Aquatic industry experts warn new pool barrier laws alone are unlikely to prevent backyard pool drowning

Life Saving Victoria is urging the Victorian Government to introduce additional legislation to enforce compliance with home pool and spa barrier regulations, in line with best-practice guidelines published by the World Health Organization.

The regulatory impact statement for the 2017 Building Regulations, released in May 2017, includes new legislation to bring in uniform pool and spa barrier laws, requiring all home pools and spas in Victoria to have four-sided isolation barriers.[i]

While LSV welcomes this change in legislation, it is proposed that unless supportive legislation is introduced to encourage pool and spa barrier compliance and maintenance, it is unlikely that the changes would make a significant difference to the drowning toll.

According to the World Health Organization: “… legislation must … be accompanied by active awareness-raising efforts directed at the community, and enforcement measures.” [ii]  It stresses that low compliance and weak enforcement of legislation can lead to pool barriers being ineffective.

Therefore, LSV is calling on the Victorian Government to introduce a number of measures including:

  • Regular mandatory inspections of all home pools and spas
  • A mandatory certificate of compliance for home pools and spas prior to sale or lease of a property; and
  • A mandatory register for all home pools and spas in Victoria.

These actions are supported by recommendations from multiple coronial inquests, with ongoing calls for changes to pool safety barrier laws.

Changes proposed in the regulatory impact statement are subject to a 60-day consultation period and LSV is currently working with industry and peak body organisations, including the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Victoria (SPASA), to provide feedback and recommendations on introducing additional measures.

SPASA CEO Brendan Watkins says the real problem is that home barriers aren’t being maintained.

“Time and again Council inspectors, the Coroner and our members report the vast majority of home pool barriers aren’t being maintained. The … solution is regular inspections of pool barriers – as currently works with great success right around Australia.”

LSV Principal Research Associate Dr Bernadette Matthews says the proposed uniform barrier laws alone are not enough to prevent drowning deaths and injuries.

“Requiring a four sided isolation barrier for all home pools and spas in the state will provide a significant safety improvement, and will also reduce the confusion for home owners, building surveyors and pool inspectors about what is required,” she said.

Where this type of legislation has been introduced in other states, concurrent measures were also introduced to ensure ongoing compliance with regulations, including regular mandatory safety inspections of pool barriers (WA), mandatory compliance of home pool safety barriers prior to sale/lease (QLD, NSW) and a mandatory register of all home pools and spas (QLD, WA, SA, NSW).

The regulatory impact statement lists a voluntary swimming pool and spa register and a voluntary annual pool and spa self-assessment tool as non-regulatory options that could be implemented alongside the uniform barrier legislation.

However Dr Matthews says that these actions need to be mandatory to have an effect.

The regulatory impact statement can be viewed at: p114

[i] There are currently three different sets of pool barrier requirements, depending on when construction of the pool/spa was commenced. There are different sets of requirements for home pools/spas constructed on or after 1 May 2010, those constructed between 8 April 1991 and 30 April 2010, and those constructed before 8 April 1991. See p114.

[ii] (Preventing Drowning: An Implementation Guide. World Health Organisation: 2017. p27-28)


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