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Retrospective Pool Barrier Laws Not Enough to Reduce Home Pool and Spa Drowning Rates

Kidsafe Victoria has stressed the need for a mandatory pool and spa register and a mandatory pool and spa barrier inspection system in Victoria, in order for government reforms to have a significant impact on reducing rates of fatal and non-fatal child drowning.

The call is in response to the Victorian Government’s recently released Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) as part of the Building Regulations Sunset Review. The RIS outlines proposed changes to the states swimming pool and spa barrier laws, with the main focus being the introduction of uniform laws requiring all home pools and spas in Victoria to have four sided isolation barriers, irrespective of when they were installed.

While Kidsafe Victoria is supportive of the proposed changes outlined in the RIS, Jason Chambers, General Manager of Kidsafe Victoria, said that on their own, these changes won’t be effective in reducing the number of fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents in home pools and spas.

“Evidence suggests that a large number of child drowning deaths in home pools are as a result of barriers that are faulty or non-compliant with Australian Standards. The introduction of legislation requiring all pools and spas to have four sided isolation barriers on its own will not effectively address this situation – four sided barriers can and will experience faults and non-compliance due to wear and tear over time”, said Mr Chambers.

Kidsafe Victoria, together with a number of other industry stakeholders, believe it is vital that other measures, including a mandatory pool and spa register and mandatory pool and spa barrier inspection system, are also introduced to effectively reduce the rate of childhood drowning in home pools and spas.

“A mandatory pool and spa register is an important first step as part of any education or compliance program as it will provide details on how many pools and spas there are in Victoria and where these are located – information we don’t currently have”, said Mr Chambers.

“Mandatory barrier inspection programs have been shown to be effective – the introduction of mandatory inspections in Western Australia in 1992 has seen an 80% reduction in the rate of toddler drownings.”

Measures Kidsafe Victoria believes are vital to include in the update to the states pool and spa barriers laws:

  • The establishment of a mandatory pool and spa register
  • Mandatory inspections of all home pool and spa barriers once every 3 years. This will require the introduction of a Swimming Pool and Spa Safety Inspectors course to reduce the reliance of undertaking inspections which is currently limited to registered building surveyors and building inspectors
  • A mandatory certificate of compliance for home pools and spas prior to sale or lease of a property