Why are these laws being introduced?
The new laws were introduced by the state government in December 2020 to make swimming pools and spas safer and help prevent drowning deaths, especially of young children. The original July 2020 deadline for registration was pushed back to 1 November 2021, and now 1 June 2022 due to COVID-19.
Drowning is a major cause of death for children under five, and Kidsafe general manager Jason Chambers says most of these deaths occur in private pools.
Chambers stated that 27 children have died in private pools and spas in Victoria since 2000, and the Coroner found faulty safety barriers were likely to blame in at least 20 of the cases.
Additionally, Royal Life Saving Australia’s National Drowning Report shows that in 2019-20, 12 Australian children aged 0 to four years drowned, and half of these deaths were in backyard swimming pools.
“While pool and spa barriers are effective in helping to reduce childhood drowning incidents, a large number of drowning deaths are the result of barriers that are faulty or non-compliant with Australian standards,” says Chambers.
“The introduction of measures including the new mandatory registration and inspection system, in combination with existing education efforts, is vital to effectively reduce the rate of childhood drowning in home pools and spas in Victoria.”
Who can carry out a swimming pool or spa barrier inspection?
Inspections must be carried out by a registered building surveyor, registered building inspector, or municipal building surveyor. The Victorian Building Authority, which oversees pool-safety legislation, estimates there are more than 1000 suitably qualified inspectors available across Victoria.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors says mandatory inspections are only one part of pool safety and warned that pool owners should be vigilant and sensible all year round.
“For example, a compliant fence with a locked gate is pointless if chairs, a barbecue or other structures are placed next to the fence enabling a child to climb over it,” she says.
She warns pool owners to beware of unqualified people claiming to be building surveyors or inspectors, and to check their credentials before contracting them to do the inspection work.
After the initial inspection, owners must have their safety barriers inspected every four years to ensure continuing compliance.
The Victorian Building Authority has warned pool owners face council fines of up to $1817.40 if they fail to register.