In Safe Hands
With summer just around the corner, it’s time to throw off you pool cover and turn on the heating, but before you dive in, it’s important to ensure that your pool area is secure and, above all else, safe. The regulations and requirements for your pool have changed many times over the years, but until recently homeowners with existing pools were not required to ensure their barriers were up to scratch after receiving the initial certification. But now with a new change in legislation, all pool owners need to have their pool barrier certified by a registered inspector, and failure to do so can result in hefty fines. Thankfully, companies like The Pool Safety Network are here to take the guesswork and hassle out of obtaining this certification. Melbourne Pool + Outdoor Design’s Katie Livingston chats with Nicholas Hutchins, director of The Pool Safety Network about these new regulations, and how you can safely navigate the certification process with the help of an industry professional.
KL: Can you please tell us a little bit about The Pool Safety Network and what vital role it plays in the industry?
NH: We are the end-to-end provider of pool barrier services. This includes advice, fence construction, building permits, and barrier inspections. Over the past 18 months we’ve assisted over 2,000 Melbourne pool owners meet their pool compliance obligations.
Regulations wise, what are the first things homeowners need to consider or plan for when constructing a new pool?
Be careful to get the right advice before you start. It’s really important to ensure your design complies with the barrier regulations. It can impact positioning of your pool, landscape selection, shed placement and other items. Far better to get it right while it’s still at concept stage than when the pool is in the ground.
Are the regulations for new pools, versus existing pools different?
There have been five different Australian Standards for pool barriers in the past 30 years which causes significant confusion for pool owners. Older standards have less detail in them, so interpretation plays more of a role.
Do all swimming pools require a compliance certificate?
For a long time it has been a legal requirement for pools to be inspected for barrier compliance before they can be filled with water. Until recently though, there has been no requirement for pool owners to ensure barrier compliance is maintained following initial certification.
Victorian pool barrier and safety regulations changed recently, can you explain these changes and what they mean for homeowners?
New pool barrier laws introduced in late 2019 require owners to ensure pool barriers remain safe and compliant. All pools now need to be certified for barrier compliance every four years. Pools built prior to May 1991 need to be certified by 1 November 2021. All pool owners need to identify and rectify any barrier compliance issues need to rectify any issues identified and engage a registered inspector to certify the barrier before their pool’s certification deadline. Pool owners who do not submit in time may be subject to council fines which become progressively more prohibitive the longer they leave it.
Do homeowners with existing pools still need to meet these regulations? How can these homeowners find out if their pool is up to standard?
Yes, the regulations apply to existing and new pools. There are guides available online, but we urge cautionusing these. It’s best to seek expert advice before undertaking works to ensure you’ll get it right.
Once a pool has been inspected, how can homeowners find the right tradespeople to complete the required works?
We have seen a lot of pool owners come unstuck here. In a lot of cases a building permit is required to make the necessary changes and most tradespeople cannot assist with this process. The other challenge is that most tradespeople aren’t experts in pool compliance and don’t know where to go for support. Our service is specifically designed to overcome these challenges. Firstly, we have an easy and cost-effective solution for pool owners to obtain building permits. Secondly, our trade network has access to our panel of compliance experts if they have any queries while assisting a customer.
Do the new changes to pool barrier regulations limit or prohibit certain types of pool fencing? If so, are there still ways that homeowners can get creative with their fencing whilst still adhering to regulations?
Homeowners can definitely be creative and still comply! We’ve seen and built some amazing pool barriers using all sorts of materials. People especially worry they’re going to lose plants and trees but there are ways to keep them while remaining safe and compliant. Again, getting the right advice really helps.
What factors of older pools commonly need to be updated in order to meet regulations?
Gate and door operation is the most common issue we see. All entry ways into a pool area must be self closing, with hinges and latches in tip top condition. Boundary fences and fence toppers in poor condition are also a common issue for older pools.
Regulations aside, how can homeowners improve the general safety of their pool or outdoor area?
A recent audit we undertook suggests that 80 percent of pools have furniture and barbeques positioned too close to the pool barrier. This is known to be a leading cause of swimming pool accidents and it’s something pool owners need to remain vigilant about.
How can the landscape or buildings surrounding a pool affect the pool’s compliance, and what external factors need to be considered to ensure that a pool is safe and certified?
The key is to ensure that the barrier’s non-climb zones are not compromised and that there are no gaps – such as window openings – that children can get through. With landscaping, it’s really important to select plants that will not become climbing hazards as they mature.
Do these regulations apply to pools and spas of all sizes, or do they differ depending on the size of the pool?
The requirements are identical for pools and spas, regardless of size and whether the pool is above- or inground. Some other states allow spas to have lockable covers, but this does not apply in Victoria.
What about for relocatable, or set-up pools? Do they still need to obtain a certificate of compliance?
Any pool capable of being filled to a depth of 30cm or more will need a certificate of compliance. This includes relocatable pools.
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
The new pool compliance program might be a good time to consider upgrading an old pool fence. A new pool barrier can really lift a back yard and how you feel looking at it from the kitchen window.
Images courtesy of The Pool Safety Network and Unsplash