(b) that is solely or principally used, or that is designed, manufactured or adapted to be solely or principally used, for the purpose of swimming, wading, paddling or any other human aquatic activity, and includes a spa pool, but does not include a spa bath, anything that is situated within a bathroom or anything declared by the regulations not to be a swimming pool for the purposes of this Act.

Do I need a pool fence for portable, inflatable or small pools?

Any pool that is capable of being filled with water to a depth of 300 millimetres (30cm) or more requires a pool fence (child-resistant barrier).
Inflatable type pools capable of holding water to a depth of 300mm are also subject to the legislation.

Do I need a pool fence or lockable cover for a spa?

The Swimming Pools Act and Swimming Pools Regulation also applies to spas. A pool fence or a lockable child-safe structure (such as a lid, grille or mesh) is required.

What are some of my key responsibilities under the Swimming Pools Act?

If you are the owner of premises on which a swimming pool is situated you must ensure that the pool is at all times surrounded by a child-resistant barrier consisting of fencing of a height no less than 1.2 metres (1.8 metres if a boundary fence) and/or your house wall. You must always keep your barrier and gates in good working condition. Gates providing access to the pool area must be kept securely closed at all times when not in actual use. Door access from a residential building into an outdoor pool is no longer permitted.

The requirements for child-resistant barriers on premises where there is a residential building vary according to when the pool was constructed and where the pool is located:

* For pools built before 1 August 1990, the pool must either be surrounded by a child-resistant barrier or the means of access from the building to the pool must be restricted at all times. The standard for restriction, for example, by use of complying windows and doors, is set out in the Swimming Pools Regulation applicable at the time the pool was built.

* For pools built after 1 August 1990 but before 1 September 2008, the pool must be surrounded by a child-resistant barrier that separates the pool from any residential building situated on the premises and from any place adjoining the premises. The child-resistant barrier must be designed, constructed, installed and maintained in accordance with Australian Standard 1926-1986 Fences and Gates for Private Swimming Pools.

*For pools built after 1 September 2008, the appropriate standard is Australian Standard 1926.1-2007 Swimming Pool Safety, Part 1: Safety barriers for swimming pools.

* For pools built after 1 May 2013, the appropriate standard is Australian Standard 1926.1-2012 Swimming pool safety - Safety barriers for swimming pools

Pool owners can decide the exact location of the barrier, which need not closely surround the pool, provided it meets the requirements of the Act, Regulation and appropriate standard.

Pool safety barriers must be maintained in a good state of repair as an effective and safe barrier restricting access to the pool. There must be no holes, broken or loose palings.

Remember - the general requirement for child-resistant barriers on residential properties is for the pool to be separated by a complying barrier from the house, adjoining properties and public spaces at all times. Direct access from the house to the pool area is not permitted unless an exemption applies.

Can I use my boundary/dividing fence as part of the barrier?

Yes. The fence must comply with the child resistant barrier requirements relevant at the time of construction of the pool.

You should note that under The Swimming Pools Act 1992 the expenses of constructing, altering, repairing, replacing and maintaining a dividing fence, where such fence is relied on as part of a child resistant barrier, are borne by the owner of the premises on which the swimming pool is situated. Furthermore this provision overrides the Dividing Fences Act 1991.

Can I have direct access from my dwelling into the pool area?

No. There must be an effective child resistant barrier in order to comply with the Swimming Pools Regulation 2008.

If I use a wall of the building as part of the barrier can it contain a window?

Yes, as long as the window is child resistant in accordance with the Australian Standard, it can be contained within a wall that is part of the barrier.

I have recently purchased a cover for both my swimming and spa pool. Is this sufficient to comply with the barrier requirements?

No. Placing a cover over a swimming or spa pool does not meet the barrier requirements under the Regulations. When the cover is off there is no barrier. Your statutory obligations are to provide a compliant barrier to restrict access to the swimming or spa pool area by young children at all times.

Where can I find information about pool fencing requirements?

In NSW, pool fencing and other approved 'child-resistant' barriers must be installed to all swimming pools and spa pools, in accordance with the Swimming Pools Act 1992, the Swimming Pools Regulation 2008, and Australian Standard 1926.1-2012. This standard is available for purchase at www.saiglobal.com. Members of the public can also view (but not print or take any copy away of) the Standard at Chatswood Library.

Note: Australian standards are subject to copyright and cannot be reproduced without permission.

