In order to protect young children from injury, the city of Brisbane requires that all pools be surrounded by a fence or safety barrier. Owners of pools are required by law to establish barriers that meet specific safety standards outlined in chapter 8 of the 1975 Building Act. Barriers may include fences or the walls of a building if the pool is inaccessible from outside of the building.
The Responsibilities of Property Owners and Tenants
Property owners are responsible for maintaining pool barriers at all times and must repair damages immediately, but tenants also share in the responsibility of pool safety. Tenants are required to keep gates closed, and they should ensure that there are no nearby objects, such as step ladders, that would permit children access from the outside.
As of November 2011, all pools must be documented by the state-wide pool registry. Owners are responsible for registering their pools, and they must procure a pool safety certificate if they lease or sell their property.
Important Law Changes
The existing pool safety law replaced 11 different laws with one set of standards that applies to all pools. Other notable changes include:
- Safety regulations have been expanded to apply to both indoor and outdoor pools owned by caravan parks, hostels, hotels, caretaker residences, home stays, backpackers, motels and mobile home parks.
- Self-closing or self-latching child-resistant doors alone no longer suffice as pool barriers.
- The Australian Resuscitation Council’s cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, sign must be displayed beside every pool.
- Portable spas or pools that hold 300 millimetres of water or greater must now meet pool barrier regulations.
- Local governments are obliged to conduct a safety inspection if an immersion incident involving a child under age five occurs in a pool.
- All pools built before December, 2010, must meet the new safety standards by 30 November, 2015, or earlier if the property is sold or leased. Properties that provide short term accommodation such as resorts, hotels and motels have been required to comply with the new law since 1 June, 2011.
If a pool that is shared by tenants of a long term accommodation, such as an apartment complex, was sold or leased before 1 September, 2012, the body corporate is required to obtain a pool safety certificate as of 30 November, 2012.
Visit the Department of Housing and Public Works website for further details. Pool fencing legislation is also addressed in the Queensland Building Act of 1975, the
Building Regulation Act of 2006, Australian Standards of 1926 and Queensland Development Code MP 3.4.
Pool Safety Certificates
A pool safety certificate must be obtained from a licensed pool safety inspector whenever a property with a pool is bought, sold or leased. Certificates for shared pools must be renewed annually while non-shared pools must be re-certified every two years.
For leased properties, the landlord or the body corporate is required to procure a pool safety certificate prior to any leases being signed. While the property’s certificate is valid, new or renewed leases are covered until the certificate expires.
If someone wants to sell a property with a pool that doesn’t have a valid safety certificate, the seller is required to present a “Notice of no pool safety certificate advisory” to the prospective buyer, the Department of Housing and Public Works and the pool owner before any contract may be entered.
The state government hosts an online database of accredited pool safety inspectors. Private building inspectors with a state-issued license may certify pool barriers. To request a pool safety certificate directly from the city council, owners can submit a Request for Assessment to any Regional or Central Business Centre; however, owners are encouraged to go through a licensed private building inspector.
Pool owners may apply to the city council for an exemption from barrier regulations to accommodate disabled individuals. The application for exemption must include the following information:
- The nature of the disability
- Details about the disabled person’s mobility including whether or not they need a wheel chair and if they require assistance moving it around
- Whether or not the individual has a full-time caretaker
- Medical documentation supporting this information
- Citation of specific provisions in the law that prevent the individual from entering and exiting the enclosure
- A detailed plan for preventative measures that will keep children from entering the pool unattended
All disability exemptions that were granted before the new law went into effect are still valid so long as the disabled individual is still disabled and living at the residence and the conditions established in the exemption are still being enforced.
Impracticality exemptions may be requested in instances where complying with the law would require:
- Moving or demolishing a building
- Moving or changing the size of the pool
- Uprooting vegetation that is protected by law
Applications must identify the specific standards for which the owner is seeking exemption, and they must detail and implement replacement measures to prevent children from entering the pool.
So long as the conditions of a valid exemption are being met, exemptions issued before the new law took effect are valid until 30 November, 2015, or until the property is leased or sold.
Fines and Penalties
Pool owners found to be non-compliant with pool barrier safety regulations are subject to on-the-spot fines, which range from 1 to 7 penalty units based on the violation. Each penalty unit carriers a $117.80 fine. If an owner receives multiple penalty units, they must pay the total of all fines rounded down to the nearest dollar; for example, two penalty units would incur a $235 total fine.