Category: Blog

Backyard pool inspection every four years under new proposal before minister

Home swimming pools may have to be inspected every four years under new proposals in a report to combat the high level of non-compliance for backyard pool barriers which has just been submitted to the government.

The report could supercede legislation due to come into effect from April 29, that says pool owners need to have a current swimming pool compliance certificate to sell or lease their property. Non-compliance could result in a penalty up to $5500.

The report also says that any pool drowning should be followed up by a council inspection of the pool as happens in Queensland.

Its author, former Secretary of NSW Treasury Michael Lambert said that the new proposal would emulate the system operating in Western Australia since 1992 where councils must inspect backyard pools every four years.
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The Lambert report also contains proposals to tidy up a “patchwork” of legislation which means different rules apply depending on when your pool was built, the size of block it is on or even if it is located at a waterfront location. All those exemptions should be removed over a phased period, it says.

Mr Lambert said he recommended that the April 29 legislation, although not sufficient, should proceed and there should be clarification of the standards because of interpretation problems associated with them.

“I did recommend that where a new drowning occurs and is brought to the attention of a hospital or an ambulance service that it is immediately centrally recorded and the council does a follow up inspection of that pool,” he said.

“I recommended that we move to a single standard and phase that in for every pool and that all exemptions be removed at the time we move to a single standard.

“The idea of simply checking at the time that a house is sold is better than not checking at all but the trouble is on average houses are turned over every seven to 10 years and often not for every 20 or 30 years so there are no inspections done. If four-yearly inspections are found to be cost effective, and I think they would be, I think that would be a more sensible regime.”

Mr Lambert said the non-compliance rate in WA was initially 80-90 per cent but had dropped to 10-20 per cent. Feedback from councils in NSW suggested 90-95 per cent of pools were non-compliant.

Figures released by Royal Life Saving Society last Thursday show 59 people drowned across Australia in all types of water since the start of December, a 16 per cent rise on the same period last year. With 10 of these drowning deaths occurring on public holidays the society urged Australians to be safe around water on Australia Day.

There were a further 66 non-fatal near-drownings across the country. Fourteen were children under the age of 10, with children under five in home swimming pools accounting for over half (57 per cent) of reported non-fatal child incidents.

A spokesman for the Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole said that the requirement for a swimming pool barrier had been in place since 1993 and that since then there had been a noticeable drop in swimming pool drownings of young children.

“The government commissioned the report from Mr Lambert to ensure that the regulatory framework for swimming pools is as effective as it could be in saving young lives,” he said.

“In his report Mr Lambert undertook a comprehensive review of pool safety and in response has made a variety of recommendations, all of which are being considered.

“The government wants to make it easier for pool owners to comply, not more difficult. By making compliance easier, the government can work with councils and pool owners to make pools safer and save lives.”

Michael Ilinsky, the NSW operations manager for the Royal Life Saving Society said the WA system allowed councils to plan an inspection regime and provide greater opportunities for pre-inspection, education and awareness.

“It also allows for councils to ensure appropriate human resources to complete inspections across the planned timeframe,” he said.

Click here to read full article in the SMH



29 April deadline looms: SPASA still concerned about fencing legislation changes

Changes to the NSW swimming pool legislation are due to take effect on 29 April 2016.

SPASA has been outspoken over its belief that there are not enough available resources to ensure compliance of the proposed swimming pool barrier inspections by this date.

The swimming pool barrier inspection deadline has already been delayed twice. The original deadline was 29 April 2014; then 29 April 2015; and now it is 29 April 2016.

SPASA supported the 29 April 2016 implementation but only if government moved quickly to address the many shortcomings raised within the recent ‘Review of the Swimming Pool Barrier Requirements for Backyard Swimming Pools in NSW’ (Lambert Review) submission and, in particular, expanding the criteria for individuals to become E1 Certifiers as well as the establishment of a Pool Safety Council or Committee.

SPASA understands the Lambert Review was provided to government in December 2015 while the Building Professionals Board conducted its own limited review on Swimming Pool Certifier requirements in November 2015.

SPASA has urged the government for a decision and public announcement to be made as soon as possible regarding the commencement of the swimming pool inspection program and whether there will be any changes to its proposed format.

It is not unreasonable that many stakeholders feel very nervous when there is no announcement or promotion of the swimming pool inspection program with less than 8 weeks to go.

Despite not knowing what will and will not happen on 29 April 2016, we all must continue to encourage home owners and landlords to act fast and have their pools certified as safe and compliant to avoid any unnecessary delays in selling or leasing their properties.

Spiros Dassakis
Chief Executive Officer
SPASA NSW & ACT

Click here for the full article



Swimming Pool Barrier Review 2015

The review aims to simplify the regulatory framework and encourage greater barrier compliance in order to reduce the incidence of child drownings and near drownings in private pools.

The review will closely examine regulatory frameworks for private pools in NSW and other jurisdictions.

The review will include consultation with local councils, water safety advocates and experts, peak representative bodies, including for the swimming pool and spa industry, and government agencies. Further details of the consultation process will be provided.

