Queensland pool safety regulations to prevent drowning fatalities
On average, 15 children drown in Queensland each year - two-thirds of them under the age of 5 years. During 2016-17 alone, 19 children drowned. Over the same period, the total number of swimming pool related drownings across the nation reaching 44 deaths.
The Queensland Family & Child Commission cites several risk factors for drowning, including:
- pool fences that fail to meet the pool safety standards
- pool gate being propped open negating the protection of pool barriers
- the presence of nearby objects that children can climb to open the pool gate
The current Queensland pool safety regulations were introduced in 2009. They apply to both new and existing pools. These replaced the previous local government pool safety laws on 1 December 2010 and were aimed at promoting consistency of pool safety standards across Queensland. From 30 November 2015, all pool fences and barriers must comply with current pool safety standards.
These standards apply to all swimming pools capable of holding more than 300 millimetres of water (that is, above or below ground structures principally used for swimming or bathing, including some models of portable pools and spas). These standards cover the design of pool fences and barriers, shared pools in short term accommodation, and local government uniformity and powers.
Pool latches must be at least 1.5 metres high
Pool gates used for entering and exiting pool areas must open outwards of the pool area and must be self-closing and self-latching from any open position.
The latch release or ‘top pull’ must be at least a certain height above several points:
- 1,500mm from the ground; and
- 1,400mm from the top part of the lower horizontal railing (which young children can stand on).
If both of these requirements cannot be met due to gate design, the latch must be located on the inside of the pool enclosure so that it is necessary to reach over or through the fencing at a height of at least:
- 1,200mm above ground level; or
- 1,000mm above the top part of the lower horizontal railings.
The latch release must also be 150mm below the top of the gate or the edge of any hand hole opening. If necessary, it must be covered with a shield with a radius of 450mm (with no openings greater than 10mm).
Pool fences must be at least 1.2 metres high
Pool fences must be a minimum of 1,200mm from ground level. This distance must not be reduced by close objects like decks or door sills. The gap between ground level and the bottom of the barrier must be no greater than 100mm from ground. The gaps between the vertical members of the fence must be:
- no greater than 100mm, if the horizontal supports are 900mm or more apart; or
- no greater than 10mm, if the horizontal supports are less than 900mm apart (with the horizontals then requiring a 60-degree fillet attached)
Where it is not possible to achieve a non-climbable height 900mm on the outside, a fence height of 1800mm may be used provided it creates a 900 mm non-climbable zone inside the pool area.
Pools must not be accessible through windows or doors
Generally, any windows opening onto the pool area must open no greater than 100 mm, unless it has a security screen fitted.
The pool area must not be accessible directly through a door from the house or another building.
Pools must have compliant CPR signs
A compliant CPR sign must be displayed (near the pool or attached to the pool fence), so that the sign is easily visible to anyone near the pool. For more information on compliant signs, refer to ‘Guideline 8—cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ (January 2016) published by the Australian Resuscitation Council.
Selling or leasing a property with a pool
All pools in Queensland must be registered with QBCC (Queensland Building and Construction Commission). The register should be checked before buying or renting a property with a pool. When selling a property with a pool that is not shared between one or more other dwellings, sellers are required to provide to the buyer either:
- a pool safety certificate; or
- a Form 36 - Notice of no pool safety certificate.
If using a Form 36, a completed copy must be sent to QBCC before settlement. A pool safety certificate must be obtained before leasing out accommodation property.
When selling or leasing property with a pool that is shared between one or more other dwellings (such as townhouses and units), copies of the pool safety certificate or Form 36 must be provided to the owner of the pool (such as the body corporate) as well as the new occupier.
Obligations on hotels, motels and resorts
All hotels, motels, resorts and similar short-term accommodation (Class 3 buildings) must comply with the pool safety regulations. These properties must have a:
- pool safety management plan (that has been approved by QBCC); or
- compliant pool barrier.
More information is available in the Class 3 buildings - Pool safety management plan guideline (access here).
Pool safety obligations on local government
Local governments (also known as councils) have responsibilities relating to pool safety. These include:
- undertaking enforcement action upon receiving an immersion notice from Queensland Health, or a compliance notice from QBCC
- providing records to assist in the establishment and maintenance the state-wide swimming pool safety register
- inspecting pools upon the request of a private pool owner (either through a council or private pool inspector)
The powers given to local governments to enforce the pool safety standards are significant, and include the authority to enter a property at all reasonable times (without consent of the occupier) to inspect a pool and its barriers and fencing for compliance with the pool safety standard.
Local governments also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines to pool owners for failing to comply with the pool safety standards or register a pool.