5 Other Common Mistakes that Result in Non-Compliant Pools

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5 Other Common Mistakes that Result in Non-Compliant Pools

There are around 400,000 private swimming pools in NSW and many families enjoy spending quality time in their pools with family and friends. In 2022 all new pools must meet the minimum requirements of the current Standard AS1926.1-2012 and the Swimming Pools Regulation 2018 and be surrounded by a compliant pool barrier that separates the Residence, neighbouring properties and public area from the swimming pool.
Many pool owners ask me what is required to meet compliance and that is a difficult question to answer without gathering certain facts. When was the pool built? What is the property type? Have you maintained the right to apply the Saving Clauses and have you made changes to the means of access to the pool enclosure? Do you have evidence to support that the  pool Barrier surrounding the Pool was ever compliant ?    Has compliance been maintained as is required by the Swimming Pools Regulation 2018 Clause 30 & 31? For all properties including rental properties what evidence been recorded to show that at no stage was a non-compliance certificate issued for the property.
Once a Certifier attends your property he must assess the pool enclosure under the Standard that is applicable to the stated age of the pool, as well as considering what & when any modifications were made after the Pool was constructed.

The Saving Clauses – Pools Built prior to 2008
In some cases, the swimming pool itself is not required to be surrounded by a pool fence and a portion of the Residence can form a part of the barrier. However certain restrictions are placed on the means of access from the Residence and to retain the Saving Clauses, the home owner must have maintained these as they relate to the doors and windows of the Residence. They must also have maintained compliance for the pool fencing, be able to provide evidence of this and not have made any recent modifications or replacement. The release of the Swimming Pools Regulations 2018 does mean that most swimming pools will be required to be assessed under AS1926.1-2012.

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The Saving Clauses

If this relates to you, seek advice from a professional Certifier if you are thinking of selling or leasing your property.

These are some common issues we regularly see

  • Gates propped, opening inwards, gate that won’t self-latch. 
  • Please don’t tell the inspector that he needs to slam the gate as it needs to self-close without manual force.
  • Gaps below or within a barrier exceeding the maximum permissible gap of 100mm.
  • Gaps covered with loose materials or overgrown grass.
  • Garden beds installed next to the pool barriers or barriers installed low to the ground. 
  • Barriers barely held together and rusted through; missing screws and brackets.
  • Boundary Barrier height reduced by the installation of pool decking or raised garden beds.
  • The height of the Boundary fence from the neighbours side is irrelevant to the compliance of your pool enclosure under AS1926.1-2012.
  • A barrier incorrectly installed on sloping or stepped ground, incorrect design where the perpendicular height & NCZ’s have not been correctly observed.
  • Pool barriers that cannot fundamentally comply with the Standard applicable to the stated age of the pool are required to be upgraded to the current Standard.
  • No CPR signage installed, sign lying on the ground or the sign installed outside the enclosure.

Objects Placed Too Close to the NCZ
The Regulations state that you must maintain a Non-Climbable Zone (NCZ) around your pool Barrier fence. The actual clearance to objects or structures depends the type of fence. For pool barrier, a clearance of 900mm (outside) & 300mm (Poolside) is required.  For a Boundary Barrier (Pool side)  a clearance of 900mm is required in order to comply with NCZ5. 
Essentially you need to keep objects away from your fence which reduce barrier height or may aid or facilitate a child scaling the Barrier. Objects we often find too close to the NCZ include potted plants, tree branches and vegetation, barbecues and outdoor furniture however these are easily fixed with their removal from the NCZ. More of a problem are structures like the pool filter enclosure, built-in BBQ’s, posts to shade structures and handrails to staircases to name just a few common mistakes.

