Drowning is the most common cause of preventable death of children aged 0 – 5 years. Over the past five years, 16 toddlers have drowned in Western Australia, and it is estimated that for every drowning, 10 children are admitted to hospital as a result of a near-drowning.
Statistics show that domestic swimming pools are the most common sites in which drowning for children aged 0 – 5 years occurs. As such, there are specific laws in WA that mandate the installation of a safety barrier to enclose domestic swimming pools and spas.
Under the Building Act 2011 and the Building Regulations 2012, building permits are required for:
- Swimming pools
- Outdoor spas
- Pool safety barriers.
Swimming pools and outdoor spas that are capable of holding more than 300mm of water require a building permit from the City prior to their construction or installation. This includes inflatable and portable above-ground pools purchased from hardware retailers and general department stores. Please refer to Building Permit Applications for more information on how to apply for a building permit.
Under the Building Regulations 2012, all property owners and occupiers of a property with a domestic swimming pool and/or spa containing more than 300mm of water are required to install or provide a 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 pool safety barrier must comply with the provisions of the Building Code of Australia, Australian Standard 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 – 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 (formerly Building Commission).
Pool skimmer boxes help to clean a pool by skimming water and capturing floating debris such as leaves, flowers petals, dirt, twigs, dead insects and oil (sunblock) before the waste can sink to the bottom of the pool. Poorly designed skimmer boxes with removable covers and unprotected intake areas can pose a safety risk for young children as such skimmer boxes resemble a potty or seat.
The strong suction of the pool’s filter pump can cause serious and permanent injury to young children. In WA, children have suffered serious injuries or died after sitting on open, potty-shaped skimmer boxes. Old fibreglass pools with skimmer boxes moulded into the side are unsafe as children can easily lift the cover and sit inside them.
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, visit www.productsafety.gov.au or contact a local pool shop for expert advice.
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 to the permit authority within seven (7) 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.
The City has a legislative obligation to ensure that swimming pools and spas within the district are inspected at least once every four years to ensure continued compliance of the barriers with applicable building standards.
The City’s Swimming Pool Inspectors are available to provide pool and spa owners with advice and guidance on the requirements of the regulations and Australian Standard 1926.1 – 2012. When you receive your email or letter contact us on the number stated to arrange an inspection time. Our inspectors will check that your fences, gates and latches are all working properly, there are no climbable objects around the pool fence that children can climb onto and get into the pool or spa, and a number of other things that will help protect your kids and their friends.
Please contact the City’s Building Services team for more information on swimming pools, spas on 08 9411 3444 or at [email protected].