You’ll love this complete “user guide” to some different types of pools and pool fences, some pool fence legislation as well as a few great actionable pool safety checklists you can use today!
As the year moves from the warmer months to the colder periods, you and I might expect the outdoor pool or spa might see less and less action, however your pool fence will still be protecting your pool area from mischievous little ones. Pool fence legislation and pool safety compliance are just as important all year around.
Even when the old pool cover makes its return from the depths of the pool shed, can you say for certain you know your pool fence is completely child safe? Read our post about Using A Pool Safety Checklist to learn if your pool is safe.
“Prevention is better than a cure” is a time old saying that really carries some weight when talking about pool safety. Accidental drowning is among the leading five common causes of child deaths in Australia.
Pool Safety Solutions Sydney believe that we can all do our part in preventing these tragic accidents and create a safer pool environment for everyone. Our strongest belief is that in order to create a safe pool environment, the first step is pool safety education and awareness.
Some time has passed since the New South Wales spa and swimming pool compliance regulation was amended in 2016 regarding pool safety inspections. Here’s a breakdown of the current 2018 NSW spa and pool fence legislation, and some easy to action steps you can use today to check how safe your pool really is.
2018 Pool Fence Legislation NSW
First thing’s first – make sure your spa or swimming pool is registered with the NSW Swimming Pool Register. This is a legal requirement of all pool owners in NSW as per the Swimming Pools Act 1992. It is FREE to register your spa or swimming pool, if you complete the process independently online.
Which Legislation Is Right For Me?
The requirements for child-resistant barriers vary depending on when the pool was built and where the pool is located. Here’s a run-down of what you need to know. Or download the complete Australian Standards relevant to pool barriers.
Pools built before 1 August 1990
Access to the pool from the house must be restricted at all times. Windows and doors may form part of the barrier, but they must be compliant.
Pools built after 1 August 1990 but before 1 July 2010
The pool must be surrounded by a fence that separates the pool from the house. Some exemptions apply if the pool is part of:
- a very small property (less than 230 square metres)
- a large property (2 hectares or over)
- a waterfront property.
Pools built from 1 July 2010
All new pools must be surrounded by a fence that separates the pool from the house.
Download A Copy Of AS1926.1-2012 (The Current Pool Fence Legislation in NSW)
Information About Pool Fence Regulations In NSW
Pool owners should ensure that their fencing meets the required measurements below. This is to stop a young child being able to squeeze under or between gaps in a fence or being able to climb over it.
In NSW, a pool fence must:
- be at least 1.2m high (as measured from the finished ground level)
- not leave a gap at the bottom bigger than 10cm from the finished ground level
- not have gaps of more than 10cm between any vertical bars in the fence
- if containing horizontal climbable bars, have these spaced at least 90cm apart.
If your pool fencing does not satisfy these requirements, contact a licensed builder, pool technician or fencing contractor straight away.
What is the non-climbable zone of a pool fence?
To prevent children climbing over fencing into the pool area, the laws require pool owners to make sure they maintain a 'non-climbable zone' around the pool. Any trees, shrubs or any other objects such as a barbeque, pot plants, toys, ladders and chairs must not be within the 90cm non-climbable zone.
This zone is measured in an arc shape from the top of the pool fence arching towards the ground. It also includes the space extending 30cm inside the pool area – this space should also be cleared of any potential footholds or handholds.
Any horizontal climbable bars on the pool fence must also be spaced at least 90cm apart.
If your pool area does not meet these requirements, you can contact a licensed builder, pool technician or fencing contractor to rectify any issues and conduct the necessary works to get your pool safe and compliant.
Doors, Gates And Windows
Some older swimming pools might include doors or windows as part of the pool fence or barrier.
This is no longer allowed in for any new pools being built.
Doors in pool barriers
If you have a door that forms part of a pool barrier you must make sure that:
- it self closes
- it self-latches
- the latching device is at least 150cm off the ground
- it has a non-climbable zone of 90cm that is at least 120cm above the floor
- it opens outwards from the pool enclosure
- it does not have any pet doors.
