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Swimming pools and spas

The National Construction Code Series defines a swimming pool as any excavation or structure that contains water and used principally for swimming, wading, paddling, or the like, including a bathing or wading pool, or spa.

The Development Regulations define a swimming pool as including a paddling pool and a spa pool, but not a bathroom spa bath.

This includes spas, above ground pools and inflatable pools specifically if the pool or spa has a water depth exceeding 300mm and an attached filtration system. In these instances, a safety barrier is required to be installed for the pool.

A swimming pool requires approval in the following instances:

  • The swimming pool which is not constructed in association within a dwelling; or
  • The swimming has a depth exceeding 300 millimetres; or
  • In the case of an above ground or inflatable swimming pool, the swimming pool incorporates a filtration system.

A spa pool will require approval if it is not constructed in association with a dwelling and has a maximum capacity exceeding 680 litres.

Where an above ground pool or inflatable swimming pool requires approval, a safety barrier will need to be installed prior to the pool being filled with water even for a temporary period of time. A temporary safety barrier may be used for a maximum period of two(2) months from completion of works on the pool.

The sides of some above ground swimming pools can be acceptable as pool safety barriers if they are in excess of 1200mm, however in this case, the sides shall have no climbing features and the ladder must be fixed in location. A complying gate and fence must be installed around the ladder and other climbing features such as the filtration system pipes to prevent these being used to climb the walls of the pool.

It is important that all pools are fitted with a filtration system that has two suction points that are at least 800mm apart (600mm for spas) to comply with Australian Standard AS 1926.3 Swimming Pool Safety – Water Recirculation systems. This is to relieve the pressure and reduce the seriousness of any injuries if a child blocks a suction point.

The National Construction Code Series provides details of safety barriers and also refers to Australian Standard AS1926.1 Swimming Pool Safety – Fencing for Swimming Pools.

There are many different ways to provide a complying safety barrier that do not involve the traditional ‘pool fence’, and many different styles and materials which may be used. Regardless of what materials are used to provide a barrier, all components of the safety barrier including the fence, gate, latch, hinges etc must meet the strength requirements of AS1926.1.

The type of safety barrier fencing you intend to install should be discussed with a qualified Building Surveyor to ensure appropriate selection. However, as a general rule, the following points should be considered when selecting a safety barrier:

  • The safety barrier must be a minimum height of 1200mm;
  • The safety barrier must not have any gaps greater than 100mm between any vertical pickets or below the fence;
  • The height of the fence must be measured from any object that may be used to climb or gain access over the fence such as a retaining wall, landscaping rocks or similar;
  • The fence must not provide access for young children to crawl under or to climb over by using foot and hand holds;
  • The fence must be permanent;
  • The Non Climbable Zone (NCZ) must be a minimum of 900mm from the top of the fence;
  • Boundary fences must be a minimum of 1.8 metres high with a no rails or footholds on the pool side. (This removes the onus on the pool owner to ensure their neighbour also complies with the safety barrier requirements);
  • Gates for swimming pool safety barriers must:
    • Be self closing from any position;
    • Only swing outward from the pool area;
    • Be fitted with a latching device that is out of reach of small children (i.e. a minimum height of 1500mm).

Where the openable part of any window is less than 1200mm from the floor and provides direct access to a pool area, it must be fitted with a mechanism limiting the size of the window opening to no more than 100mm or be provided with a secure screen such as a security screen or security mesh. Fly wire is not permitted.

Doors from a dwelling into the pool area cannot be accepted as part of the safety barrier. A complying barrier/fence must separate a building and a swimming pool. This is because in November 2010 the Ministers Specification SA 76D Swimming pool Safety – provided new prescribed requirements for upgrading of prescribed swimming pools). This is specifically for pools built before 1 July 1993 which only allows child-resistant doors to be used in situations allowed by the Ministers specification.

If a land owner is selling a property (also known as a “Prescribed Event”) with a swimming pool (“Prescribed Swimming Pool”), installed before 1 July 1993, the land owner is responsible for ensuring that current safety requirements for swimming pool safety are met. This may mean having to upgrade fencing or barriers to comply with current legislation.

Safety barriers must meet current legislative requirements at the time of property handover. The responsibility is on the previous land owner to upgrade the safety barriers and provide some certification to the real estate agent showing that the safety barriers comply with current legislation.

Swimming pool safety barriers which are installed as part of a Prescribed Event are exempt from Development Approval. However, please note that all other swimming pool safety barriers require Council Approval.

Council does not provide certificates for Prescribed Events or Prescribed pools and does not inspect these pools and safety barriers unless there is a particular safety concern identified. The above mentioned certificates should be sought from private swimming pool safety barrier consultants.

Swimming pools built on or after 1 July 1993 must comply with the rules that were current when the application for construction was submitted. This includes the provisions of the Development Act 1993, The National Construction Code (formerly referred to as the Building Code of Australia) and Australian Standard which were applicable at the time to restrict access to the swimming pool from the house, garage, street and any adjoining properties.