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With a proper safety fence and appropriate precautions, including constant supervision, swimming pools can mean hours of fun for your child.
Toddler playing in pool with her mother

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Every Australian home with a pool must have a safety fence. The fence acts as the first line of defence to prevent children accessing the pool – but doesnt replace supervision. 
 

Pool fences

All private swimming pools or spas that can hold a depth of 300mm or more must have safety barriers around them. This law applies to 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 (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.

Barriers are required for:

  • inground pools
  • above-ground 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 (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 only do their job when you use them correctly. To ensure your safety barrier remains effective, you can 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, fly screens).
  • 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 that could be used to climb the pool fence, such as pot plants and chairs.
  • Attend a first aid course – first aid is an essential skill for all parents and older family members.

Other pool safety tips

  • Supervision means constant visual contact, not the occasional glance. If you leave the pool or water area, even for a moment, take your child with you.
  • An adult needs to be within reach at all times when children are in or around the water.
  • Display a resuscitation CPR chart on your pool fence.
  • Familiarise your child with water 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.
  • Water mats, lifesaver rings, inflatable vests and water wings need to conform to the relevant Australian Standard. Always watch your child when she’s wearing floatation devices, making 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 pool safety

Even in a supervised public pool, never take your eyes off your child – lifeguards are no substitute for a parent’s watchful eye. Keep your child within reach when she’s swimming.

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.
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  • Last Updated 07-01-2011
  • Last Reviewed 05-07-2010
  • Pitt, W.R., & Cass, D.T. (2001). Preventing children drowning in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 175, 603-604.

    Royal Life Saving Society Australia (2007). The National Drowning Report, 2007.

    Royal Life Saving Society Australia (2008). The National Drowning Report, 2008.

    Royal Life Saving Society Australia (2009). The National Drowning Report, 2009.

    Royal Life Saving Society Australia (2010). The National Drowning Report, 2010.

    Thompson, D.C., & Rivara, F.P. (1998). Pool fencing for preventing drowning in children. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 1.

    Victorian Injury Surveillance System (1990). Drownings and near drownings at home. Hazard, 5, 1-3.