Do I have to register my pool?

Yes. Under the Swimming Pool Act, all pool owners are required to register their pool on the state-wide online Swimming Pool Register.

Swimming pool owners will be required to self-assess and state in the register that, to the best of their knowledge, their swimming pool complies with the applicable standard when registering their pool. There is a penalty for owners who fail to register a swimming pool (penalty notice amount of $220).

Learn more about backyard swimming pools on the Office of Local Government website.

Do I need a compliance certificate for when I sell or lease my property?

From 29 April 2016, owners will require a valid compliance certificate or certificate of non-compliance before being able to sell a property with a pool. A valid compliance certificate or certificate of non-compliance will be required before being able to lease a property with a pool. Compliance certificates are valid for 3 years.

What are Council's obligations under the new legislation?

Council has:

  • Developed and implemented a swimming pool barrier inspection program in consultation with the community.
  • Inspected pools associated with tourist and visitor accommodation and multi-occupancy developments.
  • At the request of a pool owner, inspected pools prior to sale or lease. These requests are to be in the form of a compliance certificate application. There will be a cost of $150 for a first inspection and $100 for a reinspection resulting from the first inspection. 

In addition:

  • A swimming pool subject to an occupation certificate is exempt from an inspection program for three years from the date of issue of the occupation certificate.
  • Councils may inspect any swimming pool that is subject to a complaint to the council irrespective of whether a valid occupation certificate has been issued.
  • Council powers of entry will be consistent with the Local Government Act. Council may charge a fee for each inspection undertaken (up to a maximum of $150 for the first inspection and $100 for one re-inspection resulting from the first inspection).

What powers does Council have to enforce pool safety requirements?

The Swimming Pools Act and regulations provide Council with the powers to enter properties and issue directions to comply with the swimming pool legislation and to issue penalty notices and commence legal action where landowners and occupiers fail to comply with the requirements and relevant directions.

I am concerned that a neighbour has an unfenced pool (or a faulty pool fence) – what should I do?

Please contact Council immediately on 9777 1000.

How do I know if my existing pool meets all the requirements?

Council offers an inspection and compliance certification service to assist owners. The cost of Councils inspections are $150 for the first inspection and $100 for one reinspection resulting from the first inspection. These fees are capped unlike fees which may be charged by a private certifier accredited under the Building Professionals Act 2005.

Can pool gates be propped open?

No

What are some of the requirements for pool gates?

Gates must be self-closing and self-latching and are to open outwards from the pool area. Double gates are not permitted.  The latch release mechanism is to be 1.5-metres above the ground except where a shield is used. The shield makes it necessary to reach over the gate to release the latch mechanism.

Are there controls on objects near pool fences?

Climbing aids (such as tree branches, filter boxes, play equipment, chairs, barbeques, etc) are generally not permitted within a radius of 1.2m measured perpendicular from the top of pool fence.

Do I need approval to construct or install a new swimming pool?

Approval is required for the construction or installation of an above ground or inground swimming pool. Dependent upon the zoning and restrictions on the property and the pools location and height either development consent from Council or a complying development certificate will be required prior to any works commencing. State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 outlines the requirements for complying development.

Some portable swimming pools, spas and child-resistant barriers may be installed without approval provided such pools are fenced in accordance with the Act and comply with the development standards of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008.

What are the lodgement requirements for a swimming pool?

The nature of plans, specifications and supporting documentation required to accompany any application to Council for approval is detailed on Council’s DA lodgement checklist and complying development checklist forms.

Where can I build a swimming pool?

All development applications for swimming pools will be considered on their merits, having regard to the siting, design and size of the proposed structure. Generally a swimming pool should be located a minimum of one metre from the side boundary measure from the outside of the structure. It should also be no higher than 1.5 metres above natural ground level. Council will also take into consideration the possible impacts such as privacy loss, visual impact and overshadowing on adjoining properties. Development control requirements can be found in the Willoughby Development Control Plan.

Swimming pools may also be approved under a Complying Development Certificate subject to satisfying prescribed development standards.

Is a BASIX certificate required to be lodged with a development application for a new pool?

A BASIX Certificate must be provided with any application for the installation of any swimming pool where the capacity is 40,000 litres or more. The details provided on this BASIX Certificate are to be reflected on the plans.

What structures are permitted within the pool area?

