Swimming is an Aussie way of life and with summer just over the horizon off and Covid restrictions easing, strata residents will be preparing for fun by the pool. Bodies corporate need to remain vigilant about pool safety and compliance.
It’s the responsibility of bodies corporate to maintain the best interests of their community, and this extends to safe-proofing communal areas and facilities such as pools and spas from potentially life-threatening situations.
Additionally, any owners whose lot contains their own private pool will also need to meet these obligations.
Swimming pools are a great addition to any strata community, but without regular management, they can become a real risk, especially in communities with a high number of young families.
In 2018/19, there were 12 Australian children under the age of five who lost their lives in swimming pool drownings.
Children under 5 have the highest mortality rate out of any age group, with approximately 70% of drowning deaths occurring in swimming pools.
This guide has been created to provide tools and tips to help for bodies corporate to ensure the safety of their community and to navigate through the legal requirements of owning a shared pool.
COVID-19 – Can the Pool Be Used as Normal?
Bodies corporate may open their pool areas, but some COVID-restrictions still remain in place.
Body corporate communal pools are restricted to no more than 50 individuals or no more than one person per 2 square metres, whichever is the lesser (below 200 sqm spaces).
Contact information should be kept on all users for 56 days.
Pool users should be informed that:
- That use of pool is at their own risk
- To shower before and after use (in unit)
- Stay in their apartment if they don’t feel well.
- Sit on their own towels
- Wipe common areas used with a disposable paper towel, dispose of correctly and wash their hands after.
The body corporate should maintain increased cleaning schedules and encourage voluntary contactless interaction as much as possible.
The body corporate as the entity in control of premises must take reasonable steps to encourage visitors to the premises to practice physical distancing to the extent reasonably practicable.
Committees may consider shorter opening hours to comply with the restrictions.
Signage can encourage pool area users to socially distance, sit on their own towels, remove any personal items, shower off site and keep the area clean.
Covid restrictions are ever-changing. Keep up with QLD Health directives and updates to stay informed.
Is Our Pool Compliant?
The tragically high number of people accidentally drowning means all Australian states have strict pool safety regulations which must be complied with.
In Queensland all pools with a depth of 30 centimetres (300mm) must be surrounded by a pool barrier (or fence) at least 1.2 metres (1200mm) in height, with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
This includes inflatable or ‘kiddy’ pools.
As well as being 1200mm high, pool fences and gates must strictly adhere to guidelines which ensure neither can be climbed or opened in any way, including ensuring the gate latch is at least 1500mm from the ground and out of reach of children.
Any openings or damage to the pool fence must be immediately rectified.
The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) is responsible for pool safety, inspector licensing, compliance and disciplinary functions.
All pools must be fenced and registered on the pool safety register, which includes a record of pools, safety certificates issued and licensed pool inspectors. Pools which are not registered make owners liable for fines.
Who Enforces Pool Compliance?
Local councils inspect pools when they receive written complaints about noncompliance. They can take any enforcement action necessary.
They may also undertake random compliance audits of swimming pools.
Should My Community’s Pool Be Registered?
All pools in Queensland must be registered with the QBCC. To list your pool on the pool safety register, visit qbcc.qld.gov.au
Definition of ‘Shared’ Pool?
If residents of two or more dwellings can use a pool (e.g. a residential unit complex, motel or caravan park), it is a shared pool.
Otherwise it’s a non-shared pool—only accessible to residents of one dwelling—e.g. a private house or private spa on a unit balcony.
Certificates- In the Event of Sale or Lease
A property with a shared pool (unit or townhouse) may be sold or leased with no certificate, but for a sale you must give the prospective buyer a Form 36 Notice of no certificate before entering into the contract for sale
You must also give a Form 36 to the body corporate and QBCC before settlement (or the new lease).
The pool owner (body corporate) must obtain a certificate within 90 days after settlement of the sale (or the lease).
QBCC issues on-the-spot fines of over $2,000 for individuals and over $6,000 for corporations who breach these requirements.
Where Does a Pool Safety Certificate Need to be Displayed?
