Swimming pool registration Victoria: Deadlines loom for safety fence compliance
With summer fast approaching pool owners are warned to ensure their little piece of paradise is registered by November 1. But there are fears more than a third of the state’s pool fences are not safe.
Laura Armitage, Knox Leader
September 4, 2020 10:19am
Victorian lives could be in danger with families likely to be stuck at home spending time near the pool this summer, a building expert has warned.
As the deadline to register backyard pools and spas with local councils looms, it has been revealed there are only 18 building inspectors with specific pool fence safety qualifications on the books.
Under strict new legislation all pools and spas need to be officially logged by November 1.
This comes more than a month after a Victorian Coroner urged the community to register their pools immediately after finding the death of a Cairnlea toddler in October 2018 could have been prevented by tougher pool and spa laws.
But the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) said while there only 18 with the official qualification, there are more than 1000 building surveyors and inspectors in the industry that can carry out the work.
But a knowledgable practitioner in the industry Simon Phillips said while building surveyors were able to conduct pool fence inspections – it was not their primary job and they could be tied up with normal work.
Mr Phillips said the official VBA had an official Pool Fence Safety Inspector course that had been waylaid and should have been open for enrolments by June.
“I am concerned about the lack of progress in the training of sufficient pool inspectors necessary for Victorians to have their pool inspected as being compliant once they register their pool or spa with council,” he said.
“In Victoria there is an estimated 240,000 pools,” Mr Phillips said.
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He said as part of the rollout of the new legislation pools built before 1991 all needed to be checked and made compliant before November 2021.
“Of these pools built prior to 1991 that my organisations pool inspectors have inspected, 100 per cent have been deemed non-compliant.
“We estimate that third of all pools in Victoria are built prior to 1991 and will therefore require works completed to meet the Australian Safety Standard.
“This equates to up to 80,000 homes and 160,000 pool inspections being completed and certificates of compliance being issued to the 80,000 pool and spa owners by the deadline of November 2021.”
He said with a lot of older pools the pool is sitting right outside the back door.
“They were built differently back then where there weren’t the same safeguards in place,” Mr Phillips said.
He said the volume of pools to inspect across the state and there was a chronic shortage of people who could primarily focus their time on safety fences.
“I estimate that to meet demand the state of Victoria requires approximately 150 to 200 qualified pool inspectors working full time from November 1, 2020 to November 1, 2021.
“My organisation has flagged the discrepancy between the current number of suitably qualified pool inspectors against the massive number of pool safety inspections with the VBA.”
But a VBA spokesman said there were more than 1000 building inspectors and surveyors qualified to inspect and certify swimming pool and spa barriers across Victoria.
“The new class of Building Inspector (Pool Safety) was introduced in December 2019, along with new laws making it mandatory for landowners to register their pools and spas,” they said.
Leader understands coronavirus and the current restrictions have hampered the rollout of the new training course.
Leader launched its Make Pools Safe campaign in December 2016, calling for an overhaul to the outdated and confusing pool laws following the drowning death of a Croydon South boy in his unfenced backyard pool four years ago.
The new laws mean after registering, pool and spa owners have to organise and pay for safety barriers to be inspected and certified within one to three years, depending on the age of the pool.
Pools built on or before June 30, 1994 must be compliant by 2021, those built between July 1, 1994 to April 30, 2010 have two years by 2022, and more modern pool built between May 1, 2010 to October 31, 2020 have three years to 2023.
The barrier must be inspected every four years and the certification lodged with the council.