Project status: In Progress
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The ACT Government is committed to preventing death and serious injuries from drownings and near drownings in home swimming pools. Regulatory reforms will be introduced in 2023 that will require all home swimming pools to have a barrier compliant with modern safety standards (within a specified transition period).
At present, pool owners must comply with the standard that applied when their pool was constructed, unless substantial changes have been made to the barrier. If substantial changes have been made, the pool owner must comply with the standard that applied at the time those changes were made.
The legislative reforms will:
- require all home swimming pool barriers to comply with modern safety standards
- require ongoing maintenance of home swimming pools and barriers with a penalty for non-compliance
- require disclosure of a pool’s compliance status when the property is sold or leased
- establish a compliance framework to support the enforcement of the above.
The reforms will apply to all ACT home swimming pools and spa pools that are capable of containing water to a depth greater than 30cm. Home swimming pools means pools associated with a residential building such as a house, unit, townhouse or block of apartments. Some exemptions will be available in specified circumstances (see FAQs below for more information).
Details of the reforms are available in the:
Why bring in pool safety reforms?
In the ACT, the home swimming pool is the most common location for drowning death and injury for children under the age of five. It is not only children who live at houses with swimming pools who drown. Children and relatives who may be visiting and neighbourhood children are also at risk.
Pool barriers are a vital safety measure designed to help restrict children’s access to a pool or pool area. Adult supervision, combined with pool fencing, is the most effective method of preventing drowning. Children should always be supervised closely in and around pools.
As a community we are responsible for safety around pools. Together we can reduce the risk of people drowning or suffering serious injury in our swimming pools.
How you had YourSay
During consultation we asked Canberrans, particularly pool owners, to provide input on the swimming pool safety reforms by completing a questionnaire. Your feedback is now being used to help inform the final design of the reforms. Consultation closed at 11:59pm on 15 March 2023. The Listening Report outlines what we heard through the consultation.
Frequently asked questions
The reforms will apply to all ACT home swimming pools and spa pools that are capable of containing water to a depth greater than 30cm. Home swimming pools means pools associated with a residential building such as a house, unit, townhouse or block of apartments. This includes in-ground and above-ground pools, both temporary and permanent pools. It includes wading pools, splash pools, inflatable pools, demountable pools, concrete pools, portable pools, kids’ pools and spa pools.
The reforms will not apply to swimming pools in tourist and visitor accommodation such as hotels, motels and caravan parks.
The prescribed safety standard will be the current version of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) that references Australian Standard AS1926.1 (2012) and AS1926.2 (2007).
Building Code of Australia
The Building Code of Australia (Volumes 1 and 2 of the National Construction Code) sets out the current standards for constructing new, or altering existing, residential swimming pools or spa pools. These standards already apply to new or recently altered pools in the ACT and include clear requirements for pool barriers.
In accordance with the BCA, a pool barrier must be provided around a swimming or spa pool that has a depth of water more than 300mm and must:
- be continuous for the full extent of the hazard (i.e. must surround the entire pool)
- be of a strength and rigidity to withstand the foreseeable impact of people
- restrict the access of young children to the pool and the immediate pool surrounds
- have any gates and doors fitted with latching devices not readily operated by young children and constructed to automatically close and latch.
These requirements apply to in-ground and above-ground pools, either temporary or permanent including wading pools, splash pools, inflatable pools, demountable pools, concrete pools, portable pools, kids’ pools and spa pools.
A pool satisfies the BCA requirements if it has safety barriers installed in accordance with the Australian Standard AS 1926 (parts 1 and 2).
Australian Standards AS1926.1 and AS1926.2
Together these standards outline best practice for barriers that restrict access by young people to swimming pools and swimming pool areas that present a drowning risk.
Some examples of the requirements included in Australian Standard AS1926 are:
- a pool gate must be self-closing and self-latching on the first swing from any open position (even slightly ajar)
- a pool gate latch must be more than 1.5 metres from the ground, or if lower, shielded to restrict access to children from reaching the mechanism
- the bottom of a pool barrier should be no more than 100 millimetres from the ground.
