Property owners must register backyard pools and spas under a tough new scheme to tackle drowning deaths among children.
Local councils will operate the mandatory registers of pools and spas from December this year, with homeowners and landlords given until April 14, 2020, to sign up.
The scheme also includes a proposal for Victoria’s estimated 220,000 pool and spa owners to pay for safety barrier inspections by a building inspector every three years.
If safety barriers are given the all clear, owners would then be required to lodge a certificate of compliance with their local council.
If barriers are deemed non-compliant, the owner would either be given 20 days to fix them or the inspector could issue a certificate of non-compliance if problems were deemed too great to be rectified.
Older pools and spas – those built before June 30, 1994 – would be the first targets of the new regulations because of the higher risk they do not meet safety standards. Owners of these pools and spas would have until October 30 next year to have inspections carried out and certificates of compliance lodged with council.
Those with pools and spas built between July 1, 1994, and May 1, 2010, would have until April 30, 2021, to lodge their first compliance certificate, while those with pools and spas built after May 1, 2010, would have until October 29, 2021.
Councils are expected to charge up to $37 to register a pool or spa and a maximum of $20 to lodge an inspection certificate. Owners will also need to pay between $100 and $150 for inspections.
But failing to register a pool or spa by the deadline will attract a $330.44 fine, as would failing to lodge a certificate of compliance on time.
The tough new regulations are proposed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in response to the fatal drowning of 27 young children in home swimming pools and spas in Victoria between January 2000 and May 2019.
The tragic statistics show home pools and spas are the most common location for drowning deaths of children aged five and under in Victoria.
“The evidence is clear that non- compliance with the current safety barrier laws is a significant contributing factor in fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents,” the department says in its Building Amendment (Swimming Pool and Spa) Regulations 2019 regulator impact statement.
Brendan Watkins, the former chief executive of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Australia and its Victorian counterpart, says the proposed new laws will save lives.
“The vast majority of pool fences are currently unsafe, potentially opening the door for tragedy and this solution will avoid that,” he says.
“Council spot inspections have determined that at least 80 per cent of pools are non-compliant, so something needed to be done.
“If you own a car, you have an obligation to keep it safe and roadworthy; if you own a pool, you have an obligation to keep it safe.
“There are some objections to these new laws, just as there were when wearing a seat belt was made mandatory. Those objections were silenced very quickly and it will be the case here, too.”
Mr Watkins says the legislation will ensure a dramatic fall in preventable deaths in Victoria, as it has in other states.
“Evidence shows these regulations reduce toddler fatalities,” he says.
“WA has seen an 80 per cent reduction in the rate of fatalities since the implementation of their Mandatory Barrier Inspection program in 1992.”
How to make sure your pool or spa complies:
- All pools & spas must be surrounded by a compliant safety barrier.
- Safety barriers must be at least 120cm high.
- It is illegal for pools built after 2010 to have direct access via a door to a house, garage or other building. All pools must be registered with your local council by 14 April, 2020.
- All pools must be inspected by a registered inspector by October 2021. Older pools are subject to earlier compliance dates.
- Barrier gates must be self-closing and self-latching.
- Inspection certificates (which will cost a maximum of $20) need to be lodged with council every three years.
- Owners have 20 days to make their pools compliant if issues are identified during an inspection.
- A building permit, issued by a registered building surveyor, is required before installing a new pool, spa or barrier.
Resources to help you
www.engage.vic.gov.au/new-safety- standards-private-swimming-pools- and-spas
www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers/ safety-guides/swimming-pools/ maintenance-operation-barriers