If all of the above criteria are not satisfied, you will need to take the necessary action to ensure that any door that is part of a pool barrier complies with these requirements.
Windows in pool barriers
If you have windows that form part of a pool barrier, they must have a locking device or a security screen that prevents them from opening more than 10cm. If it does not satisfy this requirement, you will need to install a locking device or security screen that reduces the gap to 10cm or less. Locking devices and security screens can be purchased from your local hardware store.
Make sure you also seek advice from your local council, accredited private certifier or licensed builder.
Gate closing and latching devices
Check to ensure that your pool gate:
- is never propped open and is always kept shut
- swings outwards (away from the pool area). If it does not swing outwards, the gate must be re-hung so that it does.
- shuts automatically from any open position, without having to forcibly close it.
- automatically locks (self-latches) when it closes.
If the gate does not shut and lock automatically, the pool gate should be permanently fastened until a new lock and closing device can be installed.
Self-closing and self-latching devices can be purchased from most pool and hardware shops and can be easily installed.
Pool Fence And Gate Maintenance Tips
All fence bolts, screws and fasteners must be tight and in good order.
Any loose bolts, screws and fasteners should be tightened or replaced.
Self-closing gate hinges, locks and latches should be sprayed with lubricating oil or silicone.
Manufacturers of the pool fence and gate should provide written instructions on how to maintain your pool fence and gate.
May include the regular replacement of springs and regular spraying of self-closing gate hinges, locks and latches with lubricating oil or silicone.
Proper maintenance can help to prevent many of the faults relating to self-closing and self-latching gates.
We have an updated 2018 NSW pool safety and compliance checklist, which includes 9 different checklists for the most commonly found pool and property types in Sydney. Read on to learn more.
Book A Pool Safety Inspection Now
Latest NSW Pool Safety Checklist
In order to meet the current swimming pool fence regulations in NSW, and avoid getting a non-compliance certificate after a pool compliance inspection, you should go through a self-assessment evaluation on your pool or spa’s safety.
Here is a self-assessment checklist you can use today to determine if your pool is compliant with the Australian Standards, if you own a pool in NSW. For a more detailed look at pool safety checklists read this page.
- Pool fence should be at least 1200mm high (from the ground level).
- The gap from the bottom of the fence to the ground is no more than 100mm.
- If a boundary fence is part of the pool fence, the barrier should be 1800mm high from the pool area.
- The gap between the vertical bars in the fence should not exceed 100mm.
- The gap between the horizontal bars should be at least 900cm apart.
- The holes in the barrier (if mesh fencing is used) should be 13mm or less.
- The pool fence should be well maintained and in good working condition (no holes, rust or broken parts).
Pool gate and windows
- Gate should be self-closing from any position.
- The gate should latch by itself.
- The latching device should be at least 1500mm above the ground level.
- The gate should open outwards (away from the pool).
- Windows should open not more than 100mm and should have a locking device.
Non-Climbable Zone (NCZ)
- There should be no potential hand holds or foot holds (e.g. shrubs, trees, pot plants, ladders, chairs and other objects) within the 900mm non-climbable zone.
- Non-Climbable Zone should be measured in an arc shape from the top of the fence to the ground.
- There should be a 300mm clearance from the barrier inside the pool area.
- An appropriate warning sign such as the CPR guidelines should be available near the pool area and can be easily read from a distance of 3m.
For indoor pools and spas
Checklist for all indoor pools, including spas that don't have a lockable child –resistant closure:
- The latch on the gate should be at least 1500mm above ground level.
- There should be no pet door or opening that is more than 100mm.
- There should be no wall openings greater than 100mm.
- The windows should open to a maximum of 100mm.
- An appropriate and clear warning sign such as the CPR guidelines should be available near the pool area and can be easily read from a distance of 3m.