The review will be led by Mr Michael Lambert, who has extensive knowledge of building regulations and is a former Secretary of NSW Treasury.

Swimming Pool Review -Terms of Reference

General
The Review is to make recommendations on reforms to the Swimming Pools Act 1992 and regulations to create an effective swimming pool barrier regulatory framework that protects the safety of children under the age of five around backyard swimming pools in NSW.

The Reviewer is to examine the:

1. Inspection and certification framework, in particular the requirement for compliance certificates for properties sold and leased;

2. Enforcement framework, including consideration of the relevant recommendations of the NSW Coroner and the NSW Child Death Review Team;

3. Barrier standards and exemptions framework, including the adoption or otherwise of the relevant Australian Standards and potential improvements based on the experience and frameworks in other jurisdictions; and

4. Appropriate machinery of government arrangement to administer the Swimming Pools Act 1992 and 2008 Regulation and to support the recommendations of this review.

The Review is to ensure that the regulatory and enforcement framework for swimming pool barriers in NSW:

1. Is underpinned by swimming pool barrier standards that are simple and effective

2. Facilitates the application of a uniform standard wherever possible, including to existing swimming pools

3. Is proportionate to the risk being managed, including consideration of the Guide to Better Regulation principles;

4. Ensures responsibility for maintaining and installing a compliant swimming pool barrier remains with the swimming pool owner; and

5. Provides an effective enforcement and compliance framework that maximises the likelihood of responsible owner behaviour.

Consultation
Consultation should occur as necessary with all relevant stakeholders and NSW Government bodies. This should include the public release of a discussion paper to inform the final report.

Timing
The Reviewer should provide a final report to the Minister for Local Government by December 2015.

Evidence
The Reviewer will collect evidence to establish the impacts on pool owners and councils in order to substantiate any recommendations for reform. Secretariat Secretariat will be provided by Office of Local Government.



Barrier fence inspections delayed – 29 April 2016

The NSW Government’s decision to grant pool owners a further 12-month extension to make sure they have a valid compliance certificate before a property can be sold or leased has been welcomed by the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales.

REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin said the Institute had lobbied Minister for Local Government Paul Toole to extend the deadline for a second time after it became clear that the number of existing qualified inspectors was still inadequate to respond to market demand.

“While we are disappointed that the pool compliance deadline has had to be extended by a further 12 months, it is important to ensure that property owners are not adversely affected,” Mr McKibbin said.

The 12 month extension follows on from a similar announcement made in March 2014 by the office of the Minister for Local Government and sees a new deadline of 29 April 2016.

“We hope that enough time and resources will be put towards this important compliance and safety requirement. We do not wish to see any further delays in regard to this process, but are glad the government heard our concerns and acted,” Mr McKibbin said.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole said in a statement that they have listened to stakeholder requests for more time and examined the evidence from certifiers.

“The evidence showed there was a high failure rate for initial inspections and a heavy demand to make pools compliant,” he said.

According to the Department for Local Government the extension until 29 April 2016 ensures:

  • Homeowners and landlords wishing to make pools compliant but experiencing a wait for a contractor will have sufficient time;
  • Increased numbers of qualified private certifiers to conduct inspections;
  • More certifier courses available to ensure that the high standard of inspections is maintained; and
  • Councils will continue to run risk-based inspection programs, including compulsory three-yearly inspections for strata units, tourist and visitor accommodation, to improve compliance rates and child safety around backyard pools.

The NSW Government and REINSW encourages all owners of properties with a pool or spa who are thinking of selling or leasing to immediately apply for a Swimming Pool Certificate of Compliance.

Article by REINSW



Building Professionals Board approves E1 category: Swimming Pool Certifiers

The Building Professionals Board is on track to boost the number of certifiers available to inspect swimming pool barriers in 2015 after approving its first official training provider last week.

The Board is now contacting eligible building professionals to encourage them to enrol in the E1 swimming pool certification course.

It is also urging eligible candidates to complete a form to obtain a Board letter to prioritise their placement in the course and speed up the accreditation process.

The first E1 training course is scheduled to start in late February, so the Board expects to accredit the first category E1 swimming pool certifiers within weeks.

Details of the training provider have been published on the Board’s website. The Board is currently assessing proposals from other training organisations seeking approval to deliver the E1 course.

The new E1 category was created via the Building Professionals Amendment (Accredited Certifiers)

Regulation 2014 and amendments to the Building Professionals Board’s Accreditation Scheme, which took effect on 19 December 2014.



Swimming Pools and Spas – Safety and Further Information

Home Swimming Pool Safety Checklist

The brochure and checklist are now available in 15 community languages. To download a brochure or checklist in another language click here Swimming pool safety information in 15 community languages.

To order copies of these publications, complete the form and fax it to Fuji Xerox Document Management Solutions Pty Limited on 02 9311 1076.

Importance of supervision, pool barrier maintenance and CPR

It is important to remember that while fencing may assist in reducing drownings in backyard pools, the most effective way to prevent drownings is for children to be adequately supervised by a parent or other responsible adult.

