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In the know… Finding information on fencing laws

When Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) chief executive Justin Scarr spoke with ABC news in late 2019, the message was a good one — drowning deaths of children under five in Australia had decreased 55% since 2002.

This is largely due to the concerted and combined effort of government, safety associations and industry bodies including SPASA Australia. Our consistent contribution and assistance across areas like standards development, educational campaigns and committee participation has helped create a safer environment in backyards right across the nation.

What you need to know...

Part of swimming pool ownership is understanding your legal obligations and ensuring that pool fences and gates meet defined requirements. The road to pool safety regulation in Australia has been a long and winding one and — even now — there are distinct differences across states and territories in terms of applicable standards, pool registration requirements and barrier compliance and inspection processes. This disparity can leave pool owners confused and at risk of non-compliance, so it helps to know where to look for accurate information.

...And where to find it

Your first stop should be the SPASA Australia website (www.spasa.com.au), where you will find helpful fact sheets on a range of topics, as well as pool fencing regulations for every state and territory in Australia.

Your local council website will also provide all the information required for planning and development application purposes. Some local council sites provide self-assessment checklists and direct you to the building authority in your state or territory for further instruction.

In some jurisdictions, fencing laws are guided by the age of the swimming pool installation or construction. If you purchase a property inclusive of a swimming pool or spa, determine the time frame in which the pool or spa was built (or installed), so you can ascertain the regulations that apply to your particular situation.

General considerations

Regional differences aside, the requirements that dictate compliance across Australia are detailed and thorough. A general checklist includes (but is not limited to):

  • gates must swing away from the pool

  • gates should automatically self-close and self-latch

  • internal barrier is at least 1200mm high

  • the gap between all vertical rails on the barrier (including the gate) is less than 100mm

  • boundary barrier must be at least 1800mm (requirements in QLD and NT vary)

  • bottom of gate and fence is less than 100 mm above the finished ground level

  • entire pool barrier must not have hand and foot holds

  • barrier construction materials must be durable

  • your pool barrier must be maintained and in good order to remain compliant and safe

  • barrier must be clear of any objects such as BBQs, trees, rocks, shrubs and deckchairs that could help a small child climb over the barrier

Find complete information under Pool Fencing rules on the SPASA Australia website.

Be proactive and don’t bend the rules

Insufficient supervision is the cause of many preventable drownings, so always be aware when supervising children — that means phones away and eyes on the pool. Make sure that everyone understands the rules and, more importantly, that the rules are enforced. This should include things like not propping open the pool gate, moving furniture to provide a climbing point or jumping over the fence, all of which completely negate the effectiveness of a compliant safety barrier. A backyard swimming pool or spa is a fantastic lifestyle addition to any Australian home — ensuring you understand and comply with required fencing regulations also makes it a safe one.

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