- There should be no climbable objects within 1200mm area outside the fence.
This assessment only serves as a guide for you before having your pool safety inspection which may be required by the local NSW government.
If you have completed the checklist above, you can now book or schedule a pool safety inspection with PoolSSS so we can provide you with a compliance certificate or assist you in fixing any non-compliance issues for your swimming pool.
Consequences of not having a safe and compliant pool
From 29 October 2013, authorised officers may fine pool owners if their pool is not registered on the NSW Swimming Pool Register. The fine is $220.00. In the event that an inspector refers the matter to court, a fine of up to a maximum of $2,200 may be imposed.
We never hope to have an accident. Much like how we, albeit begrudgingly, pay our car insurance premiums we never actually want to have the collision.
In the case of pool safety, we “pay” our premiums by ensuring our pool fences are compliant and we’re providing appropriate adult supervision.
However, with accidental drownings ranking in the top 5 killers of children under the age of five we can definitely say that there is still much that we can all do to prevent these terrible tragedies from occurring again.
It was only recently, at the beginning of 2015, that a young 21-month-old NSW child was found floating face down in an uncertified pool, where an occupation certificate hadn’t even been issued yet. With such a saddening loss of a young boy’s life, our aim is to improve pool safety education and bring a uniform, high standard of compliance to legislation for all the spas and swimming pools in our community.
PoolSSS 101: The Different Type of Pools
In the world of swimming pools and spas the room for customisability allows for some truly unique and beautiful designs, more often than not it's the restriction of finances rather than creativity that gets in the way of that spectacular and grandiose swimming pool.
Before we delve into all these different types of swimming pools, let’s see what the legal definition of a swimming pool is in NSW, according to the Swimming Pools Act.
“The Swimming Pools Act describes a swimming pool as an excavation, structure or vessel:
- that is capable of being filled with water to a depth of greater than 300 millimetres
- that is solely or principally used, or that is designed, manufactured or adapted to be solely or principally used for the purpose of swimming, wading, paddling or any other human aquatic activity.
A spa pool is classified as a swimming pool by the Act. The definition of a spa includes any excavation, structure or vessel in the nature of a spa pool, flotation tank, tub or the like, but not a spa bath. “
So now we know what the legal definition of a swimming pool is, let’s take a look at some of the popular types of swimming pools.
In order to give you an easy to understand and simple explanation of the multitude of differently swimming pools out there, I’m going to break it down to the five common swimming pool and spa types in NSW.
Kicking it off, we have the plunge pool!
A plunge pool is a great choice if you have to work in with limited space, as we have seen many properties in the Inner City and Eastern Suburbs such as Bondi, Paddington and Neutral Bay.
Due to their smaller size compared to the larger family sized pools or lap pools, however can provide a bit more space and depth compared to a spa.
- Benefits: better for the environment; you’re leaving a smaller footprint. You’ll also enjoy water savings in a smaller water volume, efficiency and aesthetic appeal. It can be quite a nice landscape feature and be easily incorporated into a smaller space.
- Popular features: plunge pools can have edge seating and steps making it great for social gatherings and entertaining. You can also incorporate beautiful features such as waterfalls, glass wall features, blade edges, wet edges.
The Humble Family Pool
A swimming pool that measures around 8x4m and over can be considered a family pool, as these pools have an array of purposes and can suit many pool needs.
Typically used for recreational purposes they can be built in almost any shape; however, we’ve noticed a surge of interest in irregularly shaped swimming pools as opposed to the conventional rectangular design.
As its name might suggest, the family pool truly caters for everyone in the family, even the little ones!
If your pool design has shallow ledges, with proper adult supervision the tiny tots can get their splash of fun too. For everyone else, it really brings us back to our days splashing around in a public swimming pool.
- Benefits: Swimming is a great form of exercise that anyone can take advantage of at any age, with plenty of pool owners believing that with the right education and supervision a pool is a great way to keep the kids active, social and water safe at home. For everyone else it is a great way to relax, get some exercise and for entertaining.