Under the Swimming Pools Act, only structures associated with the pool can be located within the pool area. Should the structure be used in connection with the dwelling or outdoor activity other than being ancillary to the pool, then the structure cannot be within the pool area. Structures not associated with the pool include clothes lines, barbecues, sheds, entertainment structures and/or an outside toilet.

Do I need to fence my existing pool when I am undertaking building alterations?

Yes. You will need to surround the pool with a child resistant barrier.

Do I need to fence my pool during its construction?

The construction of a pool may present hazards prior to the pool being completed. There is a danger of injury from falling into the excavation or empty pool or drowning if the excavation/ pool contains water (eg. after rain).

During excavation builders and prospective pool owners should ensure suitable temporary fencing is constructed and has not been tampered with. Temporary fencing should provide the same level of protection as that provided by child-resistant fencing.

By providing suitable fencing to the swimming pool construction area for the period that the hazard exists, there will be a reduced risk of someone falling into or drowning in the excavation/pool.

Once the pool shell has been installed and is capable of holding at least 300mm of water a child resistant barrier must be constructed.

Are there any noise control requirements when installing a pool?

Any potential noise-generating motor, equipment or machinery associated with or forming part of a swimming pool water treatment system, shall be located so as not to cause a noise nuisance for neighbours. These items must be capable of being operated in accordance with the noise requirements of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. Should the noise-generating item not be located an adequate distance from adjoining occupancies, the item shall be acoustically treated to reduce noise levels to an acceptable level.

In accordance with the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2008, the use of pool/spa pumps may be restricted to:

  • Between 8am and 8pm on any Sunday or public holiday; or 
  • Between 7am and 8pm on any other day,

if the pump emits noise that can be heard within a habitable room in any other residential premises regardless of whether any door or window to that room is open.

What should I do with backwash and used water?

All backwash, used or waste pool water shall be discharged to the sewers of Sydney Water. Backwash water must not be discharged into a stormwater drainage line. Check with Sydney Water regarding any requirements for discharge to sewers.

Are there any tips for reducing pool water and energy use?

There are number of easy ways to save money on energy and water bills and still enjoy your pool. When the time comes to replace your pump, consider pumps labeled with an Australian Government energy rating to combine a quiet efficient pool pump with an efficient filter and piping system to eco-optimise your pool maintenance regime. Consider solar heating and reduce heat loss with a pool cover. A pool cover also saves on water and maintenance efforts. Check out the Swimming Pool and Spa Association NSW and Ausgrid’s Swimming Pool Efficiency booklet for tips to reduce your swimming pool or spa’s energy costs and water usage.

Are warning notices and resuscitation charts required to be displayed?

The Swimming Pool Regulation 2008 requires that an appropriate notice be displayed in clear view of the pool with the notice to incorporate the following words:

  • YOUNG CHILDREN SHOULD BE SUPERVISED WHEN USING THIS SWIMMING POOL; and 
  • POOL GATES MUST BE KEPT CLOSED AT ALL TIMES; and 
  • KEEP ARTICLES, OBJECTS AND STRUCTURES AT LEAST 900 MILLIMETRES CLEAR OF THE POOL FENCE AT ALL TIMES.

The notice is also required to incorporate a simple flow sequence (which may be the flow sequence depicted in the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Guideline) containing details of resuscitation techniques (for infants, children and adults). The warning sign should be able to be read so it may need to be replaced from time to time if fading occurs.

A weatherproof sign can be purchased from Councils Customer Service Centre for $20.

Are there any requirements for pools located on bushfire prone land?

Owners of pools adjoining bushland areas should consider the provision of a fire service line and hose reel incorporated into the pool design. If you are a pool owner near bushland you could also consider participating in the Static Water Supply (SWS) program organised by the Rural Fire Service.

Where can I find out more about pool safety?

NSW Government Advice

Non-Government Organisations

  • The Royal Life Saving Society Australia - the largest single organisation dedicated to the teaching of lifesaving and the prevention of drowning.
  • Surf Life Saving NSW - provides water safety, first aid and CPR training
  • Austswim -  Australia’s national organisation for the teaching of swimming and water safety
  • St John Ambulance Australia - Australia's leading provider of first aid training, first aid services at public events and supplier of first aid kits and equipment.
  • Kidsafe NSW - Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia provide general advice on water safety around the home. Located within Westmead Children's Hospital.
  • Keep Watch - Home Pool Safety - Royal Life Saving Society information including checklist, fact sheets and other information.

Resuscitation Advice