AS1926.1 - Swimming pool safety, Part 1: Safety barriers for swimming pools
AS1926.1 assists pool owners/users to avoid pool-related drowning by specifying the requirements for the design, construction and performance of barriers that will restrict the access of young people to swimming pools. The requirements established by the standard are directed at achieving a barrier that will make it difficult for a young child to gain access to a pool area, whether under, over or through the barrier, that is a child resistant not child proof barrier. The requirements are established with the intention of leaving a high degree of flexibility to the consumer in the choice of barrier, desirable aesthetics and cost.
AS1926.2 - Swimming pool safety, Part 2: Location of safety barriers for swimming pools
AS1926.2 provides the requirements for the effective use of barriers in protecting children from pool hazards. It sets out options for the location of safety barriers intended to restrict access of young people to swimming pools and includes the factors to take into consideration in selecting the location of barriers.
The current safety standard in the ACT has not changed since 1 May 2013. If your pool was approved, built or altered after 1 May 2013 it should be compliant with the prescribed safety standard. If your pool was approved, built or altered before that date, it may not be compliant with the prescribed safety standard.
The reforms are anticipated to commence in late 2023/early 2024 with associated transitional arrangements. These arrangements are designed to give property owners time to comply with the prescribed safety standard and support the community and industry to meet the new requirements. The transition arrangements will be determined following public consultation.
During the transition period:
- homeowners with a pool subject to the reforms will have to bring swimming pool barriers up to compliance with modern safety standards or seek an exemption.
- homeowners will be required to inform perspective tenants and purchasers of their pool’s compliance (or non-compliance) with the new requirements
- all pool owners (irrelevant of when the pool was approved, constructed or altered) will be required to meet new obligations relating to maintenance of pool barriers.
- all occupiers of premises where a swimming pool is situated (irrelevant of when the pool was approved, constructed or altered) will be required to ensure that all doors and gates providing access to the swimming pool are kept securely closed at all times when they are not in use.
Exemptions are proposed to be available in the following situations:
The pool area is unable to physically accommodate a safety barrier compliant with the prescribed standard. Considerations in determining whether this exemption should be applied will include:
- requires movement or demolition of a building or part of a building on the premises
- requires the location or size of the pool to be changed
- requires removal of vegetation protected from removal under another ACT law
- dwelling has recognised heritage value (as defined under the ACT Heritage Act and listed on the ACT Heritage Register) where that value would be compromised by the installation of a barrier compliant with the prescribed safety standard.
A person with a disability is, or is to become, an occupier of the premises on which the pool is situated, and it would be physically impracticable for the person because of the person’s disability, to access the pool if it had barriers complying with the prescribed safety standard. Should the premises cease to be occupied by a person with a disability the exemption would cease to have effect.
There are documented plans to demolish the property or the swimming pool within 24 months of the new laws commencing and/or evidence of compliance with the new laws being required.
The pool is a relocatable pool and will not remain up for more than three days.
Exemption for a spa pool so long as access to the water contained in the spa pool is restricted in accordance with the standards prescribed by regulation, at all times when the spa pool is not in actual use. The standards are being determined but are likely to require:
- A spa pool to be covered and secured by a lockable child‑restraint structure.
- A lockable child-resistant structure includes a door, lid, grille or mesh.
- The lockable child-resistant structure must be of substantial construction and have no opening through which it is possible to pass a testing apparatus and is securely fastened by a device that is itself of substantial construction and has no opening through which it is possible to pass a testing apparatus.
A spa pool on the balcony of an apartment where self-closing and self‑latching doors and windows restricts access.
Additional circumstances for exemption may be determined following this consultation process and as part of development of the legislative framework.
A limited financial assistance scheme for financially vulnerable households will be considered as part of the final design of the scheme.