- Popular features: Can be built with gentle sloped entry, additional attached spas, steps, custom shapes, slides and wet edges. With a plethora of other choices out there as well, talk to your pool builder about any specific ideas or designs.
A lap pool has always been traditionally thinner and longer than a family pool, generally with a length of 10m or more, and a width of approximately 2-3m.
They are a versatile swimming pool type and can even be incorporated with a family pool or plunge pool design, to truly maximise the uses of your swimming pools.
Being a superb way of hitting the laps hard, you can get a thorough workout without ever leaving your backyard!
- Benefits: Well designed for, as you might have guessed, doing laps. A lap pool will generally have a smaller footprint and can really be used like the plunge pool to capitalise on limited space.
- Popular features: Additional features can include underwater lighting, water jets to create a “never ending” pool and as well as heating.
Above Ground Pool:
The humble above ground swimming pool is another great choice for those restricted by space or finances.
With its relatively cheap cost to acquire and install the swimming pool into your backyard, compared to other in-ground pools you can literally save thousands without needing to trade off on the features and usability.
- Benefits: no need to offset features and usability, great cost, much smaller footprint, also can be safer in design. If built higher off the ground, there may be a lesser chance of young children or pets from falling in the pool.
- Popular features: underwater lighting, some units can be installed with water jets and other great features for entertaining
Not only are they striking and visually enticing, a spa is a brilliant way to relax and unwind.
With so many properties beneficial to physical and mental relaxation, muscle and joint tension as well as possibly aiding in deeper sleeps, a spa pool really is great choice for those limited by space or wanting a fantastic addition to their pool design.
- Benefits: Small water volume and small footprint in your yard, great for relaxation and hydrotherapy in the comfort of your home and a fantastic aesthetic addition and conversation starter.
- Popular features: underwater lighting, water jets and bubbles, heating, ergonomic designs for relaxing
So, there you have it, the 5 common types of swimming pools and spa that we’ve observed in our pool safety inspections in Sydney.
Let’s move onto the different types of pool safety fences.
Different Types of Pool Safety Fences
The specific style of fencing and the material you select will ultimately be determined by yourself and the pool builder, however in order to choose a safe pool fence it must meet the relevant Australian Standard, AS1926.1
You can jump ahead to read the NSW specific pool boundary fence regulations and standards in the specific legislation section.
So what styles are there?
The specific style and type of pool fence you choose is entirely up to you – as long as it meets NSW swimming pool fence legislation requirements.
In our half decade of experience as pool safety inspectors, we’ve seen possibly thousands of different types of pool fences in QLD and Sydney.
We can definitely say that pool fences constructed from metals such as aluminium and steel, and safety glass are the most favoured materials for their cost and aesthetic appeal.
Why aluminium pool fencing?
As a fencing material aluminium is favoured for its lightweight, durable and versatile characteristics.
It also has the added benefit of not being susceptible to corrosion, meaning your pool fence will look great for years despite being exposed to the elements.
Another benefit to you is the cost of aluminium versus steel, currently with its marginally cheaper cost the choice of aluminium as opposed to steel could save you some money.
Now if aluminium couldn't sound any better to you, choosing aluminium also benefits the environment being fully recyclable; that means you’re keeping your carbon footprint as low as possible while keeping your pool as safe as possible.
There is one minor drawback to aluminium, in that being a soft metal it is quite easily bent.
If you intend on fencing a perimeter that requires a tough, secure barrier, such as in industrial or commercial swimming pool applications, it may not be the ideal choice.
That being said, if you own a seaside or waterside property, or you want an aesthetically appealing residential pool fence material that is resistant to corrosion and 100% recyclable, you’ll definitely want to consider using aluminium for you pool fence.
Aluminium sounds great, why would I need steel?
As ideal as aluminium may sound, steel does carry its benefits being so heavy, strong and durable.
