Everything you need to know about the new Victorian water safety regulations

As of December 1, 2019, Victoria has changed up its water safety regulations. Unfortunately, many pool and spa owners who are unaware of this fact — so here’s everything you need to know to become compliant.

Why has Victoria changed its water safety regulations?

Government and authoritative bodies have agreed that given the alarming results surround child deaths, regulations needed to be tightened.

Chris Samartzis, CEO of the Swimming Pool & Spa Association of Victoria (SPASAVIC), said there was a real need for action to be taken. “Between 2000 and 2019 there were 27 deaths of children aged 0–4 years old, 11 were due to a faulty gate and nine were due to non-compliant barriers,” he says. “These are hardcore numbers, and they all happened in backyard pools.”

As a result of this, mandatory barrier inspections have been introduced — a practice that has proven to reduce incidents.

What changes do I need to make?

As of December 1, 2019, it has been mandatory for homeowners to register their pool or spa with their local council. Failure to do so can result in a fine. Luckily, most homeowners are in the green here, as building applications are also registered with the local councils, and most people registered their pools/spas before when it wasn’t mandatory. It’s worth making a call just to check anyway (better safe than sorry!).

The biggest change is that homeowners are now required to have the barriers and fences around their pool/spa inspected by approved parties, and then lodge a certificate of compliance with the local council.

All of these regulations apply to any pool or spa that is capable of holding more than 30 centimetres of water. Under this description, in-ground pools, permanent pools, above-ground pools, indoor pools and even some wading pools are subject to the new regulations.

How can I make sure my pool is compliant?

During the inspections that have already begun, auditors are continuing to find a large number of homes to be non-compliant, with most owners being completely unaware. Samartzis says the difference between compliant and non-compliant can be as simple as moving a pot plant. 

“You might not pass because of a pot plant sitting against a fence where kids can climb up, or a barbecue close to the fence,” he says. “It also might be as simple as repairing a broken latch that will cost you $20 at Bunnings.”

Samartzis wants pool owners to know that they will be assessed against the regulations that were in place the year the pool was constructed, however, that doesn’t mean older pools will be less safe. 

“We don’t want people stressing thinking that they need to make a lot of changes if their pool was put in in the 1980s, for example,” he says. “Your pool will be assessed against the standard of the time.”

If found to be non-compliant, it is left to the homeowner to make the relevant changes, before applying for compliance again. There is also a range of checklists on the Victorian Builders Authority website for owners to get an idea of whether their barrier are compliant or not.

How long do I have to make my pool compliant?

The new laws to improve swimming pool and spa safety may already be in effect, but owners have until June to make their changes and have their pools registered.

Pool owners can read more about the regulations here. We recommend talking to your local council as soon as possible (if you haven’t already done so) to ensure that you get your pool or spa ready — and that you don’t get slapped with a massive fine!

Written: 26 March 2020, Updated: 24 March 2020

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