Research on child drownings in backyard swimming pools indicates that the most common contributing factors are inadequately fenced pools and human error (for example, people leaving the gate open, or fences not being maintained in good condition).

People choosing to have a pool have a responsibility to ensure that pool safety barrier(s) and gate(s) are installed, operated and maintained to the Australian Standard referred to in the Regulation. (more…)



Tougher backyard pool safety rules delayed

As many as 99 per cent of backyard pools recently inspected failed to meet new safety regulations that would have stopped those properties from being sold or leased.

Problems obtaining safety certificates were set to stop sales and leases while pools were made compliant, said the real estate industry’s peak body.

The changes were introduced to reduce the 67 drownings in NSW’s 300,000 private pools in the past 10 years.

But a shortage of qualified inspectors prompted the Local Government Minister Don Page this week to postpone until April 2015 the requirement that would have prevented properties from being sold or leased unless they got a certificate of compliance.

In Ku-ring-gai Council, where there are 18,000 pools, about 99 per cent of those inspected recently failed the new requirements on first inspection, the council’s media spokeswoman said. In Sutherland Shire, which has 21,000 pools, a sample of 81 pools inspected this year found that 96 per cent failed on first inspection and 76 per cent failed on a second inspection.

To address the shortage of certifiers, Mr Page announced the introduction of a course to train more certifiers.

Councils say they do not have the resources to meet the demand for inspections, Mr Page said. There is also a cap of $250 on the amount councils can charge households, which makes repeat visits very costly for the council.

Real Estate Institute of NSW chief executive Tim McKibbin said too few certifiers meant there would have been significant delays to sales.

”What we could see happening was that transactions of property were going to be delayed quite significantly,” Mr McKibbin said.

”We were given a lot of instances where fencing may have been legal on the day it was installed, but it wasn’t later. It might have been a boundary fence but a neighbour put a structure next to it.”

Article by Sydney Morning Herald



Pool compliance certificate deadline extended

THE state government has been forced to extend the deadline for swimming pool compliance certificates.

Pool owners had until April 29 to obtain a new or updated certificate, which would allow their property to be leased or sold.

That deadline has now been pushed back a year to 29 April 2015.

Shadow minister for Local Government, Sophie Cotsis, said the O’Farrell government was “embarrassed into shelving its flagship scheme”.

Ms Cotsis said the government had been forced to push back the initial deadline after a “flood of complaints from councils” that they had not been given sufficient resources to inspect the pools and certify their safety compliance.

“The government has completely failed to resource councils to undertake the compliance and enforcement needed to make mandatory inspection works,” Ms Cotsis said.

However, a spokeswoman for Wagga City Council said the organisation had been undertaking swimming pool safety inspections in regards to compliance since 2010 – a scheme which would continue.

“Council already had an inspection program in place prior to amending its policy as a result of recent legislative amendments,” the spokeswoman said.

“The amendments to council’s swimming pool inspection regime are very resource intensive when combined with the routine functions and role of council’s building inspectors.”

Council has nominated a five-year rolling inspection process, which “attempts to compensate for this worthwhile but resource intensive swimming pool safety initiative”.

Article by The Daily Advertiser – Apr 5 2014



More time to get pools safe before selling or leasing

NSW Office of Local Government has provided an additional twelve months before the need to have a pool compliance certificate before selling or leasing property.

From 29 April 2015, all properties with a backyard swimming pool or spa that are sold or leased will need to have a valid swimming pool compliance certificate. This additional twelve months provides property owners with more time to ensure that their swimming pool is compliant before their property is sold or leased.

To organise an inspection for your backyard swimming pool or spa, please contact your local council or accredited certifier. Once a compliance certificate has been issued it is valid for three years.

For information on the things to look out for when checking your pool, please refer to the checklist on the swimming pool register. These things include:

  • Does the gate close by itself from any position?
  • Are there objects or trees close to the pool fence that children could use to gain access into the pool area?
  • Is there a resuscitation sign displayed?

Appropriate adult supervision is always the most important thing we can do to keep children safe around backyard pools and spa pools.



Pool owners to be subject to targeted inspections

TWEED Shire’s 10,000 estimated pool owners are likely to be subjected to “targeted” inspections under the council’s response to changes to the NSW Swimming Pools Act.

That is despite 78% of the 240 local respondents to the council’s pool-owner survey expressing a preference for self-regulation with minimal inspection.

Councillors on Thursday night accepted council staff’s advice that targeted pool inspections, as opposed to self-regulation or regular inspections, struck the best balance between risk management and resource allocation.

Under the targeted option, any property with a pool could be inspected at any time.

An inspection could be sparked by a complaint, the pool not being on the state register or being removed from it, or a tip-off to the council that the pool was non-compliant.

Changes to the pool act in 2012 mean private pool owners must register their pools, with councils adopting an swimming pool inspection program.

The program is designed to cut backyard drownings.

The council’s director of planning and regulation, Vince Connell, said told the meeting that the new legislation “had been quite onerous”.

This draft policy containing council’s preferred option will now be placed on public exhibition before returning to council for consideration for formal adoption.

Article by My Daily News – 27 Mar 2014