Non-Ancillary Structures
We find this issue relates to newly built pool enclosures and those built prior to 2008. For the newly built we are seeing full kitchen & dining facilities, wet bars and bathroom, and big screen TV’s all fully within the pool enclosure. These facilities are a part of the Residence, the result of which is inadequate separation from the Residence and a requirement to resolve.
The only structures that can be located within the bounds of a pool enclosure are pool filter enclosures, shade structures and structures such as slides for the pool  – these directly relate to the use of the pool. Non ancillary structures such as Garden and tool sheds, clothes-lines, BBQ’s, kiddie cubby houses and trampolines cannot be located within the bounds of a pool enclosure. Why? They are all household items/objects that are a part of the Residence and have no place within a pool enclosure.  Their presence distracts from the active supervision of children & can encourage the propping the gate; many older pools do have this problem where the entire back-yard is the pool enclosure.
If you recognise this scenario, and you are planning to sell or lease your home, or have been contacted by the authorities, you need to contact a professional Certifier so they can explain how to resolve this common problem.

You’ve changed your Fencing
Many owners of older pools may have a 1200mm – 1500mm high Boundary Fence and a rusted, incorrectly designed or ugly pool barrier.  A common mistake made by pool owners is to go ahead and replace the rusted pool barrier with a new glass or metal pool barrier for example, yet not be aware of the impact of these changes to the whole pool enclosure.

Substantial changes to your pool enclosure could also include renovations to the Residence can impact the pool fencing and render it non-compliant.  Changes trigger an upgrade to a later Standard.  Changes could include the construction of decking or an outdoor entertaining area, or the installation of a granny flat near to an existing swimming pool.

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11 Responses

  1. JT

    Hi there, we have a pool which we have never used and drained the water out very soon after we moved in. We do plan to remove it eventually but need to save up for this. Unfortunately, we’ve been told the existing boundary fencing which forms part of the pool fence is not compliant. Is there an option to cover up the pool with wooden boards or steel mesh or something similar? Or is replacing the fence the only option?

    1. Carol

      Hi Justine, I don’t know your circumstance – when you say “you’ve been told” does that formally such as Council have written to you? If so, then you do need to follow any directive they issue to you to avoid the risk of fines if ignored. They would likely advise you to empty the pool, which you have, then they would likely give you a date to comply by. The Swimming Pools Act does not regard a covering over pool as suitable in lieu of a fence.

  2. Harvey

    I have a pool built prior 1991 with a pool fence and boundary fence on 2 sides. There are trees and hedges growing along side the boundary fence on the pool side that are within the 900 arc from the top of the fence. To get my pool certified do I have to cut down all the trees and hedges. Both myself and neighbour would hate that as it would remove some attractive trees and we would loose a lot of privacy. I had a look at the pre 1991 pool regulations and could not find any mention of boundary fence requirements, ncz etc.

    1. Carol

      Hi Harvey, It sounds like you have had a failed inspection and are looking for reasons why your pool enclosure was not deemed compliant.
      It also sounds that you are aware of the current Standard as you mention the NCZ’s which were not brought in until the 2007 Standard.
      In our Notices to Comply we include all the reasons for a failure to comply with details of the Regulations that apply to your pool at the time of inspection.
      If you are looking to find ways to comply without removing vegetation then we recommend you speak with our Certifier for options.
      If you are unable to speak with your original inspector, then allow me to clarify.
      * The current regulations are The Swimming Pools Regulation 2018. All other Regulations are superseded.
      * The Regulations are not the Standard and so the information you are trying to find is not contained therein.
      * The current Regulations include Clause 30 & 31 which will answer your question as to why your pool has been or will be assessed under AS1926.1-2012.
      * If you have actually owned your pool since construction, have made no changes to the fencing and can actually comply with a previous Standard, with evidence of Compliance maintained throughout the years, present this information to your local Council Inspector.
      * If Council were your Inspector, then you need to abide by their assessment. A similar outcome would apply to any Standard because there have always been requirements regarding objects too close to the boundary fencing.
      * If you accept that AS1926.1-2012 is the correct Standard to apply to you pool and are looking for discretionary decisions or exemptions to allow any object in NCZ5, then you would need to provide a written submission to your local Council along the guidelines above.
      * The fact that the trees are attractive may not an acceptable reason for Council to permit them to remain however you could try to put forward an argument about privacy.

  3. Katrina

    Hi there,
    We are currently bringing the fencing up to current standards on my mother’s pool, built in 1970. After reading this article, I have discovered a problem that I am not sure we can overcome. A brick pool shed is situated along side the pool, forming a part of the boundary fence. the gap between the pool and the shed is less than 1000m. I cannot see anyway to place a fence between the shed and the pool. As I am fairly sure it will end up being in the NCZ and will also probably make opening the door to the shed difficult. Would we be required to demolish the shed in this case, do you think?

