By Raising Children Network
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Toddler playing in pool with her mother

Did you knowQuestion mark symbol

Every Australian home with a swimming pool must have a safety fence. The fence acts as the first line of defence to prevent children getting into the pool – but doesn’t replace supervision.
With a proper safety fence and appropriate precautions, including constant supervision, swimming pools can mean hours of fun for your child.

About swimming pools and safety barriers

All private swimming pools or spas that can hold a depth of 300 mm or more must have safety barriers around them. This law applies to swimming pools and spas on private residential properties in all Australian states and territories.

All pool safety fences must meet Australian Standard 1926 (AS 1926) safety requirements. You can check with your local council for details.

You’ll need a building permit before you start putting a safety barrier in place.

Always make sure there’s an adult supervising when toddlers and children are playing in or around swimming pools, spas or other bodies of water. Supervision, not safety barriers, is the key to preventing accidents.

Swimming pool safety barriers: requirements and guidelines

Barriers are required for:

  • in-ground swimming pools
  • above-ground swimming pools
  • indoor swimming pools
  • bathing and wading pools
  • jacuzzis
  • hot tubs
  • spas.

A safe pool fence:

  • is at least 1.2 m high
  • is strong and secure
  • has a self-closing, self-latching, child-resistant gate – the latch must be more than 1.5 m high
  • has vertical bars no more than 100 mm apart
  • has horizontal bars at least 900 mm apart.

Safety fences can do their job only when you use them correctly. To ensure your safety barrier remains effective, follow these guidelines:

  • Fit and maintain correct safety measures to gates, doors and windows that can be used to access the pool – for example, self-closing or self-latching devices and flyscreens.
  • Keep the gate shut so children can’t get through without you, and never prop it open.
  • Maintain, repair or replace the safety latch if it isn’t working properly.
  • Clear the area by removing any items like pot plants and chairs, which children could use to climb the pool fence.
  • Attend a first aid course and update CPR skills every year – first aid is an essential skill for all parents and older family members.

How to keep your child safe around swimming pools

Here are some extra precautions to keep your child safe around water:

  • Watch your child constantly. If you leave the pool or water area, even for a moment, take your child with you. Supervision means constant visual contact, not the occasional glance.
  • Stay within reach at all times when your child is in or around the water.
  • Display a resuscitation CPR chart on your pool fence.
  • Get your child familiar with water and water safety by taking him to lessons at the local pool from a young age.
  • Always watch small children around paddling pools. Empty paddling pools immediately after your child has finished playing.
  • Empty baths, basins, sinks, buckets and troughs immediately after use.
  • Make sure any water mats, lifesaver rings, inflatable vests and water wings meet the relevant Australian Standard. Always watch your child when she’s wearing flotation devices, to make sure she doesn’t tip upside down or slip through into the water.
Neighbours’ pools can also be a danger to your child. If your neighbour’s pool isn’t properly fenced, it might be worth letting them know about relevant safety regulations. Keep an eye on your child to make sure he doesn’t make unsupervised visits, and tell him about the dangers of swimming without an adult.

Public swimming pool safety

Even in a supervised public pool, never take your eyes off your child. Lifeguards provide supervision for all pool users, but you provide the personal supervision your young child needs. Keep your child within reach at all times when she’s in the water.

When you’re at a public pool, the following pointers can help keep your child safe:

  • Explain to your child that everyone has to obey the lifeguards’ directions.
  • Explain that your child should follow the pool rules, even if other children don’t.
  • Be aware of other people in the water, particularly when it’s crowded.
  • Watch out for young children.
  • Last updated or reviewed 25-10-2016