When it is for a shared pool. It must be displayed at the main entrance to the premises, or at a gate or door accessing the pool.
How Do I Find/Get a Pool Safety Certificate?
Only a pool safety inspector licensed by QBCC can issue a pool safety certificate.
- Check if there is already a certificate for the pool by searching at www.smarteda.qld.gov.au/pools/properties/propertySearch.action
- Find a list of all licensed pool safety inspectors by searching at www.smarteda.qld.gov.au/pools/inspectors/inspectorSearch.action
All swimming pools in Queensland must meet the state’s single Safety Standard.
Owners can check whether their pool is compliant by using an interactive checklist.
Bodies corporate need to be diligent when it comes to safety.
December is National Check Your Pool Gate Month and it is a great opportunity for communities to ensure that their pools are safe for the increase in use over the summer months.
We know that kids who drown most commonly gain access to the pool area through a faulty fence or gate.
Bodies corporate need to check their fences, gates, latches and hinges regularly, as a gate that is not self-closing and self-latching provides instant and often undetected access for toddlers to the pool area and is therefore non-compliant.
Safety checklist for pool gates:
• Gate should open outwards, away from the pool
• Latch release knob should be at least 1500mm above ground level
• Gate must be self-closing and self-latching
• Gate hinges should be rust-free and bind-free
• Gate should carry reliable, tension-adjustable hinges
• Latch must be adjustable for height and width.
• Hinges must be adjustable for closing tension.
• Latch cannot be key locked in the “open” position
• Latch cannot be disengaged using implements
• Gate latch cannot be shaken or jolted open
• Gate will shut securely from any open angle or force
• Gate complies with all Australian Standards for pool safety
Tips for Making Your Pool Safer:
• reduce the height of surrounding ground levels and garden beds
• oil the gate hinges
• shield any climbable objects with a non-climbable material such as flat polycarbonate sheeting
• trim climbable vegetation and tree branches that are within 900mm of the pool barrier – if branches overhang from an adjacent property, negotiate with your neighbour to remove them
• secure all moveable objects near the pool
• Pool aids and toys should be stored securely and out of view.
• permanently adjust windows that provide access to the pool area so they can’t open more than 100mm (using a window lock alone does not comply)
• install permanently fixed security screens on windows
• louvres with a gap of more than 100mm do not comply
Adult supervision is one of the most effective methods of preventing a child from drowning.
• For any child under five years old, you should always remain an arm’s length away from them.
• Do not leave small children in the supervision of older kids. Always remain attentive and present.
• Check that your pool’s resuscitation sign is current and in clear view. Ensure there are no trees, graffiti or items blocking it.
• Make sure children using the pool are aware of the rules and restrictions within your specific complex-as they are there for a specific reason.
Strata has the ability through the introduction of bylaws to make sure that the pools in their properties meet that best practice standard regardless of where they are located.
Be prepared for an emergency
Ensure a member of your community has up-to-date CPR and First Aid Skills for resuscitation.
Educate any children on basics of water safety and get them into swimming lessons from an early age. You never know, it could save their life one day.
Always be wary of where the off switch is located for spa and pool pumps.
Because pools in a strata community are often used more frequently due to their shared environment, a high standard of pool maintenance will need to be provided on a more regular basis.
Regular and proper care and maintenance should be a key priority over the summer months.
Kids Alive – Do the Five
Child water safety advocate Laurie Lawrence created the Kids Alive – Do the Five water safety program which educates the public on five important steps to reduce the risk of preschool drowning.
• Fence the pool
• Shut the gate
• Teach your kids to swim – it’s great
• Supervise – watch your mate and
• Learn how to resuscitate
If you’re looking for more information about pool safety and compliance in Queensland, head to the QBCC website. There is detailed information about pool safety, as well as a series of detailed checklists about what you can and can’t do around pools.
If you have any concerns about compliance with pool safety on your property, contact your community or building manager immediately to let them know.
Maintaining a sense of vigilance about pool safety can ensure a swim remains not only a relaxing, but a safe way to spend your summer.
Author: Sam Aubrey