    Thanks for any adivice

    1. Carol

      I do have a couple of comments. Firstly, I would never recommend to try and bring fencing up to the current Standard unless you have a full understanding of what is required by way of written or verbal advice from a Certifier who has been out and looked at the pool fencing configuration. The cost of such a service is far less than the cost of labour & materials that could be wasted and the additional benefit is that you will know what you construct will comply if you get the right advice.
      Secondly I cannot confirm that there is any issue with the Shed because there are contradictory comments. Firstly you say the Shed is less than 1000mm from the boundary fence. I don’t get the significance of that. You say the Shed forms a part of the boundary fence but how given the 1000mm separation? You say you are thinking of putting in a fence between the Shed and the pool which may or may not work as you need a clear directive from a Certifier. It could well be in an NCZ. You call it a pool shed, which means technically that could be ok but what is inside it? I would recommend a site consultation and ask you why you are bringing the fencing up to Standard – are you selling? (in which case you can sell as is) are you leasing or under a Council directive – then yes you would need to comply. Without any further information gained from a site inspection then typical general advice could be to demolish the Shed, but there could be other options and even if you demolish the Shed, the decision you then make to the fencing might not be correct.

  4. Hi, I have an in ground pool built in 2004 and no changes have been made since that date. However my neighbour initiated the replacement of the existing 1.8m high timber fence with a new 1.8m high timber fence on our border which forms part of the pool boundary as the old one was starting to rot. Do the Saving Clauses for Pools Built prior to 2008 still apply or does this mean my pool now has to comply with the current standards.

    1. Carol

      The Saving Clauses don’t apply unless the pool was built pre 1990 and only in certain situations. In any event we now have the Swimming Pools Regulations 2018 wherein all pools are required to be assessed under AS1926.1-2012 unless owners can fulfil the requirements of Clause 30 & 31, which is almost impossible.
      So yes, your pool would now have to be assessed in that way were you to organise an inspection. If the Boundary Fence had not been upgraded and it was rotted, the same scenario would have applied. If you could not fulfil Clause 30 & 31, your pool enclosure would still be required to be upgraded.

  5. Hayden

    Hi I have a question that I can’t find an answer too. My boundry fence forms part of my pool barrier and on the outside of the fence ( footpath side) is greater then 1800mm. However the inspector said it is non compliant because inside the fence is 1680. ( less then 1800mm)
    Is he correct. That would mean a child would have to get over 1800mm outside or over the compliant 1200mm glass fence to be inside the pool area. But then be non compliant because it is 1680 on the inside.

    This makes no sense to me . Any help greatly appreciated

    1. Carol

      Thank you for reaching out with your question about the compliance of your pool barrier. I understand the concern you have regarding the height variation inside and outside the fence.
      Pool barrier regulations are designed to ensure the safety of young children by setting standards for the height and construction of barriers. Whilst AS1926.1-2012 is an Australian Standard,
      some states have slight variances in its application. As we are NSW based, I can confirm that in NSW your barrier at 1680mm from the inside would not meet minimum height requirements.
      It’s crucial to carefully review the Standard and Regulations thereunder to determine the specific requirements for your pool and those have been confirmed by your Inspector, who is obligated to follow those rules.
      E1 Inspectors do not have discretionary powers even though you believe this makes no sense, the height is required to deter a child from jumping down into the enclosure given that the outside of most boundary
      fences is not controlled by the property owner.

      Since you have engaged an Inspector he/she should have provided you with precise information about the requirements and then guide you on the necessary steps to address any compliance issues. Alternatively you could procure a copy of the Standard from Standards Australia or possibly your local library however to achieve compliance you will need to follow the requirements provided to you in the Notice to Comply.

      If you have further questions or need assistance in navigating the Swimming Pools Regulations 2018, please don’t hesitate to ask. It’s essential to ensure that your pool barrier meets all safety standards to protect both your family and others in the community.

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