Most fences are galvanized and treated with a powder coating to prevent rusting, so having impact resistance qualities makes it ideal for security gates and for a fence that should last a lifetime.
With steel pool fencing, tubular steel is another option that is becoming quite popular, where the steel is manufactured in a tubular fashion with hollow centres.
This gives you a pool fence and gate that has the strong steel exterior, with an added bonus of being lighter; perfect for high traffic commercial and residential pools as opposed to solid steel gates.
If you want a pool fence that is strong, durable and resistant to impact in a high traffic residential pool, or commercial and industrial space, solid steel or tubular steel may be the choice for you.
Glass vs. Metal Pool Fences (The Pros and Cons)
Safety glass is another very popular material for pool fences.
The glass panels are held in place by posts and spigots of various designs which are core-drilled or bolted into the concrete.
The beauty of safety glass as a pool fence material is that you can choose from an array of looks: framed, frameless, semi-frameless or even in-ground, where panels sit inside a steel channel.
Posts and spigots can cost just as much, if not more, than the glass, but they’re there to provide stability and strength to your stunning glass pool fence.
Let’s cut to the chase, which fence is right for me?
For residential pool fencing, aluminium may be the ideal choice due to its lightweight, ease of installation and corrosion resistance.
You’ll also love the lower cost associated with aluminium, without needing to lose any of that aesthetic appeal.
Safety glass could also be a fantastic choice for those looking at using a visually pleasing and modern style of pool fencing, however beware the costs involved with this beautiful option.
For commercial and industrial fencing, steel fencing may be the metal of choice because of its strength and durability, thus making it ideal for premises that need a secure fencing perimeter.
As a pool owner, you’ll also enjoy the choice between tubular and solid steel to suit the level of traffic and specific intended application.
For maritime and seaside premises, you may need to look into some more specific solutions to your situation.
Having to bear the brunt from weather corrosion water exposure and sometimes heavy winds, stainless steel and aluminium may be your best options.
At times, you may need to look into applying additional special powder coating depending on your specific application.
What are the specific styles of metal fences?
Aluminium and steel pool fences are typically constructed from tubular upright bars joined by upper and lower rails.
With this pool fence build style, we typically see four different designs that are most commonly used by Queensland and NSW pool owners.
- Flat top fences which are made from vertical tube bars that are fixed and welded inside flat horizontal upper and lower rails
- Loop-top fences have tubular pipe sections bent through the upper rail so that each section of pipe forms two vertical bars instead of just the one
- Double-top fences have two upper horizontal rails, with decorative metalwork incorporated, which results in a similar effect to the loop-top design, only with a shorter section of vertical bar as opposed to the equivalent height flat-top fence
- Wire-based fences utilise thick vertical wires, or rods, instead of tubular rods and are often more expensive per panel than the flat and loop-top fences but are well worth your consideration. Wire-based fencing can be bought in galvanised or powder-coated finishes.
How about the safety glass pool fence build style?
A beautiful choice for your pool fence, safety glass:
- is made from solid sheets so there are usually no gaps for a child to squeeze through or climb (provided the panels are correctly installed by a licensed professional)
- is quite visually striking and far less visually obtrusive than most steel or aluminium fences
- can also be manufactured in various thicknesses – usually 8, 10 and 12mm
- can cost far more than aluminium or steel fence materials, particularly as you’ll need to purchase posts and spigots to secure the glass panels in place
So, there we have it folks, today we’ve shared with you a good background on the different types of swimming pools and pool fences we’ve seen in our experience conducting pool safety certificate inspections in Sydney and the Gold Coast.
We’ve also given you a bit of a rundown on some of the more specific legislation relevant to each pool and property type, as well as a user guide to the NSW Swimming Pool Register portal to help you check your current registration status.
Lastly, if you’re pool is completely registered but not yet certified and compliant you will have definitely found good value from the checklist we shared, as well as the link to some more detailed checklists for every pool type.