Of Australia’s 280 drowning deaths in the year to June 2016, 45 occurred in backyard swimming pools according to The Royal Life Saving’s National Drowning Report 2016.
In the Summer of 2016-2017, news headlines around the country have been dominated by a swag of reports of toddler drownings in backyard pools.
Given the recent reports, it is a timely reminder to revisit Queensland’s pool safety laws and complete your own safety check of your backyard swimming pool.
The Queensland Government introduced the current pool safety laws as a result of the most comprehensive review of Queensland’s pool safety laws in nearly 20 years. The laws were introduced across two stages. Stage 1 commenced on 1 December 2009 and applied mostly to new residential outdoor swimming pools. It included:
- Introducing the latest swimming pool safety standards
- Regulating temporary fencing for pools
- Mandatory follow-up final inspections
- Introducing the latest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) signage standards.
Stage 2 commenced on 1 December 2010 and mostly affected existing swimming pools. The
stage 2 measures included:
- An independent pool safety council
- A training and licensing framework for pool safety inspectors
- Replacing 11 different pool safety standards with one pool safety standard for all regulated pools. Both new and existing pools must comply with the standard by 1 December 2015
- All regulated pools to be included in a state based pool register
- Fencing for portable pools and spas deeper than 300 millimetres
- Mandatory inspections by local governments for immersion incidents of children under 5 in swimming pools. These incidents are required to be reported by hospitals including voluntary reporting by Queensland Ambulance Service. Under the laws, pool owners had until 30 November, 2015 to meet the current pool safety standard or earlier if they sold or leased their property. Since 1 December 2010, properties could not be leased or have another accommodation agreement entered into without a pool safety certificate.
Powers of Entry
The Local Government Act 2009 and City of Brisbane Act 2010 have been amended to provide the power for an authorised person from a local government to enter the property (other than a home on the property) without permission from the occupier of the property, to inspect a swimming pool and barriers or fencing for the pool for compliance purposes. If following an inspection, the pool is found not to comply with the relevant standards, then the local government must take the necessary enforcement action to ensure the pool is modified to comply with the relevant standards. This could include issuing an enforcement notice, issuing an infringement notice, prosecution and other legal proceedings, or carrying out remedial work in accordance with the relevant acts.