Swimming Pools in Your Backyard

Backyard swimming pools are popular in Benalla Rural City, where they offer relief in soaring summer temperatures. Unfortunately, backyard swimming pools present several health and safety risks.

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) website details the following requirements of all Victorian swimming pools:

  • All swimming pools and spas with a depth of more than 300mm (30cm) must have a safety fence or barrier that meets the Australian Standard. This also applies to inflatable or relocatable pools and spas.
  • A swimming pool or spa and associated safety barriers can be constructed by a registered builder or by an owner-builder who has obtained a certificate of consent from the Victorian Building Authority.
  • A registered builder must be engaged under a written domestic building contract to carry out building work in excess of $5,000 (including labour and materials) and an owner-builder must obtain a certificate of consent for work in excess of $16,000.
  • A building permit, issued by a registered building surveyor, must be obtained to construct a pool or spa, as well as the associated safety barriers. You can apply for a building permit through your local council's municipal building surveyor, or to a private building surveyor.
  • During construction, a temporary safety barrier must be in place and maintained to ensure it is in proper working order. Talk to your registered builder to agree on who will be installing and maintaining the temporary barrier, and later the permanent barrier, and ensure this is written into the contract.
  • All outdoor swimming pools and spas built since 1 May 2010 must not have direct access to the pool area via a door from a building, such as a house or a garage.
  • Swimming pool gates must be self-latching and self-closing, and should never be propped open. It is illegal to do prop a pool fence open.
  • Safety barriers must not be installed near trees, barbecues or other structures that children can use to climb up and over to access the swimming pool or spa. Any objects that children might use to climb into the swimming pool or spa area, such as pot plants and chairs must be moved away from the barrier.

If you are considering a new swimming pool, go to the VBA website to read about construction requirements. 

Remember, even the most properly constructed fences might not be able to stop eager children. Here are some more tips to protect your family:

  • Ensure that the pool's fence and gate is well maintained. 
  • Make sure the gate is always closed and never prop it open. 
  • Keep an eye out for objects that children could use to reach the latch or climb the fence. 
  • Be confident in resuscitation techniques.
  • Establish safety rules for the pool area, and strictly enforce them. For example, enforce a ‘no running around the pool’ rule.
  • Don’t leave toys floating in the pool – they may tempt small children into trying to retrieve them.
  • Install a non-slip surface around the pool. 
  • Don’t swim on a full stomach, when you’ve been drinking alcohol, or when you’re overheated.
  • It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown so constant supervision is required. 
  • Teach your children water confidence at an early age. 
  • Always keep extension leads or plugs off damp ground and away from the water.