New regulatory framework for swimming pools and spas

The Victorian Coroner has made several recommendations relating to the establishment of a register for pools or spas, most recently in May 2017.

To respond to the Coroner’s recommendations and improve the regulation of swimming pools and spas, the Bill:

introduces amendments to require councils to keep and maintain a swimming pool register in accordance with regulations to be made under the Building Act;

creates a new category of registered swimming pool inspector; and

provides sufficient powers to make regulations requiring owners to undertake mandatory periodic self-assessment of pool barrier compliance and independent assessment of pool barrier compliance.

There are three pool barrier standards in Victoria which apply depending on the date of construction of the pool. However, information received from both councils and the private sector suggests that it is probable that the level of compliance with each of the required pool barrier standards is very low. Causes for non-compliance include fence boundary changes due to wear and tear, landscaping and house alterations, overgrown trees, worn out hinges and components, and ground movements causing connections, posts and latching components to move.

Analysis of data from the Coroner’s Court indicates that, apart from the key issue of adult supervision of young children around pools, the greatest risk factor for drowning of toddlers is non-compliance with any of the existing three standards rather than whether the most recent standard is in place.

The regulations to be made after passage of the Bill, will be fundamental in establishing the new framework and will be subject to RIS analysis. However, the timing for making these regulations is uncertain at this time and dependent on the level of analysis required.

In the meantime, the government has requested that the VBA create a voluntary register and an online interactive pool and spa barrier self-assessment tool. This will enable pool owners to take voluntary action to achieve pool barrier compliance, ahead of the commencement of any new mandatory framework.

After the introduction of the new framework, there will be ample opportunity given to pool owners to bring pools into compliance before enforcement action is taken. The registration, inspection and self-assessment processes will also provide an opportunity to reinforce key messages about the importance of adult supervision of toddlers around swimming pools.