What Makes a Safe Pool Fence?

Pool fence regulations: What does a safe fence look like?

Last summer was particularly devastating for drowning deaths: on our beaches, in waterholes and in backyard pools.

Royal Life Saving statistics tragically inform us that the majority of toddlers and children who drown do so in backyard swimming pools, with a large proportion caused by a lack of or inadequate fencing barriers.

We are constantly being reminded to check and maintain our backyard pool fences to ensure they meet the required standards, but what in fact does this mean?

There are laws in each state that specify minimum safety requirements. The requirements vary depending on the date the pool was constructed.

The enforcement of these regulations lies with local councils and failures to comply will lead to fines.

While the laws in each state vary slightly, the majority specify that:

  • All swimming pools or spas with more than 30 centimetres of water require a compliant safety barrier. This includes portable and inflatable swimming pools as well as children’s paddling pools. It does not include dams, ponds or things like bird baths or fountains.
  • The fence must be at least 1.2 metres high. Ground levels that rise over time (such as garden beds) can make a fence non-compliant.
  • The fence doesn’t leave a gap of more than 10cm from the ground level to the bottom of the fence. Again, you should be aware of changing ground levels.
  • There are no gaps of more than 10cm between vertical bars of a fence.
  • The gate or access to the pool must be self-closing and self-latching.
  • The gate cannot be propped open, this is illegal.
  • The gate must swing away from the pool to open.
  • The latch release generally must be at least 1.5 metres from the ground.
  • Objects that can be climbed on to get over the fence, such as furniture, plants and trees must be moved well away from both sides of the barrier to ensure there is a ‘non-climbable zone’.
  • Any windows that open onto the pool cannot open more than 10 centimetres (screens can be fixed to windows to ensure compliance).

Authorities also recommend that the barrier be regularly checked and maintained.

If you are renting it is your responsibility to ensure there are no climbable objects and the pool gate is kept shut. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the fence otherwise complies.

Not having a compliant pool can result in hefty on-the-spot fines and other penalties, up to $20,000 in some states, not to mention the loss of a life.

Source: The Age